TagPlanning

Can I Inherit Debt?

Man trying to role a huge boulder labeled "DEBT" up a steep hillWhen someone passes away leaving debts behind, you might be wondering if you have any personal liability to pay them. If you have aging parents, for instance, you may be worried about having to assume responsibility for their mortgage payments, credit cards or other debts. If you’ve asked yourself, “Can I inherit debt?” the answer is typically no, even though those debts don’t automatically disappear. But there are situations in which you may have to deal with a loved one’s creditors after they’re gone.

How Debts Are Handled When Someone Passes Away

Debts, just like assets, are considered part of a person’s estate. When that person passes away, their estate is responsible for paying any and all remaining debts. The money to pay those debts comes from the asset side of the estate.

In terms of who is responsible for making sure the estate’s debts are paid, this is typically done by an executor. An executor performs a number of duties to wrap up a person’s estate after death, including:

  • Getting a copy of the deceased person’s will if they had one and filing it with the probate court
  • Notifying creditors and other entities of the person’s death (for example, the Social Security Administration would need to be notified so any Social Security benefits could be stopped)
  • Completing an inventory of the deceased person’s assets and their value
  • Liquidating those assets as needed to pay off any debts owed by the estate
  • Distributing the remaining assets to the people or organizations named in the deceased person’s will if they had one or according to inheritance laws if they did not

In terms of debt repayment, executors are required to give notice to creditors who may have a claim against the estate. Creditors are then giving a certain window of time, according to state laws, in which to make a financial claim against the estate’s assets for repayment of debts.

If a creditor doesn’t follow state guidelines for making a claim, then those debts won’t be paid from the estate’s assets. But if creditors are less than reputable, they may try to come after the deceased person’s spouse, children or other family members to collect what’s owed.

Not all assets in an estate may be used to repay debts owed by a deceased person. Any assets that already have a named beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy, a 401(k), individual retirement account, payable on death accounts or annuity, would be transferred to that beneficiary automatically.

Can I Inherit Debt From My Parents?

Pencil erasing the word "DEBT"

This is an important question to ask if your parents are carrying high amounts of debt and you’re worried about having to pay those bills when they pass away. Again, the short answer is usually no. You generally don’t inherit debts belonging to someone else the way you might inherit property or other assets from them. So even if a debt collector attempts to request payment from you, there’d be no legal obligation to pay.

The catch is that any debts left outstanding would be deducted from the estate’s assets. If your parents were substantially in debt when they passed away, repaying them from the estate may leave little or no assets for you to inherit.

But you should know that you can inherit debt that you were already legally responsible for while your parents were alive. For instance, if you cosigned a loan with them or opened a joint credit card account or line of credit, those debts are legally yours just as much as they are your parents. So, once they pass away, you’d be solely responsible for repaying them.

And it’s also important to understand what responsibility you may have for covering long-term care costs incurred by your parents while they were alive. Many states have filial responsibility laws that require children to cover nursing home bills, though they aren’t always enforced. Talking to your parents about long-term care planning can help you avoid situations where you may end up with an unexpected debt to pay.

Can I Inherit Debt From My Children?

The same rules that apply to inheriting debt from parents typically apply to inheriting debts from children. Any debts remaining would be paid using assets from their state.

Otherwise, unless you cosigned for the debt, then you wouldn’t be obligated to pay. On the other hand, if you cosigned private student loans, a car loan or a mortgage for your adult child who then passed away, as cosigner you’d technically have a legal responsibility to pay them. Federal student loans are an exception.

If your parents took out a PLUS loan to pay for your higher education costs and something happens to you, the Department of Education can discharge that debt due to death. And vice versa, if your parents pass away then any PLUS loans they took out on your behalf could also be discharged.

Can I Inherit Debts From My Spouse?

When marriage and money mix, the lines on inherited debt can get a little blurred. The same basic rule that applies to other situations applies here: if you cosigned or took out a joint loan or line of credit together, then you’re both equally responsible for the debt. If one of you passes away, the surviving spouse would still have to pay.

But what about debts that are in one spouse’s name only? That’s where it’s important to understand how living in a community property state can affect your liability for marital debts. If you live in a community property state, debts incurred after the marriage by one spouse can be treated as a shared financial obligation. So if your spouse opened up a credit card or took out a business loan, then passed away you could still be responsible for paying it. On the other hand, debts incurred by either party before the marriage wouldn’t be considered community debt.

Consider Getting Help If You Need It

If a parent, spouse, sibling or other family member passes away, it can be helpful to talk to an attorney if you’re being pressured by debt collectors to pay. An attorney who understands debt collection laws and estate planning can help you determine what your responsibilities are for repaying debts and how to handle creditors.

The Bottom Line

Son talks with his mother about her debtWhether or not you’ll inherit debt from your parents, child, spouse or anyone else largely hinges on whether you cosigned for that debt or live in a community property state in the case of married couples. If you’re concerned about inheriting debts, consider talking to your parents, children or spouse about how those financial obligations would be handled if they were to pass away. Likewise, you can also discuss what financial safety nets you have in place to clear any debts you may leave behind, such as life insurance.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to manage and pay off debts you owe or any debts you might inherit from someone else. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be difficult. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect with an advisor in your local area. It takes just a few minutes to get your personalized advisor recommendations online. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act caps the statute of limitations for unpaid debt collections at a maximum of six years, although most states specify a much shorter time frame. However, some debt collectors buy so-called zombie debts for pennies on the dollar and then – unscrupulously – try to collect on them. Here’s how to deal with such operators.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/NiseriN, ©iStock.com/AndreyPopov, ©iStock.com/FatCamera

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How to Protect Your Credit Score During COVID-19

A young Black woman sits outside on her laptop, drinking a coffee and looking up how to protect her credit score from COVID.

The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone all around the world. Extended isolation and sudden job losses have everyone thinking about their futures. Lots of people are concerned about losing a reliable income source during this time of crisis. Some have even been forced to shut their businesses. The global pandemic has turned many people’s financial lives upside down.

As you work on keeping your bills in good standing and your finances going strong, you should also pay attention to your credit score. Even if you’re delaying some major purchases like buying a car or a home or going on a trip, you still need to maintain good credit. You’ll eventually start spending again, and you’ll need a good credit score.

But how can you protect your credit score during COVID-19? Keep in mind that your credit scores and reports play a crucial role in your future financial opportunities. The following steps will be your handy guide in managing and protecting your credit score during this global pandemic.

Stay on Top of Your Credit
Reports

Even on good days, make sure you regularly review your credit reports from the three credit bureaus. You can get free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Through April 2021, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are allowing consumers to access their credit reports for free weekly. Take advantage of this offer to make sure that any accommodations you request from lenders are appropriately reported and that your identity is safe and secure.

You can also sign up for the free Credit Report Card from Credit.com. With our report card, you’ll see your VantageScore 3.0 from Experian, as well as personalized information on what is affecting your credit score and how you can improve. If you want to dive deeper, sign up for ExtraCredit to see 28 of your FICO scores from all three credit bureaus.

Get ExtraCredit

Keep Up with Your Payments

Late payments can affect your credit history and credit reports for up to seven years. Prioritize paying your bills on time when you can, even during financially difficult times. You can do this by setting up reminders to alert you of payment deadlines. Also, you should make it a habit to make at least the minimum payment each month. Doing so will help you in keeping a good payment history record and prevents you from paying late fees.

Contact your lender whenever you can’t
make payments on time. Lots of lenders have announced proactive measures to aid
their borrowers affected by the global pandemic. Some are willing to provide
loan extensions, interest rates reduction, forbearance, or repayment
flexibilities. The best thing to do is to get in touch with your lender and
explain your current situation. Don’t forget to ask for written confirmation if
any agreements were made. 

Be Aware of Your Protections

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) has protections to help your credit score remain unaffected during the pandemic. This Act puts special requirements on some agencies and companies reporting your payment information to the credit reporting companies. The requirements are applicable if you’re affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and specifically covered by the Act.

If you request an accommodation under the CARES Act, your creditors will report your account to the credit reporting agencies based on the current standing of your credit when the agreement is made. The requirements set by the CARES Act are only applicable to agreements made between 31st of January 2020 and 120 days after the COVID-19 national emergency officially ends.

Get to Know What Impacts Your
Score

If you’re currently unemployed and wondering if it will affect your credit score, the answer is no. Unemployment itself will not impact your score. Making late payments and missing payments are the things that most significantly affect your credit score. This is why we recommend getting in touch with your lender as soon as you suspect you may not be able to make a payment in full on time. Inform them of your current situation. This can also help you cope with your anxiety.

Hard inquiries, account mix, and credit age also impact your credit score, but to a lesser degree. Your major concern should be keeping your credit utilization low and paying bills on time.

Keep Yourself and Your
identity Protected

Securing your personal information and identity is also crucial in protecting your credit score. Identity theft and scams are rampant during this coronavirus pandemic. Your personal information can unlock different financial resources. Hackers and cybercriminals can utilize all your personal information to impersonate you and open credit card accounts, make purchases, transfer funds, and borrow money. If left undetected, this activity can significantly damage your credit score.

Though the damage is reversible, the entire process will be costly. That’s precisely why prevention is always the best option. ExtraCredit from Credit.com, for example, offers $1 million in identity theft protection and dark web monitoring, among other features.

Make Budgeting and Planning a Habit

During this crisis, budgeting is essential for keeping your credit card debt low and your credit score high. Pay attention to how much money you make and the amount of money you spend. Identify expenses where you can cut the usual costs, at least temporarily.

Reworking your budget is necessary, especially if you’re currently unemployed or earning less money. You can consider the following money-saving ideas to maximize your savings:

  • Put nonessential purchases such as online shopping and clothes on hold
  • Temporarily suspend nonessential services such as cleaning and lawn care
  • Cancel subscriptions on cable, music streaming, video streaming, etc.
  • Search for affordable meal planning solutions
  • Cancel fitness and gym memberships
  • Cut back child-related extracurriculars such as tutoring, lessons, and sports
  • Spend less on takeout

Although reducing costs is not fun, the
result will reduce your financial stress and will allow you to better protect
your credit.

You Can Protect Your Credit Score from COVID-19

All the things mentioned above have one thing in common: All require taking a proactive approach to your finances and credit. Follow the six credit-protection strategies mentioned above to maintain and protect your good credit even if you are facing a financial crisis.

About the Author

Lidia S. Hovhan is a part of Content and Marketing team at OmnicoreAgency. She contributes articles about how to integrate digital marketing strategy with traditional marketing to help business owners to meet their online goals. You can find really professional insights in her writings.


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Do College Rankings Matter?

student at college campus mobile

All articles about college rankings should perhaps be read with a grain of salt and primarily through a lens of what matters most to individuals about the college experience and what they’re hoping it will be an investment toward.

Prominent publications and people have conveyed a variety of views about whether college rankings matter:

The editor-in-chief of the Science Family of Journals said no in May 2020. “To any logical scientific observer, the fine distinctions of where schools show up on this (U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges) list are statistically meaningless—but try telling that to a roomful of alumni or parents,” H. Holden Thorp wrote.

Ian Bogost, distinguished chair at Georgia Tech, wrote in The Atlantic in June 2020: “The absurdity of a numerical ranking mechanism for colleges becomes apparent the moment you look at how U.S. News calculates it. The methodology reads like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet: 8% for class size; 10% for high-school-class standing; 4.4% for first-to-second-year student retention, and so on.”

But just because the consensus leans toward “no” doesn’t mean it should be the last word on anyone’s ultimate decision about where to go to school.

Even U.S. News & World Report says on its best-colleges website: “The rankings provide a good starting point for students trying to compare schools. … The best school for each student, experts say, is one that will most completely meet his or her needs, which go beyond academics.”

What Are the College Rankings?

There is no single, ultimate, etched-in-stone set of college rankings. All over the world, there are entities using a wide array of criteria to appraise universities.

Rather than expecting a “yes” or “no” to the question of whether college rankings matter, it would be more beneficial to understand why “It depends” could be more appropriate.

If you’re aiming for an education from a prestigious school, and money is no object—well, first of all, congratulations and good luck.

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What Happens When You Pay Off Your Car Loan?

A man wearing sunglasses drives his car.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, around 2.3 million car loans originate every year. Car loans can take years to pay off. So when you finally pay it off, you might be wondering—now what?

What happens when you pay off your car? What should you do with the money you were previously putting towards your monthly payments? We’ve got a few ideas, but keep in mind that everyone’s finances are different. So while our suggestions might work for some people, they probably won’t work for everyone.

What to Do When You Pay Off Your Car

Firstly, paying off your car loan is a huge accomplishment. So congratulations! Paying off any loan isn’t always easy. And now you finally own your car, which is a pretty big deal.

Luckily for you, the hard part is over. But there are still a few steps you should take after you pay off your car.

1. Get Your Car Title

You usually don’t have to take action for this step. In most states, your lender notifies the Department of Motor Vehicles—or BMV or other equivalent entity in your state—of the title change. Once the paperwork clears, the title is mailed to you.

There’s not much for you to do except keep an eye on the mail. If you don’t get your title a few weeks after paying off your loan, call your lender. You’ll need the title if you ever want to sell your car or use it for collateral when applying for credit.

2. Reconsider Your Finances

If you’re paying off a vehicle and not planning to buy another with a new loan, you’ll have a little more extra room in your budget. In 2019, new car buyers committed to an average monthly payment of around $550. So when you pay off your car loan, there’s a good chance you’ll have an extra $300 (or more) per month.

You might be tempted to splurge on fun stuff or to make large purchases you’ve been putting off. But unless your transportation situation is radically changing soon, you’ll always need a car. And that means you’ll eventually need to pay for the next one.

Plus, owning a car is expensive—even if you’ve completely paid it off. You’ll have to your oil changed, new tires and much more. And that’s just regular maintenance. If you get in even a minor accident, you could have a major repair expense on your hands.

That’s why it’s a good idea to put that some of that extra money in savings. If you end up getting a new car eventually, you can pay for all or part of your next vehicle with cash. That reduces how much you have to finance, which can significantly reduce the total cost of your next vehicle. Another option is to use the money to continue to pay down other debt to put yourself in a better financial situation in the future.

It’s also worth putting part of that cash in your short-term savings. You could easily dip into those funds if you need to get any work done on your car. But whatever you plan to do with the money, take the time to look at your personal budget. That gives you a chance to see exactly where this extra money might make the most difference.

3. Notify Your Car Insurance Company

Notify your car insurance company when you’ve paid off your loan so you can remove the lien holder from your policy. You don’t need to wait until you have the title in your hand to make the call.

This step is important because if your financed vehicle were totaled in a wreck, the insurance payment would go to the lender. Once you’ve paid off the car and own it outright, the payment goes to you.

4. Consider Any New Insurance Options

Most states have requirements for what type of coverage you must carry on your car. At minimum in most states, you need bodily injury and property damage liability that will cover the losses of other people if it’s caused in a wreck that is deemed your fault. There are some exceptions to those requirements, though.

But your lender will likely require additional insurance coverage until you pay off the loan. Many lenders require you to also carry comp and collision coverage. This is the part of your insurance policy that pays for damage to yourvehicle if you get into an accident that is deemed your fault.

Lenders require this extra coverage to protect their investment. They want to know that if your car is totaled, they can recover the value that you owe them. Once you pay off the loan, whether or not you carry this level of coverage might be your choice.

Talk to your insurance agent to find out what your options are and if you can save money by changing your insurance coverage. Just remember that if you drop this coverage and get into an accident, you may have to cover the costs of repairs or a new vehicle on your own.

You can also check rates for auto insurance online. In addition to saving money on your monthly vehicle payment, you may be able to save a lot on your insurance coverage.

Does Paying Off Your Car Loan Early Hurt Your Credit?

To get out of debt or change your current car, you might decide to pay off your car loan early. Your credit isn’t penalized by making early payments on debt. However, paying off an entire account can cause a small dip in your credit score temporarily. That’s because open accounts with a positive payment history impact your score more than closed accounts with positive payment histories.

Your wallet might also take a small hit depending on how your loan is structured. Find out if your loan includes any penalties for paying off the principle early before you make a decision to go this route.

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When Is the Best Time to Buy a Car?

Best Time to Buy a Car

Timing is everything and when it comes to buying a car, that saying couldn’t be more true. Negotiating and haggling with car salesmen can reduce the price of what you have to pay for a new whip. But if you want to get the best deal on a car, you’ll need to know when to show up to the dealership. Whether you’re buying a used vehicle or a brand new ride, we’ll tell you the best time of year to buy a car. Being that the purchase of a car is rather pricey, consider meeting with a financial advisor in your area to discuss your finances beforehand.

When Is the Best Time to Buy a New Car?

If you’re on a budget, one of the best times to buy a new car is the end of a model season. New car models are often introduced each year between late summer and early fall. While you might miss out on some new features, buying a new car in August or early September may save you some money.

Waiting until the end of the year to buy a new car can work in your favor as well. Many car dealers offer year-end sales in an effort to get rid of older vehicles and make room for new inventory. Buying a new car on a holiday like Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve is another way to get a deep discount.

If you can’t wait until December to get a new car, you might want to buy a car at the end of the month or the end of a quarter. If a salesperson hasn’t sold very many vehicles in weeks, he or she might be willing to compromise and lower the price of the car you want to buy. Even if a salesman has managed to sell multiple cars throughout the month, he might want to close one last deal in order to meet a sales goal or score a bonus.

Shopping for a car at the end of the day may or may not be effective. If you stop by a dealership an hour before it’s set to close, a salesperson may be open to negotiating so that he or she can end the day on a high note. But if he or she is used to working long hours, your sales associate may not be that flexible.

The Best Time to Buy a Used Car

Best Time to Buy a Car

A recent study from iseecars.com ranked the best times to buy a used car. At the top of their list are holidays including Black Friday, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Columbus Day. The months of November and December are also considered good times to purchase a used car.

According to the study, the months of April, May and June are some of the worst times to buy a used car. Specifically, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are bad days for used-car buyers. But the No. 1 worst day to purchase a used car is the Fourth of July.

When Not to Buy a New Car

Generally, one of the worst times to buy a new car is in the spring. During this time of year, you’ll see more people on car lots looking to soak up some sun and cash in their tax refunds. Other bad times to shop for new cars are whenever a particular vehicle is popular among consumers and whenever a new car model has been released.

Some people seem to think that buying a car on a rainy day is a good idea. But that approach usually doesn’t work. In fact, you can expect car dealerships to be filled with people when there’s bad weather simply because people tend to believe that they’ll find great deals on rainy days.

Bottom Line 

Best Time to Buy a Car

The best time of year to buy a car ultimately depends on your personal preferences and how much you’re willing to spend on a vehicle. If you’re rolling in dough and you want your car to have top-of-the-line features and amenities, you might want to buy a car as soon as a new model comes out. But if you’re trying to shave hundreds of dollars off your purchase price, experts say that it’s best to head to the dealership at the end of a period in the fall or winter, like the end of the month, quarter or year.

Our advice? When it comes to buying cars and getting your way at the dealership, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Doing plenty of research and knowing the make and model that you want your car to have can make it easier to figure out when to purchase your new vehicle.

Tips for Taking Care of Your Finances

  • If you find yourself having some financial struggles, perhaps it’s time to have an outside resource step in to help you out. Financial advisors typically have extensive experience in a number of important areas of finance, like tax planning, retirement planning, budget planning and more. SmartAsset’s advisor matching tool can set you up with as many as three suitable advisors in just 5 minutes. Get started now.
  • The best way to manage your money on both a short- and long-term scale is to create a firm budget. SmartAsset’s budget calculator can help you figure out exactly where you’re overspending.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/cosmin4000, ©iStock.com/ViewApart, ©iStock.com/kali9

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How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

If you’re thinking about how much is enough for retirement, you’re probably contemplating a retirement and need to know how to pay for it. If you are, that’s good because one of the challenges we face is how we’re going to fund our retirement.

Determining then how much retirement savings is enough depends on a number of factors, including your lifestyle and your current income. Either way, you want to make sure that you have plenty of money in your retirement savings so you don’t work too hard, or work at all, during your golden years.

If you’re already thinking about retirement and you’re not sure whether your savings is in good shape, it may make sense to speak with a financial advisor to help you set up a savings plan.

Check Out Now

  • 5 Tips to Optimize Your Retirement Account Withdrawals Read Now
  • People Who Retire Comfortably Avoid These Financial Advisor Mistakes

How Much Is Enough For Retirement?

Your needs and expectations might be different in retirement than others. Because of that, there’s no magic number out there. In other words, how much is enough for retirement depends on a myriad of personal factors.

However, the conventional wisdom out there is that you should have $1 million to $1.5 million, or that your retirement savings should be 10 to 12 times your current income.

Even $1 million may not be enough to retire comfortably. According to a report from a major personal finance website, GoBankingRates, you could easily blow $1 million in as little as 12 years.

GoBankingRates concludes that a better way to figure out how long $1 million will last you largely depends on your state. For example, if you live in California, the report found, “$1 Million will last you 14 years, 3 months, 7 days.” Whereas if you live in Mississippi, “$1 Million will last you 23 years, 2 months, 2 days.” In other words, how much is enough for retirement largely depends on the state you reside.

For some, coming up with that much money to retire comfortably can be scary, especially if you haven’t saved any money for retirement, or, if your savings is not where it’s supposed to be.

Related topics:

How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire

Early Retirement: 7 Steps to Retire Early

5 Reasons Why You Will Retire Broke

Your current lifestyle and expected lifestyle?

What is your current lifestyle? To determine how much you need to save for retirement, you should determine how much your expenses are currently now and whether you intend to keep the current lifestyle during retirement.

So, if you’re making $110,000 and live off of $90,000, then multiply $90,000 by 20 ($1,800,000). With that number in mind, start working toward a retirement saving goals. However, if you intend to eat and spend lavishly during retirement, then you’ll obviously have to save more. And the same is true if you intend to reduce your expenses during retirement: you can save less money now.

The best way to start saving for retirement is to contribute to a tax-advantaged retirement account. It can be a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA or a 401(k) account. A 401k account should be your best choice, because the amount you can contribute every year is much more than a Roth IRA and traditional IRA.

1. See if you can max out your 401k. If you’re lucky enough to have a 401k plan at your job, you should contribute to it or max it out if you’re able to. The contribution limit for a 401k plan if you’re under 50 years old is $19,000 in 2019. If you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, the limit is $6,000. For more information, see How to Become a 401(k) Millionaire.

2. Automate your retirement savings. If you’re contributing to an employer 401k plan, that money automatically gets deducted from your paycheck. But if you’re funding a Roth IRA or a traditional IRA, you have to do it yourself. So set up an automatic deposit for your retirement account from a savings account. If your employer offers direct deposit, you can have a portion of your paycheck deposited directly into that savings account.

Related: The Best 5 Places For Your Savings Account.

Life expectancy

How long do you expect to live? Have your parents or grandparents lived through 80’s or 90’s or 100’s? If so, there is a chance you might live longer in retirement if you’re in good health. Therefore, you need to adjust your savings goal higher.

Consider seeking financial advice.

Saving money for retirement may not be your strong suit. Therefore, you may need to work with a financial advisor to boost your retirement income. For example, if you have a lot of money sitting in your retirement savings account, a financial advisor can help with investment options.

Bottom Line:

Figuring out how much is enough for retirement depends on how much retirement will cost you and what lifestyle you intend to have. Once you know the answer to these two questions, you can start working towards your savings goal.

How much money you will need in retirement? Use this retirement calculator below to determine whether you are on tract and determine how much you’ll need to save a month.

More on retirement:

  • Find Out Now 7 Questions People Forget to Ask Their Financial Advisors
  • 7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Hiring a Financial Advisor
  • Compare Fiduciary Financial Advisors — Start Here for Free.
  • 7 Situations When You Need a Financial Advisor – Plus How to Find One Read More
  • 5 Tips to Optimize Your Retirement Account Withdrawals Read Now
  • People Who Retire Comfortably Avoid These Financial Advisor Mistakes

Working With The Right Financial Advisor

You can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc). Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How Much Is Enough For Retirement? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

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Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning

Three generations of one familyWhen creating an estate plan, one of the most basic documents you may wish to include is a will. If you have a more complicated estate, you might also need to have a trust in place. Both a will and a trust can specify how you want assets distributed among your beneficiaries. When making those decisions, it’s important to distinguish between per stirpes and per capita distributions. These are two terms you’re likely to come across when shaping your estate plan. Here’s a closer look at what per stirpes vs. per capita means.

Per Stirpes, Explained

If you’ve never heard the term per stirpes before, it’s a Latin phrase that translates to “by branch” or “by class.” When this term is applied to estate planning, it refers to the equal distribution of assets among the different branches of a family and their surviving descendants.

A per stirpes designation allows the descendants of a beneficiary to keep inherited assets within that branch of their family, even if the original beneficiary passes away. Those assets would be equally divided between the survivors.

Here’s an example of how per stirpes distributions work for estate planning. Say that you draft a will in which you designate your adult son and daughter as beneficiaries. You opt to leave your estate to them, per stirpes.

If you pass away before both of your children, then they could each claim a half share of your estate under the terms of your will. Now, assume that each of your children has two children of their own and your son passes away before you do. In that scenario, your daughter would still inherit a half share of the estate. But your son’s children would split his half of your estate, inheriting a quarter share each.

Per stirpes distributions essentially create a trickle-down effect, in which assets can be passed on to future generations if a primary beneficiary passes away. A general rule of thumb is that the flow of assets down occurs through direct descendants, rather than spouses. So, if your son were married, his children would be eligible to inherit his share of your estate, not his wife.

Per Capita, Explained

Older couple signs a will

Per capita is also a Latin term which means “by head.” When you use a per capita distribution method for estate planning, any assets you have would pass equally to the beneficiaries are still living at the time you pass away. If you’re writing a will or trust as part of your estate plan, that could include the specific beneficiaries you name as well as their descendants.

So again, say that you have a son and a daughter who each have two children. These are the only beneficiaries you plan to include in your will. Under a per capita distribution, instead of your son and daughter receiving a half share of your estate, they and your four grandchildren would each receive a one-sixth share of your assets. Those share portions would adjust accordingly if one of your children or grandchildren were to pass away before you.

Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita: Which Is Better?

Whether it makes sense to use a per stirpes or per capita distribution in your estate plan can depend largely on how you want your assets to be distributed after you’re gone. It helps to consider the pros and cons of each option.

Per Stirpes Pros:

  • Allows you to keep asset distributions within the same branch of the family
  • Eliminates the need to amend or update wills and trusts when a child is born to one of your beneficiaries or a beneficiary passes away
  • Can help to minimize the potential for infighting among beneficiaries since asset distribution takes a linear approach

Per Stirpes Cons:

  • It’s possible an unwanted person could take control of your assets (i.e., the spouse of one of your children if he or she is managing assets on behalf of a minor child)

Per Capita Pros:

  • You can specify exactly who you want to name as beneficiaries and receive part of your estate
  • Assets are distributed equally among beneficiaries, based on the value of your estate at the time you pass away
  • You can use this designation to pass on assets outside of a will, such as a 401(k) or IRA

Per Capita Cons:

  • Per capita distributions could trigger generation-skipping tax for grandchildren or other descendants who inherit part of your estate

Deciding whether it makes more sense to go with per stirpes vs. per capita distributions can ultimately depend on your personal preferences. Per stirpes distribution is typically used in family settings when you want to ensure that individual branches of the family will benefit from your estate. On the other hand, per capita distribution gives you control over which individuals or group of individuals are included as beneficiaries.

Review Beneficiary Designations Periodically

Multi-generational family

If you have a will and/or a trust, you may have named your beneficiaries. But it’s possible that you may want to change those designations at some point. If you named your son and his wife in your will, for example, but they’ve since gotten divorced you may want to update the will with a codicil to exclude his ex-wife. It’s also helpful to check the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, investment accounts and life insurance policies after a major life change.

For example, if you get divorced then you may not want your spouse to be the beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Or if they pass away before you, you may want to update your beneficiary designations to your children or grandchildren.

The Bottom Line

Per stirpes and per capita distribution rules can help you decide what happens to your assets after you pass away. But they both work very differently. Understanding the implications of each one for your beneficiaries, including how they may be affected from a tax perspective, can help you decide which course to take.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to get started with estate planning and what per stirpes vs. per capita distributions might mean for your heirs. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect, within minutes, with a professional advisor in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While it’s always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor about estate planning, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to writing a will by doing it online. Here’s what you need to know about digital DIY will writing.

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The post Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

10 Risky Investments That Could Make You Lose Everything

If the stock market crashed again, would you respond by investing more? Is day trading your sport of choice? Do you smirk at the idea of keeping money in a savings account instead of investing it?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re probably an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Hold up, Evel Knievel.

It’s fine to embrace a “no-risk, no-reward” philosophy. But some investments are so high-risk that they aren’t worth the rewards.

10 Risky Investments That Could Lead to Huge Losses

We’re not saying no one should ever consider investing in any of the following. But even if you’re a personal finance daredevil, these investments should give you serious pause.

Sure, if things go well, you’d make money — lots of it. But if things go south, the potential losses are huge. In some cases, you could lose your entire investment.

1. Penny Stocks

There’s usually a good reason penny stocks are so cheap. Often they have zero history of earning a profit. Or they’ve run into trouble and have been delisted by a major stock exchange.

Penny stocks usually trade infrequently, meaning you could have trouble selling your shares if you want to get out. And because the issuing company is small, a single piece of good or bad news can make or break it.

Fraud is also rampant in the penny stock world. One common tactic is the “pump and dump.” Scammers create false hype, often using investing websites and newsletters, to pump up the price. Then they dump their shares on unknowing investors.

2. IPOs

You and I probably aren’t rich or connected enough to invest in an IPO, or initial public offering, at its actual offering price. That’s usually reserved for company insiders and investors with deep pockets.

Instead, we’re more likely to be swayed by the hype that a popular company gets when it goes public and the shares start trading on the stock market. Then, we’re at risk of paying overinflated prices because we think we’re buying the next Amazon.

But don’t assume that a company is profitable just because its CEO is ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. Many companies that go public have yet to make money.

The average first-day returns of a newly public company have consistently been between 10% to 20% since the 1990s, according to a 2019 report by investment firm UBS. But after five years, about 60% of IPOs had negative total returns.

3. Bitcoin

Proponents of bitcoin believe the cryptocurrency will eventually become a widespread way to pay for things. But its usage now as an actual way to pay for things remains extremely limited.

For now, bitcoin remains a speculative investment. People invest in it primarily because they think other investors will continue to drive up the price, not because they see value in it.

All that speculation creates wild price fluctuations. In December 2017, bitcoin peaked at nearly $20,000 per coin, then plummeted in 2018 to well below $4,000. That volatility makes bitcoin useless as a currency, as Bankrate’s James Royal writes.

Unless you can afford to part ways with a huge percentage of your investment, bitcoin is best avoided.

4. Anything You Buy on Margin

Margining gives you more money to invest, which sounds like a win. You borrow money from your broker using the stocks you own as collateral. Of course, you have to pay your broker back, plus interest.

If it goes well, you amplify your returns. But when margining goes badly, it can end really, really badly.

Suppose you buy $5,000 of stock and it drops 50%. Normally, you’d lose $2,500.

But if you’d put down $2,500 of your own money to buy the stock and used margin for the other 50%? You’d be left with $0 because you’d have to use the remaining $2,500 to pay back your broker.

That 50% drop has wiped out 100% of your investment — and that’s before we account for interest.

5. Leveraged ETFs

Buying a leveraged ETF is like margaining on steroids.

Like regular exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, leveraged ETFs give you a bundle of investments designed to mirror a stock index. But leveraged ETFs seek to earn two or three times the benchmark index by using a bunch of complicated financing maneuvers that give you greater exposure.

Essentially, a leveraged ETF that aims for twice the benchmark index’s returns (known as a 2x leveraged ETF) is letting you invest $2 for every $1 you’ve actually invested.

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty, but the risk here is similar to buying stocks on margin: It can lead to big profits but it can also magnify your losses.

But here’s what’s especially tricky about leveraged ETFs: They’re required to rebalance every day to reflect the makeup of the underlying index. That means you can’t sit back and enjoy the long-haul growth. Every day, you’re essentially investing in a different product.

For this reason, leveraged ETFs are only appropriate for day traders — specifically, day traders with very deep pockets who can stomach huge losses.

6. Collectibles

A lot of people collect cars, stamps, art, even Pokemon cards as a hobby. But some collectors hope their hobby will turn into a profitable investment.

It’s OK to spend a reasonable amount of money curating that collection if you enjoy it. But if your plans are contingent on selling the collection for a profit someday, you’re taking a big risk.

Collectibles are illiquid assets. That’s a jargony way of saying they’re often hard to sell.

If you need to cash out, you may not be able to find a buyer. Or you may need to sell at a steep discount. It’s also hard to figure out the actual value of collectibles. After all, there’s no New York Stock Exchange for Pokemon cards. And if you do sell, you’ll pay 28% tax on the gains. Stocks held long-term, on the other hand, are taxed at 15% for most middle-income earners.

Plus, there’s also the risk of losing your entire investment if your collection is physically destroyed.

7. Junk Bonds

If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay a high interest rate when you borrow money because banks think there’s a good chance you won’t pay them back. With corporations, it works the same way.

Companies issue bonds when they need to take on debt. The higher their risk of defaulting, the more interest they pay to those who invest in bonds. Junk bonds are the riskiest of bonds.

If you own bonds in a company that ends up declaring bankruptcy, you could lose your entire investment. Secured creditors — the ones whose claim is backed by actual property, like a bank that holds a mortgage — get paid back 100% in bankruptcy court before bondholders get anything.

8. Shares of a Bankrupt Company

Bondholders may be left empty-handed when a corporation declares bankruptcy. But guess who’s dead last in terms of priority for who gets paid? Common shareholders.

Secured creditors, bondholders and owners of preferred stock (it’s kind of like a stock/bond hybrid) all get paid in full before shareholders get a dime.

Typically when a company files for bankruptcy, its stock prices crash. Yet recently, eager investors have flocked in to buy those ultracheap shares and temporarily driven up the prices. (Ahem, ahem: Hertz.)

That post-bankruptcy filing surge is usually a temporary case of FOMO. Remember: The likelihood that those shares will eventually be worth $0 is high.

You may be planning on turning a quick profit during the run-up, but the spike in share prices is usually short-lived. If you don’t get the timing exactly right here, you could lose big when the uptick reverses.

9. Gold and Silver

If you’re worried about the stock market or high inflation, you may be tempted to invest in gold or silver.

Both precious metals are often thought of as hedges against a bear market because they’ve held their value throughout history. Plus in uncertain times, many investors seek out tangible assets, i.e., stuff you can touch.

Having a small amount invested in gold and silver can help you diversify your portfolio. But anything above 5% to 10% is risky.

Both gold and silver are highly volatile. Gold is much rarer, so discovery of a new source can bring down its price. Silver is even more volatile than gold because the value of its supply is much smaller. That means small price changes have a bigger impact. Both metals tend to underperform the S&P 500 in the long term.

The riskiest way to invest in gold and silver is by buying the physical metals because they’re difficult to store and sell. A less risky way to invest is by purchasing a gold or silver ETF that contains a variety of assets, such as mining company stocks and physical metals.

10. Options Trading

Options give you the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price before a certain date. The right to buy is a call. You buy a call when you think a stock price will rise. The right to sell is a put. You buy a put when you think a stock price will drop.

What makes options trading unique is that there’s one clear winner and one clear loser. With most investments, you can sell for a profit to an investor who also goes on to sell at a profit. Hypothetically, this can continue forever.

But suppose you buy a call or a put. If your bet was correct, you exercise the option. You get to buy a winning stock at a bargain price, or you get to offload a tanking stock at a premium price. If you lose, you’re out the entire amount you paid for the option.

Options trading gets even riskier, though, when you’re the one selling the call or put. When you win, you pocket the entire amount you were paid.

But if you end up on the losing side: You could have to pay that high price for the stock that just crashed or sell a soaring stock at a deep discount.

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What Are the Signs That an Investment Is Too Risky?

The 10 things we just described certainly aren’t the only risky investments out there. So let’s review some common themes. Consider any of these traits a red flag when you’re making an investment decision.

  • They’re confusing. Are you perplexed by bitcoin and options trading? So is pretty much everyone else.If you don’t understand how something works, it’s a sign you shouldn’t invest in it.
  • They’re volatile. Dramatic price swings may be exciting compared with the tried-and-true approach of investing across the stock market. But investing is downright dangerous when everything hinges on getting the timing just right.
  • The price is way too low. Just because an investment is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good value.
  • The price is way too high. Before you invest in the latest hype, ask yourself if the investment actually delivers value. Or are the high prices based on speculation?

The bottom line: If you can afford to put a small amount of money in high-risk investments just for the thrill of it, fine — as long as you can deal with losing it all.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com