Are you a Buy Now-Pay Later Fan?

You might notice that the ease of swiping your credit card often allows you to make impulse purchases. Have you ever purchased something you probably shouldn’t have because you mindlessly swiped your card? That’s okay! We all splurge on items that we want, but it’s important to discuss the consequences of building up debt on your cards and learning how to make smart decisions when doing so. 

“Buy now-pay later” apps and options on credit cards are all the craze right now, which allows individuals to split up their payments into installments instead of paying the lump sum in full. You may have seen companies like Klarna, Affirm, or AfterPay pop up while you were checking out at your favorite online store and decided to break up the price of your new favorite shoes over the course of 3 months. Many of you have probably used a payment plan when purchasing your peloton or new furniture for your house. I took advantage of Affirm when purchasing furniture for my new apartment, which helped lower the initial cost of my big move. While there is nothing wrong with choosing this option, it’s important to remember to pay your total minimum balance in full AND on time to avoid being hit with interest rates, a declining credit score, and late fees. Be cautious and make sure that you read the fine print of these buy now pay later options and ensure that participating will not negatively impact your financial health.  Only take on what you can afford! 

While discussing spending, it’s also important to touch on budgeting and how it is such a crucial part of your financial life in order to build your net worth and also avoid spending mistakes and consequences as you saw listed above. We’ve mentioned this in other blogs before, but creating clear goals for your future and listing out your wants versus your needs is a great way to get started on your personal budget. Check out our other blog for more tips on how to effectively and strategically build financial goals and a budget that is best for you. If you have any questions for us, email us at info@shermnwealth.com or schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation here

In The Market For A New Car? Check This Data Out

In the market for a new car? Read this first. As you may already know this but the car industry has had quite the year, with used and new car prices shooting through the roof. Used cars have especially skyrocketed to record high prices and are actually hard to find as we’ve been following tons of pandemic-related chip shortages across the world. This shortage is leading to a decrease in supply during a time in which there is such great demand. 

Is it just cars that are more expensive? No it is not, the price of everything you want to buy is rising, and consumers are certainly feeling the impact of it first hand. Take a look at the chart below. 

So, knowing that inflation is real, demand is high, and supplies are limited, what should you do if you are in the search for the car of your dreams? Well, there’s a good chance that the car you are searching for won’t be available, so when going into your search, be flexible and have a few cars in mind that you are interested in. You may also want to expand your geographic search since we are in such a competitive market and the dealership up the street might not have what you are looking for. Put some time into researching and you may actually find another car out there that you like better. 

You may also want to consider some other options as well, such as leasing a car. With the demand of purchasing a car being so high, it could be a good idea to see what offers and specials dealerships are giving on leases. While leasing a car may not be the best option for you, it doesn’t hurt to check it out and see what deals there are. You may be able to swing a great deal if a certain dealership is behind on meeting their amount of leases for the year. If you are in the middle of a lease for your car, inquire about the purchase price of that vehicle after your lease is up. 

A bright-side to the skyrocketing car market right now is the amount of money you can get for your current car, as I can contest first hand. A month ago, I was offered such a great deal on my used car, more than I would ever usually get, due to this crazy demand for used cars. So, if you are willing to part ways with your car, now is a great time to sell and get the most for your vehicle. However, if you are selling your car now, keep in mind that your next dream car may not be available for immediate purchase, so make sure to have a back up plan in the meantime. 

It will be interesting to see how the surging COVID-19 delta variant impacts the car market and when the demand will start declining. If you have questions on what the best financial option for you is when purchasing your next car, send us an email at info@shermanwealth.com or schedule a 30-minute consultation here.  

How Much Retirement Savings Is Enough? Why Couples May Disagree

As couples combine their finances and think about their financial future, its common for the conversation to be uncomfortable or tricky. While one individual in the relationship might think about money one way, the other party could think about it completely different. Just know, it’s normal and okay to have different background and approaches to money, but that communication is key in coming to a solid compromise and understanding. 

The first step is communication. When discussing your finances, it’s important to communicate and feel open about discussing an often uncomfortable topic such as money. 

The Wall Street Journal highlighted an issue that can get overlooked in retirement planning: the financial burdens that women, in particular, face late in life.

A survey last year by the National Council on Aging and Ipsos, a polling and data firm, found that fully half (51%) of women age 60 and older are worried about outliving their savings. In the same survey, almost six in 10 women (59%) said they are worried about losing their independence.

According to the survey, women, of course, typically live longer than men—about five years, on average—and are more likely to live their final years alone. In 2019, almost half (44%) of women age 75 and older in the U.S. lived alone, according to the Administration on Aging. 

As you can see from the survey data reference above, both men and women often have different expectations on how much money they need for their future, which is normal. Again, make sure to communicate and research with your partner to insure both individuals are comfortable with their finances and savings. Of course, a good financial adviser also can make a difference. But the most important step is to talk about retirement and how your finances might play out before you get there. If you have any questions, or want to discuss retirement with us, please schedule a complimentary 30-minute consultation.

 

Financial Advice For Parents

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Raising a child in today’s world can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a parent of four children ranging from ages 5 to 16, I can attest to just how expensive kids can be. Besides just the essentials like food and clothes, there are club teams, tutors, dance lessons and so much more. With each additional family member comes new financial considerations and expenses. The importance of planning for these costs before they arise is a key reason why many financial advisors are targeting young families and helping them successfully navigate how to cover their children’s expenses without compromising their own financial security. Here are a few top takeaways from some of these advisors:

SAVING FOR COLLEGE

With a high school junior in our house, it won’t be long before we are paying that dreaded college tuition bill. And, due to the ballooning costs of higher education, this bill is not likely to be a small one! If possible, new parents should try to start saving as soon as they can for their child’s college tuition.The earlier you start saving, the better prepared you’ll be. If you save $500 a month at birth, you should have around $190,000 saved by the time that child reaches 18 (assuming an annual return of 6%). However, if you don’t start until your son or daughter is 10, you’ll only have around $60,000 by the time they graduate high school. Setting up a state-sponsored 529 college savings plan, allows parents to invest money and then withdraw it tax-free, so long as the funds are used for certain education expenses. However, as you prepare for your children’s future, make sure that you remain focused on your retirement saving as well. There are lots of ways to pay for college, but you can only use the resources you’ve accumulated for your own retirement.   

CHILDCARE AND HEALTH CARE

When our first child was born, my husband and I were both working, and trying to find affordable childcare was not easy. Childcare is one of the biggest expenses new parents will face, especially if both parents work. In some cases, one parent will decide to leave their job and take care of the child themselves, especially if the cost of childcare is more than one parent is making. This is exactly what happened when our second child was born, since it was no longer cost effective to pay for childcare for two children with my salary.   

Meanwhile, childbirth and adoption count as qualifying events that allow parents to make changes to their employee benefits outside of the open enrollment period at work. For example, new parents can expect to see their medical expenses rise and those who have access to a flexible savings account and health savings account at work should use them since the money put into an FSA or HSA avoids federal taxation. In some cases, employers offer a Dependent Care FSA, which can be used for costs picked up from a nanny, babysitter or childcare center.

When it comes to health insurance, if both parents work, you should examine which plan will cost less to add the child to. Most doctor visits in the first couple of years are considered wellness visits, which are typically free or very low-cost in most health-care plans today. But, you should look into which plan is most cost-effective in the event of a trip to the emergency room or having to see a specialist – even with good insurance, the price tag of a broken bone is a lot more than you might think!

LIFE INSURANCE

Even though it’s not something most people like to think about, preparing for death is of utmost importance when becoming a parent. Your financial advisor should be able to run various calculations to figure out the amount of protection you would need. Many families make the mistake of only getting life insurance for the main earner, experts say, but both parents should be covered. Many people think that since stay-at-home parent isn’t actually earning anything, they don’t need insurance. However, when it comes to life insurance, you need to evaluate what it would cost to have someone else take care of your children if something were to happen to that parent.  

It is also extremely important to put together estate planning documents, including a will and health-care directives, as well as discussing appointing a guardian in the event of an unexpected life event. When we found out we were expecting our first child, it forced us to have some difficult conversations about who we would want to take of our child and how our assets would be distributed if something happened to us. It’s also important to revisit those questions each time you add another child to your family or if there is another major change to your assets. The guardians you might have written in your will when you were 25 might not be the same guardians you would choose when you are 45. None of these decisions are easy ones, but they are vital to preparing for your life as a parent.

EMERGENCY SAVINGS

With all the additional expenses new parents can face, from diapers to a larger home and mortgage, it’s more important than ever to have a safety net for those unexpected costs. Having children is a good reason to have a bigger emergency fund, simply because there are now more people who are dependent on you financially. Aside from the random home and car repairs that always seem to pop up when you least expect them, now add braces, sports equipment and teenage social lives to the mix. Having some money from each paycheck deposited directly into an account that you don’t touch is an easy way to make sure you are creating an ample emergency fund should you need it.  

There are so many wonderful aspects of being a parent, but it is definitely a costly undertaking. Seeking some financial guidance before you become a parent is always a good idea, but it’s never too late to start planning for your future with a family. If you have any questions about saving for college, choosing the right health plan, putting together your estate documents or anything else related to your financial goals or plans, please contact us.  We offer a free 30-minute introductory consultation and would love to hear from you!  Check out our other blogs for more financial advice and tips.

 

IRS Finalizes ABLE Account Regulations: Here’s What to Know

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The IRS recently published final regulations for Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, accounts for disabled Americans. ABLE accounts aim to help people with disabilities and their families save and pay for disability-related expenses. Even though the contributions aren’t deductible, distributions such as earnings are tax-free to the designated beneficiary if they’re used to pay for qualified disability expenses. These expenses can include housing, education, transportation, health, prevention and wellness, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services, along with other disability-related expenses.

The regulations come in response to and finalize two previously issued proposed regulations from the IRS. The first proposed regulation was published in 2015 after enactment of the ABLE Act under the Obama administration. The second proposed regulation was published in 2019 in response to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which made some major changes to ABLE. 

Eligible individuals can now put more money into their ABLE account and roll money from their qualified tuition programs (529 plans) into their ABLE accounts. In addition, some contributions made to ABLE accounts by low- and moderate-income workers can now qualify for the Saver’s Credit.

The new regulations also offer guidance on the gift and generation-skipping transfer tax consequences of contributions to an ABLE account, as well as on the federal income, gift, and estate tax consequences of distributions from, and changes in the designated beneficiary of, an ABLE account.

In addition, before Jan. 1, 2026, funds can be rolled over from a designated beneficiary’s section 529 plan to an ABLE account for the same beneficiary or a family member. The regulations provide that rollovers from 529 plans, along with any contributions made to the designated beneficiary’s ABLE account (other than certain permitted contributions of the designated beneficiary’s compensation) can’t exceed the annual ABLE contribution limit.

Lastly, the final regulations offer guidance on the record-keeping and reporting requirements of a qualified ABLE program. A qualified ABLE program must maintain records that enable the program to account to the Secretary with respect to all contributions, distributions, returns of excess contributions or additional accounts, income earned, and account balances for any designated beneficiary’s ABLE account. In addition, a qualified ABLE program must report to the Secretary the establishment of each ABLE account, including the name, address, and TIN of the designated beneficiary, information regarding the disability certification or other basis for eligibility of the designated beneficiary, and other relevant information regarding each account. 

For more information about ABLE accounts or if you have any questions regarding these regulatory changes, please contact us at info@shermanwealth.com or check out our other relevant blogs

What to Do If You Don’t Have a 401(k)

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As the coronavirus sweeps the world and people take a step back to look at their financial picture, they are realizing that they do not have a company 401(K). 

Even though some of these people work at a company where they offer a 401(k), they may not be eligible due to not meeting criteria, such as length of employment, or they are not a full-time employee.

So, as people are stressing more about the importance of having a hefty savings account, it’s a great time to discuss options for individuals who are not eligible for their company 401(k) or do not have one through their workplace.  Below we will share several options for people in this situation according to an article by MorningStar.

1) Invest in an IRA.

A good first step for someone without a 401(k) is setting up an IRA. An IRA is a great other step to save for retirement and seek tax benefits. You are eligible to contribute $6,000 a year to your IRA.

2) Look Into Self-employment accounts are an option.

For self-employed individuals, there are several options to consider. Some of them are similar to 401(k)s but are just set up a bit differently. Speak with a financial professional to see what options you can set up for yourself. 

3) Consider an HSA 

If you have a high-deductible health care plan you can consider setting up an HSA in order to save some of those dollars and grow your money tax deferred. 

4) Open a Taxable brokerage account.

While its always nice to grow your money tax deferred, investing in a regular taxable account is always a great option. You can speak with a tax professional to see how to do so in a tax efficient manner. 

5) Be part of the solution.

Lastly, if you work for a small employer without a 401(k), maybe ask them to see if it’s something they are interested in starting. Never hurts to ask! 

As always, if you have any questions about your current 401(k) or need help investing money in order to supplement a lack of one, please reach out to us and we would be happy to discuss your future financial goals.  

Money Mistakes You Might Make in a Recession

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It’s very common to make mistakes when it comes to your finances and managing your money. We read a Wall Street Journal article discussing the biggest money mistakes people tend to make during an economic downturn and we want to bring light to a few of them and talk about ways to avoid them.

By reading and addressing financial mistakes people make, hopefully you can avoid them in the future. Below we will discuss some common financial mistakes people often times make. 

  • Refusing to Tap the Emergency Fund
  • Avoiding Credit Score
  • Avoiding Savings For Retirement
  • Ignoring Money Conversations

As mentioned above, an economic recession is the perfect opportunity to take a step back and discuss and organize your finances. Saving for the future, talking to someone about your investments, and organizing your portfolio are all smart moves when setting yourself up for financial success and the ability to navigate an economic recession. If you have any questions or want to talk about your personal finances, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com. To read some of our other blogs, check it out here

The Best Credit Cards For Grocery Shopping In 2020

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As the corona-virus pandemic has put a halt on restaurant dining, Americans have found themselves cooking at home more and in turn, spending more money on grocery shopping. When increasing your spend in a certain category, it’s important to think about how you can maximize these purchases and your budget by building rewards. You may want to consider a rewards credit card that can help you earn over $100 a year on your groceries. 

We read an interesting article from CNBC select that discussed the best credit cards to apply for if your grocery spending has increased or is a large chunk of your monthly budget. The average American spends about $5,174 a year, or roughly $431 a month, on groceries, according to a sample budget based on the latest spending data available from the location intelligence firm Esri. That’s more than Americans spend on dining out, which comes to about $3,675 annually. 

The best grocery rewards cards offer up to 6% cash back at supermarkets. While they usually exclude wholesale clubs such as Costco and BJ’s, and big box stores like Target and Walmart, you can still take advantage of these rates at Whole Foods, Krogers and other big name grocers.

CNBC Select analyzed 26 popular rewards cards using an average American’s annual budget and digging into each card’s perks and drawbacks to find the best grocery store rewards cards based on your spending habits. 

Here are CNBC Select’s top picks for credit cards offering supermarket rewards

If you find that your grocery bill takes up a large portion of your monthly budget, take a look at these credit cards, to see if you could capitalize on your spending. Additionally, no matter where you spend the majority of your money, whether it’s travel or dining, make sure you look into credit cards that are the best fit for you. If you have any questions on your portfolio or credit cards to maximize your spending, please reach out to us at info@shermanwealth.com

Here’s How The Pandemic Has Upended The Financial Lives Of Average Americans: CNBC + Acorns Survey

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The coronavirus pandemic has upended many Americans’ financial lives. While millions are unemployed and sufferings, there is actually more positive financial data than you would think. 

According to CNBC and an Acorns Survey, many are saving more and spending less. In fact, 46% of the respondents said they are “more of a saver now” compared to before the pandemic. Additionally, 60% consider themselves “savers,” up from 54% last year. The poll, conducted by SurveyMonkey Aug. 13-20, surveyed 5,401 U.S. adults and has a margin of error of +/-2%.

 

About half, or 49%, said their monthly spending has decreased, compared to 33% last year. Some of those savings can be attributed to the fact that people stayed home and didn’t do things like dining out, said personal finance expert Jean Chatzky, co-founder of HerMoney.

While many have been struggling these last few months, others have picked up on some financial skills, learning how to save dollars here and there, cutting out old subscriptions, and being smarter spenders. By prioritizing wants versus needs and taking a look at how much money is going out each month, people have picked up better spending habits that will help them navigate these bumpy waters ahead. 

With extra cash and savings in the bank, it’s important to talk with an advisor about options and investing that makes the most sense for you, whether it be saving for retirement, college tuition, or something else. If you have any questions for us, please reach out at info@shermanwealth.com and we would be happy to set up a time to discuss a financial plan for your future.

 

3 In 5 Parents Say Remote Learning Will Negatively Impact Their Finances

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It’s hard to believe, but summer is almost over and another new school year is only a few weeks away. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, distance and hybrid learning will become the new normal this fall. Those with school age children will need to adjust in order to make this situation as successful as possible and many parents are in the process of converting their homes into a virtual learning space for their children.

This change in schooling is not only disrupting the educational system as we’ve known it, but a new survey conducted by Bankrate revealed that “61% of parents with school-aged children are forced to re-evaluate their finances and careers as they prepare for a unique school situation”. Parents also revealed that “they are not feeling particularly optimistic about the educational side of remote learning” with 42% of respondents anticipating negative impacts on their child’s education. 

One of the huge tangible expenses that goes along with remote virtual learning is technology. In the past, most pre-school children and even middle/high-school children did not have access to their own laptops, as it was not necessary for their educational success. However, remote learning is forcing all students, regardless of age or grade, to have undivided access to their own digital device to access their teachers, homework, and resources. And those families who had shared technological devices amongst a few family members are now forced to purchase a device for each person, which is a huge added expense. However, before purchasing your child a new computer, please check with your school to find out whether they are providing laptops for each student for the upcoming year since many districts will be offering them.

Another factor that will negatively impact parents as children begin remote schooling is time. In the pre-coronavirus world, parents had the ability to drop their children in school, enroll them in after-school activities, while also fully engaging in their personal careers. With students learning from home, needing supervision and assistance in their learning, parents are worried it will negatively impact their careers and work/life balance. Some parents will find they have to cut work hours to help their children learn or incur additional expenses such as tutors/babysitters so that they can continue to work. And on top of that, some parents may need to quit their jobs completely. 

While this transition will be difficult for many, it is crucial to remember the importance of utilizing all your resources, which we have spoken about in previous blogs. Reach out to family members for help, scan the web for good deals before making a big purchase and remember that we are all in this together. Lastly, as we adjust to our new complicated normal, remember to keep track of your finances and manage your money. You may find it useful to create a new budget for the upcoming school year since it is likely to look different than it did in the past. As always, if you have any questions about your portfolio or finances, please reach out to us and we are happy to help!