Sabtu, 10 Maret 2012

10 Financial Tips For Young People

If I could go back in time, I would do certain things differently. I'm not saying I have a lot of regrets. But when I was younger, I tended to have myopic vision. For instance, it was hard to imagine that one day I would be older. Even today, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder, who the hell is that?
I wish that, when I was younger, someone had sat me down and told me a few things. Or else I wish that I'd listened when someone attempted to do this.
If you're young, take a seat and listen up. These gems will help you on your quest for financial success.
1. Go to college. You may want to do something that doesn't require a college degree. For instance, you may dream of playing professional golf or running a barn and training horses. But give serious consideration to enrolling in college anyway. Yes, it's a major investment, but if your parents are unable to help you pay for it, make it happen yourself, even if it means taking out loans. One way to save on costs: Go to a community college first; then transfer to a four-year university after two years.
It's easier to get a degree when you're young than when you have a home, family and all the adult responsibilities that go with these things. Your earnings potential increases significantly with a college degree -- which will come in handy if your other dreams don't materialize. Plus, you will likely experience a love of learning that you will never outgrow.
2. Find your purpose. If you're having trouble figuring out what you want to do with your life, look within. You were born with certain talents and natural abilities. You know which subjects you excel in and which ones you struggle with. Choose a career that enables you to maximize your gifts in a way that fulfills you or helps others. As you grow, your career may change along with your desires. But for now, gravitate toward a field that feels like home.
3. Begin retirement planning with your first job. This tip is so important. If the company you work for offers a 401(k) plan, sign up at your first opportunity. If there's no such plan, divert some of your paycheck into an IRA. Believe it or not, if you're lucky, one day you'll find you are older, so it's best to be prepared. Setting up automatic contributions to either one of these retirement vehicles at a young age will help you build wealth painlessly.
Just as an example, let's say you invest $200 a month beginning at age 25, and you earn 7 percent annually on that money. By the time you turn 65, you will have about $525,000 saved up. If you wait until you're 35 to begin saving, assuming the same monthly investment and rate of return, you'll have amassed less than half that amount -- about $244,000. This illustration simply shows the impact that a 10-year head start can make on your savings, thanks to the magic of compounding. Do the math yourself with Bankrate's retirement calculator.
Naturally, the more you earn, the more you can stash away. A better way to invest: Rather than target a specific monthly dollar amount, sock away 7 percent of your earnings in the beginning, and increase it each year a little bit until you're diverting 15 percent a year.
4. Place a value on money. It doesn't buy happiness, but it can certainly make you comfortable. Just understand what it's worth. Money is what you earn in exchange for your time in some productive pursuit. Let's say you earn $20 an hour at your job, and you're considering purchasing a TV for $500. You may calculate that you spend 25 hours, or about three days, earning that money. It's worth it, you may think. But that's not an accurate value estimate. If you're single, you're in the 25-percent tax bracket, so you actually spend about 33 hours earning the net income required to make the purchase. It still may be worth it, but there may be competing demands for that money, such as rent and car payments, not to mention your retirement fund. Each purchase represents a trade-off. Make these decisions wisely.
5. Use the credit card sparingly. This tip is also really vital. Bankrate receives tons of letters from strapped consumers who regretfully overused their credit cards and now find themselves in really dire financial situations, some contemplating bankruptcy. It's easy to spend now with plastic and much harder to pay later. Use credit responsibly. Comparison shop for your card. Remember that you'll be relying on your future earnings to pay for today's credit card purchases. And if you keep a running balance, you'll also be paying interest, sometimes at usurious rates. Don't fall into this trap. Instead: Save money to meet financial goals.
6. Follow the golden rule. Contrary to popular belief, the duplicity and craftiness of Machiavellian tactics won't really help you survive, but instead will engender mistrust in your relationships. Treat others fairly, the way you wish to be treated. No one looks good when trying to make others look bad. When you're on the job, avoid gossip. Beware that when someone takes you into his or her confidence to point out someone else's foibles, it's only a matter of time before your foibles come to light. Always be honest in your dealings with others. Seek out the company of people who are positive and supportive of your efforts.
7. Select your partner wisely.Choose someone whose values match your own -- not just where money is concerned, but more importantly, ethical and moral values. Get to know your soul mate over the course of at least a year. Passion is important, but trust more so. Make sure you are free to be yourself. If you hook up with an angry or overly critical partner, you will be subjected to hostility and may lose your sense of self. Conversely, if you're the one with anger issues, resolve them before they poison a perfectly good relationship.
8. Be prepared for the unexpected.Someday you may lose a job through no fault of your own. Prepare today by stashing money into an accessible emergency fund. The easiest way to do this is to automatically divert a portion of your earnings into a savings account in addition to the amount you're contributing to a 401(k) plan or IRA.
Try not to use that 401(k) money for emergencies. It will cost you plenty, between income and penalty taxes. For instance, if you have $10,000 in your account and you're in the 25-percent tax bracket, you'll lose $2,500 to taxes, plus pay another $1,000 penalty for breaking into the money before you reach age 55. (For IRAs, the early withdrawal penalty applies up to age 59½, with certain exceptions.) Bottom line: Your $10,000 dwindles to $6,500. Worse, you will have lost the opportunity for that money to compound and build wealth for your retirement.
But don't leave that money behind with the former employer either, lest you lose track of it. Instead, in a trustee-to-trustee transfer, roll it over into your new employer's plan or into a rollover IRA.
9. Learn about investing or hire help. It's not rocket science; in the beginning you just need to overcome fear and select one or two good, cheap mutual funds. Ask the human resources department for help with that. After you've amassed some wealth, it may be time to hire someone. If you do, you will obviously have to pay for the service. Get referrals and then check out the qualifications and credentials of a prospective financial adviser or broker.
Make sure you understand the fee structure of the services. Is it commission-based or do you pay an hourly fee or a percentage of assets or some combination of these fees? Ask for a complete breakdown. Also, check with the appropriate authority to see if any disciplinary actions have been taken against a certified financial planner or broker before you initiate contact. The Financial Planning Association's Web site is a good starting point to search for a qualified planner.
10. Be thankful for your good fortune. It's not all about money. If you work at it, you will have abundance -- through strong family ties and solid relationships as well as monetary assets. Take some time out each day to reflect on the good in your life. Spend at least one day a week in a recreational activity or hobby that you enjoy, and take a minimum one-week vacation annually if you possibly can. My aunt Genie advises that you travel throughout your life, rather than waiting for retirement to do it. Again, save for the trip.
If you have children, spend as much time as you can with them when they're still young and dependent on you. Before you know it, they'll be old enough to get a driver's license, and you'll see less and less of them from that point on.
Longtime financial journalist Barbara Mlotek Whelehan earned a certificate of specialization in financial planning.
If you have a comment or suggestion about this column, write to Boomer Bucks.

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