15 Numbers You Need To Know To Make Smart Financial Decisions

The Wall Street Journal lists 15 important numbers that everyone should know to make better financial decisions. Here they are, broken down by category.

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How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer’s Help

How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer's Help

Saving for retirement is easy to put off, but delaying ultimately can make your life harder. Even if your work does not provide any retirement savings plan, you can still make it happen. It may seem frustrating to watch your friends add up their matching 401(k) contributions, but you do not have to be any further from post-work bliss than they are. Check out these tips on saving for retirement without your employer’s help.

Identify Your Goal

Carefully consider how you plan to live after you leave work so you can calculate how much savings you need for retirement. Once you have an amount in mind, you can figure out a realistic payment plan to reach it. A good rule of thumb is stashing 10% to 15% of your income for retirement. If that isn’t affordable, you can start with a smaller amount and grow your savings from there. One tactic is to just get started with a number you can afford and increasing your savings by 1% every year.

Know Your Options

Even without employer help, there are plenty of ways to save for retirement. An IRA, or individual retirement account, is the most common non-employer plan and opening one should be your first step in most cases. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, while nondeductible Roth IRAs are tax-free on withdrawal so investigate carefully which is best for you. Before investing, consider the risks, timing, fees and your liquidity needs — a financial professional can help you construct a portfolio.

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Put Your Savings on Autopilot

No matter what type of account you use, it’s a good idea to have the amount automatically transferred from your checking account once you get paid. This way you cannot make a decision that something else is more important than retirement saving and you can more easily stick to your commitment. It is also a good idea to increase your monthly deposit with every raise or bonus so you will likely have what you need to retire how and when you want.

The most important part about retirement planning is saving early and often — whether you have help from your employer or not, it’s important to get educated about retirement saving and take control of your finances. You can establish and maximize your retirement fund no matter how difficult or far away it may seem.

More Money-Saving Reads:

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  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

Image: iStock

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Dear Penny: How Do I Save for Retirement on a Teacher’s Salary?

Dear Penny,

I’m 51 years old and don’t have a large nest egg. I’m a single parent with three kids. I’m a second career middle school teacher, so there is not a lot of money left over each month. 

How much money should I be saving to be able to retire in my 70s? Where should I invest that money?

-B.

Dear B.,

You still have 20 years to build your nest egg if all goes as planned. Sure, you’ve missed out on the extra years of compounding you’d have gotten had you accumulated substantial savings in your 20s and 30s. But that’s not uncommon. I’ve gotten plenty of letters from people in their 50s or 60s with nothing saved who are asking how they can retire next year.

I like that you’re already planning to work longer to make up for a late start. But here’s my nagging concern: What if you can’t work into your 70s?

The unfortunate reality is that a lot of workers are forced to retire early for a host of reasons. They lose their jobs, or they have to stop for health reasons or to care for a family member. So it’s essential to have a Plan B should you need to leave the workforce earlier than you’d hoped.

Retirement planning naturally comes with a ton of uncertainty. But since I don’t know what you earn, whether you have debt or how much you have saved, I’m going to have to respond to your question about how much to save with the vague and unsatisfying answer of: “As much as you can.”

Perhaps I can be more helpful if we work backward here. Instead of talking about how much you need to save, let’s talk about how much you need to retire. You can set savings goals from there.

The standard advice is that you need to replace about 70% to 80% of your pre-retirement income. Of course, if you can retire without a mortgage or any other debt, you could err on the lower side — perhaps even less.

For the average worker, Social Security benefits will replace about 40% of income. If you’re able to work for another two decades and get your maximum benefit at age 70, you can probably count on your benefit replacing substantially more. Your benefit will be up to 76% higher if you can delay until you’re 70 instead of claiming as early as possible at 62. That can make an enormous difference when you’re lacking in savings.

But since a Plan B is essential here, let’s only assume that your Social Security benefits will provide 40%. So you need at least enough savings to cover 30%.

If you have a retirement plan through your job with an employer match, getting that full contribution is your No. 1 goal. Once you’ve done that, try to max out your Roth IRA contribution. Since you’re over 50, you can contribute $7,000 in 2021, but for people younger than 50, the limit is $6,000.

If you maxed out your contributions under the current limits by investing $583 a month and earn 7% returns, you’d have $185,000 after 15 years. Do that for 20 years and you’d have a little more than $300,000. The benefit to saving in a Roth IRA is that the money will be tax-free when you retire.

The traditional rule of thumb is that you want to limit your retirement withdrawals to 4% each year to avoid outliving your savings. But that rule assumes you’ll be retired for 30 years. Of course, the longer you work and avoid tapping into your savings, the more you can withdraw later on.

Choosing what to invest in doesn’t need to be complicated. If you open an IRA through a major brokerage, they can use algorithms to automatically invest your money based on your age and when you want to retire.

By now you’re probably asking: How am I supposed to do all that as a single mom with a teacher’s salary? It pains me to say this, but yours may be a situation where even the most extreme budgeting isn’t enough to make your paycheck stretch as far as it needs to go. You may need to look at ways to earn additional income. Could you use the summertime or at least one weekend day each week to make extra money? Some teachers earn extra money by doing online tutoring or teaching English as a second language virtually, for example.

I hate even suggesting that. Anyone who teaches middle school truly deserves their time off. But unfortunately, I can’t change the fact that we underpay teachers. I want a solution for you that doesn’t involve working forever. That may mean you have to work more now.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to AskPenny@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

We Want a Diverse Area With Moderate Population, Warm, Beach and Culture—So Where Should We Retire?

Gulfport, FLCourtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

Dear MarketWatch,

We are African-Americans and want to retire to a diverse area with moderate population, warm, beach, culture. We can afford a better-than-average lifestyle and want to feel accepted in our new community — hopefully somewhere with high walkability and homes with character. And maybe near a major airport…. for lots of traveling.

Let me know what you come up with. Thanks.

— Jennifer

Dear Jennifer,

We all know there are plenty of beach towns in the U.S., but finding one with personality is a bigger challenge.

I’m going to leave out some obvious places, like Miami Beach and, though less diverse, Hilton Head. On the West Coast, no Southern California. Too obvious. Plus, while you can afford a better-than average lifestyle, home prices there are so high that they could hamper your travel budget. The same goes for Sag Harbor and the Hamptons more broadly (plus you’d still have winter on Long Island).

Instead, I’ll look for some off-the-beaten path possibilities. I’m sure readers will have their own suggestions.

As always, explore the area in all seasons, and be realistic about the retirement budget. When you find your dream place, ask which areas are susceptible to flooding during hurricanes and other storms.

A street in the historic district of Wilmington, NC
A street in the historic district of Wilmington, NC

Courtesy Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Atlantic: Wilmington, North Carolina

Check out the Cape Fear region, which includes Wilmington as well as beach towns like Carolina Beach and the more upscale Wrightsville Beach.

Wilmington is growing quickly and at 123,000 people has more than half of New Hanover County’s population. The share of those 65 and older are roughly in line with the U.S. average. Look for a place where you’ll catch a breeze off the Intracoastal Waterway or the ocean to counter the summer humidity — so not too far inland.

You’ll have no shortage of cultural offerings, starting with Thalian Hall, the Cameron Art Museum and the Wilson Center. The University of North Carolina Wilmington, which has 17,000 students, lets those 65 and older audit classes for free, while its Osher Lifelong Learning Institute offers shorter courses to those 50 and older.

Be sure to explore the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, which stretches from Wilmington to Jacksonville, Fla., and is home to cultural groups descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa. Poplar Grove Plantation is one local site.

Winter days get into the 50s, with average lows in the 40s. Average highs in July are in the 80s.

Here’s what’s on the housing market now in Wilmington and in New Hanover County using Realtor.com (which, like MarketWatch, is owned by News Corp.).

As for travel, while Wilmington has an airport, you’ll have more choices flying from Raleigh two hours away.

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Gulfport, FL, is next to St. Petersburg.
Gulfport, FL, is next to St. Petersburg.

Courtesy Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

The Gulf of Mexico: Gulfport, Florida

Florida’s popularity with retirees is no secret, in part because it’s affordable and has no state income tax. But all too often, home means living in a high rise or a gated community.

Gulfport, though, is described as how Key West was before it became overrun with tourists.

This town of 12,000, just west of St. Petersburg, is your artsy, funky, walkable spot in the middle of the Tampa Bay metro area and its 3 million people. You’ll also find plenty of retirees; 30% of Gulfport’s residents are 65 or older.

Gulfport comes with sunset views from its own (man-made) strip of sand over Boca Ciega Bay so, yes, it’s on the Gulf side of Florida but technically not on the Gulf of Mexico. But opposite the bay is St. Pete Beach, which gets raves from TripAdvisor (a local says head to the Pass-A-Grille section at the southern tip). When you tire of that, there are more white-sand beaches to sink your toes in, including Siesta Beach in Sarasota an hour south (and Dr. Beach’s pick in 2017 for best beach in the U.S.) as well as Caladesi Island State Park (No. 6 on Dr. Beach’s list this year) an hour north.

And if you just want to walk, don’t overlook the 45-mile Pinellas Trail that stretches from St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs and goes through the northern edge of Gulfport.

For bigger getaways, there’s Tampa International Airport.

To get a sense of the local housing market, here’s what’s for sale now, again using Realtor.com.

As you explore the Tampa area, also check out Safety Harbor, a town of 18,000 on the western side of Tampa Bay with its own walkable downtown, and Dunedin (pronounced Duh-nee-din) north of Clearwater that’s also popular with retirees. You know there’s plenty of cultural offerings in a metro this size. One that might be easy to overlook: the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African-American Museum in St. Petersburg.

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Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii
Overlooking Waikiki Beach

Christopher Ball/iStock

The Pacific: Oahu, Hawaii

If year-round pleasant weather is the priority, Hawaii can’t be beat. Average highs are in the 80s year-round, and average lows bottom out in the mid-60s. Of course there’s no shortage of beautiful beaches.

When you tire of water, take advantage of wonderful hiking opportunities. And while the focus of your international travels might shift toward Asia, you may want to spend more time just staying, discovering Hawaiian culture and exploring some of the national parks.

You admittedly won’t find a big population of African-Americans here, but Hawaiians have a much more open and fluid view of race and diversity than many of us on the mainland.

Start your search for your retirement life on Oahu Island. About a third of the island’s million residents live in Honolulu itself, one of the country’s most diverse and affluent cities and the birthplace of President Barack Obama. Curious about sites associated with him in some way? Here are even more.

You’ll find plenty of cultural offerings in Honolulu (including some of Hawaii’s best festivals, as voted by readers of Hawai’i Magazine), plus the state university (those 60 and older can audit classes for free).

There’s even Costco, if that’s your thing. Oh, and that Elvis statue…

Yes, there’s the cost of getting everything to Hawaii — some things will be even more expensive than parts of California. Here’s what the local housing market looks like.

If Honolulu is too pricey, consider some of the smaller towns on the island. Or check out the less-populated (and cheaper) Big Island, also known as Hawaii Island. Start with the Kalaoa area.

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Source: realtor.com