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Archive for May, 2008

Recession Proof Your Life

May 7th, 2008 at 08:25 pm

Concerned about how a business downturn will affect your personal finances? Here are some steps that may help you withstand an oncoming recession as well as any future recessions.

Chapter one of Financial Abundance Guide is entitled “Spend Less Than You Earn.” While this concept appears obvious, many people suffering from personal financial setbacks do not follow this simple precept.

Determine your current financial health

First, prepare an annual budget. For your estimated monthly expenses, track your expenditures for three months. Be sure to include federal, state and FICA taxes. To your estimated monthly expenses add quarterly, semiannual or yearly expenses, such as home and auto insurance, vacations and property taxes. The sum is an estimate of your annual expenses.

Determine your annual “non-retirement income.”

This is your total income less any contributions made to 401(k) plans, IRAs or other retirement accounts. Non-retirement income less annual expenses is the amount of savings that you have available to recession-proof your life.

Ideally, this savings will be at least 10 percent of your non-retirement income. If not, identify some “nice to have” expenses that can be eliminated — like that morning café mocha which can cost over $1,000 per year. In 20 years, with a 5 percent investment return, removing the mocha would provide you with $35,710.

Wipe out any credit card debt

Use savings to pay down one of the most expensive forms of debt available. If you have good credit and equity in your home, consider a home equity line of credit. Use this line to pay off your credit card debt and then pay off your home equity line as quickly as possible.

Get an “emergency fund.”

An emergency fund is a highly liquid account which provides coverage for between six months to one year of your current expenditures. With an emergency fund in place, you can survive a business downturn, job loss or short- term disability without invading your retirement accounts.

Spend that government rebate wisely

If you receive the $600 per person federal tax rebate, use it to pay off credit card debt, increase your emergency fund or to save for educational or retirement expenses. This income can be your first step in recession proofing your life.

Once your credit card debt is eliminated and your emergency fund is in place, use your savings to buy your first house, pay for your children’s education or to better insure an abundant retirement.

When saving for your first house, consider a Roth IRA. Even if you have a company retirement plan, you can contribute up to $5,000 annually to a Roth IRA if you are single and earn less than $101,000 or earn less than $159,000 if you file taxes jointly. Once your Roth IRA has been established for five years, you pay no taxes when withdrawing up to $10,000 of income plus all of your Roth contributions for a down payment on your first house.

If you are saving for your child’s education, consider funding Coverdell Education Savings Plans and Section 529 College Savings Plans. With both plans, the invested funds will grow tax free and can be withdrawn tax free when used for educational expenses.

Most retirement plans provide an immediate tax deduction of the amount contributed and tax free growth of the plan’s funds. If your employer provides matching funds to your retirement plan contribution, always contribute the maximum amount that your employer matches. The matching funds are “free money” that virtually guarantee a high rate of return on your investments.

By following these simple, powerful steps you can achieve financial security. If you do not feel that you can take these steps by yourself, find a knowledgeable and trustworthy financial planner to help you with this journey. While lowering your current spending may cause some short term financial discomfort, the payoff of recession-proofing your life is a reduction of fear and stress.

Breaking the Consumer Addiction

May 4th, 2008 at 09:16 pm

I recently read an article by Henry K. (“Bud”) Hebeler at Bankrate.com. Bud, the former President of Boeing Aerospace, has spent his retirement years helping people prepare for retirement. His popular web site, analyzenow.com, has many helpful retirement tools. Bud was also kind enough to provide a technical edit of my book, before it was published, as well as to write my book’s Foreword.

In his article, Bud shows that the personal savings rates in the US have deteriorated from 10% in 1985 to 5% in 1990 to 2.5% in 2000 to 0 today. Personal savings rates today are the same as they were from 1929 through 1931, after the stock market crash that led to the great depression.

As savings rates have receded, personal consumption has climbed. In inflation adjusted dollars, consumption per capita in the US has climbed 25% from 1985 to today. From these figures, it is easy to see why the average American now saves nothing, compared to a 10% savings rate in 1985.

What you may not realize is why this has occurred. We all know that, until recently, credit was extremely easy to get. Credit cards, interest only mortgages, home equity loans and car loans helped transform us into a society of debtors instead of savers.

Since the vast majority of our GDP now comes from consumerism, US industry wants you to spend. Our financial institutions make significant profits from credit card interest and other forms of personal indebtedness. Even the government encourages spending over savings by providing tax deductions for mortgage interest while taxing savings interest at the same rate as earned income. State and local governments get much of their income from sales taxes that are placed on the goods and services that you buy.

Our President once said that we are addicted to oil. I would take that a step further and say we are addicted to consuming. Look at how often the media refers to you as a “consumer “ and see if you ever see the US population called savers.

If you have an addiction to consumption, now is the time to break it. As I often recommend, when you get your pay check, pay your self first by saving a portion of your paycheck. If, at age 30, you save $50 per week, with a 7% investment return, that $50 payment will be worth almost $400,000 when you are age 65.

As your pay increases, increase your saving amount until you are “paying yourself” at least 10% of your take home pay. By paying yourself first, you will have adequate resources to live an abundant retirement. This approach will also help you overcome the “consumption addiction” that industry, financial institutions and the government are all hoping that you will never break.