The ABCs of Saving: How to teach your college-age kids about money

As a parent, you know staying on track with your finances requires a lot of preparation, focus and discipline.

It’s not always as easy as 1-2-3.

Now put your feet in the shoes of your college-aged child who is trying to learn the ropes when it comes to managing their own income and setting their own goals. Regardless of their grade level, academic major or career path, money can be a tough subject to master. So, it helps to begin with the basics.

If you’re a mom or a dad, you can play a critical role in teaching your kids about the importance of investing in their future and providing them with tips, tricks and techniques to help them be smart with their spending.

Before your student heads back to campus in the fall, hold a short study session to educate them on the “ABCs” of saving.

A IS FOR ACTION

Back-to-school season is all about hitting the books, but it’s also a great time for you to assign some financial homework.

Start with the topic of earning.

Your child doesn’t need to attend class to understand money doesn’t grow on trees. In the real world, of course, people collect a regular paycheck for completing various tasks and duties related to their profession.

Today, nearly 45% of undergraduate students work on a part-time basis.1 Encouraging your young adult to find a temporary gig or side hustle — and even assisting them in their search — can help them sharpen their savings skills while they’re away from home.2 By putting in a few hours per week at a local coffeehouse, supermarket or bookstore, they can bring in a little extra cash for today while improving their financial standing for tomorrow. In fact, research suggests individuals who hold a job while attending college often secure a larger salary after graduation than their peers who don’t work.3

 

B IS FOR BUDGETING

Needs vs. wants.

It seems like a simple philosophy to follow, but many people can fail the test if they don’t have the right plan in place.

Showing your child how to build a budget can help them realize they don’t have to break the bank to cover common costs associated with college like books, meals and activities. See if a mobile app or online tool can help them organize their expenses, bills and priorities. Have them factor in all their income sources, too. They may have a long list of accounts to manage and balance, such as financial aid, student loans and personal wages, as well as any funds they receive from you and other relatives.

Recording every transaction can help your child gain control of their money and identify some of their unhealthy spending habits — which could help them avoid racking up unnecessary debt in the process.4

C IS FOR CREDIT

Buy now.

Pay later.

While this concept may sound too good to be true to your child, it’s important for you to explain to them how a credit card really functions. After all, more than one-third of college students owe over $1,000 on their credit card as everyday purchases can add up quickly.5 Each swipe can create a deeper hole.

Talking to your child about the benefits, rules and capabilities of a credit card can help them get familiar with credit and use it responsibly. For example, you may simply advise them that a credit card carries a certain limit with a promise to pay back the outstanding balance. In other words, it’s not free money. Make sure they’re aware that if they don’t submit their payments on time, they could be faced with interest charges and late fees, which may negatively impact their credit score down the road.6

1 American Association of University Professors, “Recognizing the Reality of Working College Students,” February 2020.

2 The College Investor, “Side Hustle Ideas: 50+ Ways To Make Money Fast,” July 2021.

3 CNBC, “To get a bigger paycheck after college, start working now,” May 2019.

4 Debt.org, “10 Financial Tips for College Students,” May 2021.

5 CNBC, “Over a third of college students already have credit card debt,” June 2019.

6 Debt.org, “10 Financial Tips for College Students,” May 2021.

Read More

Best Practices for a Successful Retirement

You spend decades saving and investing for the future you want — and one day, that future arrives. You deserve to put your feet up and enjoy life, but before you do, make sure you have a solid plan for making the most of your retirement savings. Here are a few suggestions:

    1. Understand how your retirement income sources work together – For many people, retirement income can come from multiple sources, including pension benefits, Social Security benefits, personal savings and their employer-sponsored retirement plan, to name a few. Factors such as when you claim Social Security benefits and deferred taxes you may owe on your retirement distributions may affect the level of income you can expect. Also, it may be to your advantage to rely more on some sources and less on others at different times to minimize your tax obligation.
      The bottom line: It’s good to have a comprehensive plan for using your different retirement income sources. Meet with your Retirement Plan Advisor for a Retirement Readiness Review to discuss your specific financial situation and create a plan.1
    2. Keep your good habits – Did you make a conscious effort to live below your means so you could save for your future retirement? It’s a smart move to keep that habit even after you leave the workplace. Some people may find their spending spikes in the early years of their retirement as they enjoy their newfound free time. Remember, though, your retirement could last for decades, and you’ll need to continue to budget based on your expected income for an extended period.
    3. Consider staying in the plan2 – The same plan that helped you save and invest during your working years can continue to be a valuable resource long after you leave the workplace. By staying in the plan, you can enjoy the same great website planning features and tools, potentially lower fees, flexible payout options, and Retirement Plan Advisor guidance throughout retirement.

If your retirement is in sight, congratulations! Don’t forget to start planning now for using the assets you worked hard to accumulate for retirement. If you have any questions, contact our on-site representative, John “Chip” Richardson by calling (804) 501-5233 or emailing john.richardson@empower-retirement.com.

 

1 The Retirement Readiness Review, provided by an Empower representative, may provide investment counseling and/or recommendations.

2 Plan provisions may provide for the automatic distribution of small balances.

Read More

Account Consolidation Can Help You Keep It Simple

Does the return of spring inspire you to dust off, declutter and simplify your life? One way you can make your financial life a little simpler is to roll over any eligible accounts from previous jobs into your current retirement plan account. By consolidating accounts, you can invest the funds from other accounts in your existing investment options or any other investment options your current plan offers. You can also:  

  • Apply a consistent strategy across all your retirement assets – Instead of trying to recreate your asset allocation and diversification strategy for multiple accounts, you can apply one strategy to all your retirement assets.1
  • Simplify tasks like portfolio rebalancing and required minimum distributions – When you consolidate, you only need to perform account management tasks once. So, if you need to rebalance your portfolio or calculate an RMD, you don’t need to do it multiple times for multiple accounts.
  • Access one website and review one statement – Tired of keeping track of multiple user IDs and passwords and filing away multiple statements? Account consolidation can make things easier.
  • Make things easier for your beneficiaries – In the event of your death, your beneficiaries will only have one account to deal with when settling your estate.

Keep in mind that not all accounts can be rolled into your current retirement account. The IRS has a rollover chart that shows which types of accounts can be consolidated. Also, you’ll want to compare the administrative and investment fees that your different accounts charge before you decide to consolidate. Consider all your options and their features and fees before moving money between accounts. You can contact your local plan representative with any questions you may have about the process. 

1 Asset allocation, diversification, dollar‐cost averaging and/or rebalancing do not ensure a profit or protect against loss.

Read More

Don’t forget your annual checkup (of your retirement readiness)

Don’t forget your annual checkup (of your retirement readiness)

 

Checkups — they’re something we all know we should do and they’re easy to postpone. But whether you’re considering your physical health or your retirement readiness, it’s important to get a regular review of your vital signs so you can make any needed changes.

 

The good news is that you don’t have to schedule an appointment for a checkup of your retirement readiness. You can do it yourself at any time on empowermyretirement.com. Start with the following:

 

1. Check your Lifetime Income Score1 – Your Lifetime Income Score is a helpful estimate of your future retirement readiness. When you log in to your account, you can immediately see whether you’re on course to meet your retirement income goals. Choose the “Other Assets” link to add other retirement income like a pension or IRA for a more realistic score. Then you can experiment with how a change in your planned retirement date and your contribution rate affect your retirement income. And you can get recommendations for other things you can do to achieve the retirement you want.

2. Consider increasing your contribution amount – If you’ve never changed the amount you contribute to your retirement account from when you first enrolled, it may be time for an update. Your contribution level is one of the most important factors in reaching your retirement goals.

3. Review your asset allocation2,3 – Does your retirement investment portfolio have the right balance of risk and return potential for your age and situation? In general, people reduce their investment risk as they get closer to their retirement date. They want to protect the assets that they’ll soon rely on for retirement income. But if you still have years or decades to go before you retire, investing too conservatively could limit your ability to capitalize on compounded growth potential.

4. Designate — or update — your beneficiary information – A beneficiary is the person you choose to inherit the assets in your retirement account in the event of your death. If you never designated a beneficiary — or if you need to update your choice — take a few minutes to log in to your account and complete this important task. It can make the process of settling your affairs a little easier for the people you care about.

 

If you have questions about any of these areas — or if you’d like other suggestions for your retirement readiness checkup — schedule some time with your retirement plan advisor, Tom Ferguson, by contacting him at 720-538-6864 or tom.ferguson@empower-retirement.com.

 

1 IMPORTANT: The projections, or other information generated on the website by the investment analysis tool regarding the likelihood of various investment outcomes, are hypothetical in nature, do not reflect actual investment results and are not guarantees of future results. The results may vary with each use and over time. Healthcare costs and projections, if applicable, are provided by HealthView Services. HealthView Services is not affiliated with GWFS Equities, Inc. Empower Retirement does not provide healthcare advice. A top peer is defined as an individual who is at the 90th percentile of the selected age band, salary range and gender.

2 Asset allocation does not ensure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets.

3 Diversification does not ensure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets.

Read More

The Surprising Benefits of an Attitude of Gratitude

After a tough year, you may be looking for ways to add a little more positivity to your life. One surprisingly simple way is to express gratitude.

In fact, scientific research shows a connection between expressing gratitude and physical and mental well‐being.1 In one study, researchers asked one group of participants to write about things they were grateful for and another group to write about things that irritated them.2 After 10 weeks, testing showed that the people who wrote about being grateful were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. They also exercised more and logged fewer visits to doctors than the group that focused on irritating things.

How can you be more grateful in a time of increased unpredictability and anxiety? It may take a little effort. Experts recommend everything from keeping a gratitude journal in which you list the things you’re thankful for to meditating to performing small acts of kindness.3 Even writing thank‐you notes can help. While you may not have control over the events that shape your life, you do have some control over how you view those events — and deliberately cultivating gratitude may help you maintain a positive outlook.

At this point, you may be asking: What does expressing gratitude have to do with saving for retirement? Not a lot—at first glance. But maybe being happier in the here‐and‐now can make it easier to focus on planning for the future. At least it’s worth a try.

1 Psychology Today, “The Positive Impact of Gratitude on Mental Health,” June 29, 2020.

2 Harvard University, “Giving thanks can make you happier,” June 17, 2020.

3 NIH News in Health, “Practicing Gratitude,” March 2019.

Read More

Spending Versus Saving: How Changing Your Habits Can Change Your Future

An eye-popping statistic recently made the news — and it’s directly related to the topic of saving for retirement. According to one survey, the average adult in this country spends $1,497 each month on “non-essentials,” which adds up to nearly $18,000 each year!1 Some of the categories include restaurant meals ($209.38 a month), cable TV ($90.57 a month) and online shopping ($84.11 a month).  

How does your own spending compare? Have you ever tracked your spending over a few months to see exactly how much goes toward things you may not need but are simply nice to have?The results may surprise you. 

 

One of the striking things about the $18,000 annual spending figure is that it is close to the limit the IRS has established for contributions to 401(k), 403(b) and most 457 plans in 2020. Each year, the IRS announces an annual limit for contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans. For 2020, that limit is $19,500 (keep in mind that people age 50 and older may be eligible to save even more through catch-up contributions). 

 

If you think contributing more to your retirement account seems impossible, it may be time to rethink your spending habits. Even if your own spending on non-essentials each year isn’t anywhere near $18,000, you probably have areas where you could cut back without any major changes to your lifestyle. One or two fewer visits to restaurants each month, a more affordable cable package, fewer impulse purchases made online — the savings can add up quickly. Best of all, you can use the savings to increase your contributions to your retirement account, where they can help you build the income you’ll need for the future you want.  

 

Remember, many financial advisorssay that we’ll need at least 70% of our pre-retirement earnings to maintain our pre-retirement standard of living.2 A few painless changes to our spending habits can make reaching that goal a little easier.  

 

1 usatoday.com, You don’t need that: Average American spends almost $18,000 a year on non-essentials, May 7, 2019 
2 ssa.gov, Benefits Planner: Retirement, September 2019 
 
Securities offered by GWFS Equities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, marketed under the Empower brand. GWFS is affiliated with Great-West Funds, Inc.; Great-West Trust Company, LLC; and registered investment advisers Advised Assets Group, LLC and Great-West Capital Management, LLC, marketed under the Great-West Investments™ brand. This material has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide investment, legal or tax advice. 
Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company and its subsidiaries are not responsible for, nor do they endorse, the content contained in the additional third-party site(s) provided. ©2019 Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company. All rights reserved. RO1028382-1219 

Read More

Now is the Time!

""

Every time you receive a salary increase consider increasing your County of Henrico 457 plan contribution. One approach is to increase your contribution in small amounts (such as 1% or more each year) up to the IRS maximum. The County of Henrico 457 plan offers the auto-increase option where you can pick a month for your contribution to automatically increase each year. Paying yourself more today could result in a better tomorrow. Your County of Henrico dedicated Empower Retirement Plan Advisor Tom Ferguson is available for both group and individual meetings. You can contact him via email at: tom.ferguson@empower-retirement.com, or by phone 501-5233.  

Read More