Recently I received an out-of-the-blue request from Keith Morris, the editor of the new LifeTuner Chat Carnival and the Community Manager for LifeTuner, to write an article for the upcoming carnival on “Financial Lessons Learned the Hard Way”. First off, I’d like to thank Keith for tossing an invite my way and having the optimism to think that I might have something interesting to contribute. I hope I can offer you some first person narrative which you enjoy enough to finish. That’s the thing about introspective pieces… I wonder the utility my experiences have to you readers? Well, let’s toss aside the deep commentary and cornucopia of supporting links for a second and do some old fashion writing. Who’s with me?
Unlike the swine flu, the personal finance bug is a relatively hard bug to get. Unfortunately (for them), far too many people avoid putting any thought into their future until that ‘future’ is right around the corner. Investing is a topic that comes up a lot when I talk with people. How you field open ended questions like “How do I invest in stocks?” is a make or break question in which you need to figure out before your trust is deserved. I’ve come up with a step by step method which I use to narrow my confidant’s thoughts and distill their true intentions. Read on, then leave me comments on your style.
Thank you Bernie Madoff! Bernie Madoff set the news on fire with a $50 billion Ponzi scheme for which he recently went to prison. Since then, a number of other financial schemes have come to light: Allen Sanford, Joseph Forte, even the Yacht scheme. But what are Ponzi schemes? How are they different from Pyramid schemes (and Matrix Schemes)? And, most importantly, what are the signs of each?
I’ve written plenty about gasoline lately, but only about gas taxes. Let’s shift gears a bit… Do you think gas prices will increase? If gas prices increase, is there a way for you to hedge against that increase so it doesn’t affect you? Of course!
If you saw $1,377.71 lying on the ground, would you pick it up?
I hope you would. That’s the sort of savings you could find from opening a Roth IRA. Any increase in your future tax rates means you made money simply from choosing the right account to invest in. Sound good? Read the article.
If you come into money, don’t ignore paying down debt as an option. Oftentimes paying down debt can save you much more money than you can earn with another option. Additionally, paying off a loan in full will increase your future cash flow. Read on for a look at debt as an investment and a closer look at tax-equivalent yield.
“A penny saved, is a penny earned,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richard’s Almanack. The quote is repeated as fact by many people, often while picking pennies off the ground. Our friend Ben lived in a simpler time, and it’s time to revisit this famous quote with a little (disgusting? intriguing?) math to see if it holds up to closer scrutiny.
One of the more interesting questions that has cropped up recently is whether the Roth or traditional 401(k) is the superior savings vehicle. Most people know that if you expect your tax rate to increase in retirement, a Roth is better, and a Traditional 401(k) is better in the case you believe it will decrease. I would like to show you some of the considerations where this may not be the whole story. I am not a financial planner; I just like to think through these sorts of decisions on my own. The following is my judgment of the situation, and you should discuss your own situation with a financial planner. Hopefully you can use this information for your own purposes. Also, if the middle is too dry, skip to the end. Enjoy!
The Health Savings Account, or HSA was introduced in 2003 and has revealed itself to be a solid choice in saving money on health insurance. Beyond the obvious saving advantage that comes from empowering consumers to pay for most of their everyday medical expenses, the HSA also has a hefty tax benefit. HSAs are free from federal tax when accumulating, compounding and distributing money (although some states, like California do tax it). Of course, the tax benefit is only when using the HSA for qualified medical expenses. After the beneficiary turns 65, non-qualified distributions are taxed at the normal tax rate, just like a traditional 401(k) or IRA.