Investment

7 Traps to Avoid With Your 401(k)

More and more Americans are choosing an employer-sponsored 401(k) as their preferred way to build up their nest eggs. As of 2014, an estimated 52 million Americans were participating in a 401(k)-type plan.

When used properly, a 401(k) can be a powerful tool to save for your retirement years, but there are a couple of crucial pitfalls that you have to watch out for. From high fees to limited investing choices, here is a list of potential downsides to 401(k) plans — and how to work around them.

1. Waiting to set up your 401(k)

Depending on the applicable rules from your employer-sponsored 401(k), you may be eligible to enroll in the plan within one to 12 months from your start date. If your eligibility kicks in around December, you may think that it’s fine to wait until the next year to set up your retirement account.

This is a big mistake for two main reasons.

First, contributing to your 401(k) with pretax dollars allows you to effectively reduce your taxable income for the current year. In 2017, you can contribute up to $18,000 ($24,000 if age 50 or over) to your 401(k), so you can considerably reduce your tax liability. For example, if you were to contribute $3,000 between your last two paychecks in December, you would reduce your taxable income by $3,000. Waiting until next year to start your 401(k) contribution would mean missing out on a lower taxable income!

Second, your employer can still contribute to your 401(k) next year and make that contribution count for the current year, as long as your plan was set up by December 31 of the current year. Your employer contributions have to be in before Tax Day or the date that you file your federal taxes, whichever is earlier.

How to work around it

If you meet the requirements to participate in your employer-sponsored 401(k) toward the end of the year, make sure to set up your account by December 31st. That way, you’ll be ready to reduce your taxable income for the current year through your own contributions and those from your employer before their applicable deadline (December 31 and Tax Day or date of tax filing (whichever is earlier), respectively).

2. Forgetting to update contributions

When you set up your 401(k), you have to choose a percentage that will be deducted from every paycheck and put into your plan. It’s not uncommon that plan holders set that contribution percentage and forget it. As your life situation changes, such as when you get a major salary boost, marry, or have your first child, you’ll find that your contributions may be too big or too small. (See also: 5 Times It’s Okay to Delay Retirement Savings)

How to work around it

To keep a contribution level that is appropriate to your unique financial situation, revisit your percentage contribution every year and whenever you have a major life change. Don’t forget to also check whether or not you elected an annual increase option — a percentage by which your contribution is increased automatically each year — and adjust it as necessary.

3. Missing out on maximum employer match

Talking about contributions, don’t forget that your employer may contribute to your plan as well. In a survey of 360 employers, 42 percent of respondents matched employee contributions dollar-for-dollar, and 56 percent of them only required employees to contribute at least 6 percent from paychecks…

Want Your Investments to Do Better? Stop Watching the News

If you pay close attention to investment news, it’ll either make you laugh or it’ll drive you bonkers. Within the same hour, and on the same market news website, you will often see completely contradictory articles. One says the market is headed higher; the next says the market is about to tank.

What’s a smart investor to do? Be very careful about your information diet.

More Information, Less Success

In the late 1980s, former Harvard psychologist Paul Andreassen conducted an experiment to see how the quantity of market information impacted investor behavior.

He divided a group of mock investors into two segments — investors in companies with stable stock prices, and investors in companies with volatile stock prices. Then he further divided those investors. Half of each group received constant news updates about the companies they invested in, and half received no news.

Those who received no news generated better portfolio returns than those who received frequent updates. The implication? The more closely you monitor news about your investments, the more likely you are to make changes to your portfolio — usually to your detriment.

In another study, renowned human behavior researchers Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, Richard Thaler, and Alan Schwartz compared the stock/bond allocations of investors who checked on their investments at least once a month against those who did so just once a year. Those who took in…

How “Carried Interest” May Affect Our Taxes

A lot has happened since now-president Donald Trump and candidate Hillary Clinton debated on October 9 at Washington University in St. Louis. If you’re like most taxpayers, you probably don’t remember the candidates bantering about something called “carried interest.”

During the debate, Trump was asked what steps he’d take to make sure that the wealthiest of U.S. taxpayers pay a fair share of taxes. Trump responded by saying that he’d eliminate carried interest. What Trump actually meant, though, was that he would change the way carried interest is taxed. Clinton, too, supported making this change. And so did former president Barack Obama.

You can be forgiven if you have no idea what carried interest is. That’s because it’s something that only benefits the general partners who manage private equity and hedge funds. And most of us can’t invest in these private funds because it is so expensive to do so. Investors must usually pony up at least $250,000 to make an investment in one of these funds.

Carried interest is one way that the managers of these expensive hedge funds and private equity funds make a profit. But just because carried interest only benefits a select few, doesn’t mean that it’s not important to the U.S. economy. According to the Tax Foundation, if Congress taxed carried interest as ordinary income, it could cost the country 2,200 jobs. On the positive side, the Tax Foundation said that changing how carried interest is taxed would also generate about $15 billion during the next 10 years in the form of more taxes…

7 Grown-Up Purchases That Are Worth the Money

The fastest way for a student or graduate to get off on the wrong financial foot is by dropping cash on the wrong kinds of big-ticket items. On the other hand, wise and targeted spending on the right things is an investment that will pay off in the long run. Take a quick look at seven items that are worth spending your hard-earned money on—along with a handful to steer clear of.

1. A GOOD MATTRESS

You might be able to cut corners on a lot of furnishings for a new or rented living space, but opting for an economical crash pad is going to haunt you every night. Good spring mattress and box spring sets can be had for as little as $500, with some online providers offering high-quality memory foam for roughly the same amount. Go cheaper and you risk sleepless nights—or worse, having to buy a replacement in just a few short years.

2. A 401(K)…

You don’t necessarily have to look at it as a purchase—though many do—but a 401(k), or retirement account, is some of the best money you’ll ever spend. Socking away even a small portion of your paycheck every month can pay literal dividends down the road.

3. … AND/OR A ROTH IRA.

The type of account you use to save for retirement is ultimately up to you—the point is to put as much money as you can away starting as early as you can. If your employer will match your 401(k) contributions up to a certain amount, max that out first (because why would you turn down free money?). However, if your employer doesn’t match funds, a Roth IRA (or other personal retirement account) might be your better bet. With a Roth IRA, it’s up to you to deposit a portion of your hard-earned paycheck. The benefit to that, though, is you’ll be able to withdraw money from the account during retirement tax-free.

4. QUALITY TOOLS

You may not believe you’re that handy, but the time will come when you’re in desperate need of fixing a faucet, hanging a picture, or assembling a new bookshelf. While it might be tempting to pick up the cheapest hammer at the hardware store, spending a little more is likely to get you a tool that will…

How Much Does Wall Street Give Back?

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A small fraction of Wall Street’s capital actually goes into business investment in the real economy

A growing number of voices forcefully argues that the relationship between “Wall Street” and the real economy is tilted in favor of the bankers. Big Think contributor Matt Taibbi sees parallels between the Russian Oligarchs and Wall Street today.

How Wall Street Is Like the Russian Oligarchy Matt Taibbi

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How Wall Street Is Like the Russian Oligarchy

Matt Taibbi

Journalist

01:28

So what economic rationale does Wall Street offer for such an extensive “financialization” of society?

They argue that the financial sector is the most efficient and unbiased allocator of resources to the broader economy. It supposedly does so by quickly and efficiently diverting money to worthy projects in the real world. These might include helping small, medium and large business start new ventures, raise money to invest, create well-paying jobs, and so forth.

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You Got a Raise! Now What?

So, you got a raise! Now, it’s time to start putting that money to work for you. While your first thought might be shopping spree, consider instead these other options that will build your wealth and secure your financial freedom.

Have Realistic Expectations

Your raise may sound like a lot, but once you receive your paycheck, you may be surprised to find how little your take-home pay actually changed. Don’t make plans based on a quick mental calculation. Get the actual amount from your paycheck to know how the raise will actually impact you.

Make a Plan

Of course it’s okay to reward yourself a bit for working hard and getting a raise. But don’t just pocket the extra money and add it to your fun budget. Check your savings, credit card debt, and investments to see which areas can use a boost, and put your raise there. You can decide to put three months’ worth to pay down your debt, and then take a one month break to splurge. Consider your financial goals and how every dollar makes a difference toward reaching them.

Increase Your Emergency Savings

In an ideal world, you should have a three to six month cushion in your emergency fund. If you already have a sizable emergency fund, then you don’t need to worry about saving more with your increased income. Otherwise, saving more now will mean less stress later when an…

The 3 Rules Every Mediocre Investor Must Know

Mediocre financial advice can earn you mediocre investment returns — and mediocre investment returns are all you need to save for a house, send your kids to college, and fund your (potentially early) retirement. Mediocre investment advice is pretty straightforward. In fact, the only thing that’s complicated about getting mediocre financial results is the stuff that comes before investing: Things like earning money, keeping your debt in check, finding a career, living frugally, and most crucially, building an adequate emergency fund.

Once you’ve got those things taken care of, you’re ready to start investing. If you’re at that point, here’s my mediocre investment advice: Create a diversified portfolio of low-cost investments and rebalance it annually.

Diversified Portfolio

It’s important to have diversity at several levels. Eventually you’ll want diversity in investment types — not just stocks, but also bonds, real estate, precious metals, foreign currency, cash, etc. More importantly, you want finer-grained diversity especially in the earlier stages of building your portfolio. Don’t let your portfolio get concentrated in just one or a few companies. (For what it’s worth, don’t let it get concentrated in the stock of your employer, either. That sets you up for a catastrophe, because if your employer runs into trouble, the value of your portfolio can crash at the same time your job is at risk.)

In the medium term — after you’ve got a well-diversified stock selection, but before it’s time to branch out into more exotic investments — you’ll want to expand the diversity of types of companies. Not just big companies, but also medium-sized and small companies. Not just U.S. companies, but also foreign companies. Not just tech companies, but also industrial companies and financial companies, and so on.

Diversity wins two ways. First, it’s safer: As long as all your money isn’t in just one thing, it doesn’t matter so much whether it’s a good year or a bad year for that thing. Second, it produces higher returns: No one can know which investment will be best, but a diversified portfolio probably has at least some money invested in some investments that will do especially well. (Of course retrospectively, there will have been one investment that does best, and risking having all your money in that would have produced the highest possible return — but that’s exactly what a mediocre investor knows better than to attempt.)

Of course, you don’t want a random selection of investments, even if such a thing might be quite diverse. You want a reasonably balanced portfolio — something I’ll talk about at the end of this post.

Low-Cost Investments

The less money you pay in fees and commissions, the more money you have invested in earning a return.

Getting this right is so much easier now than it was when I started investing! In those days, you could scarcely avoid losing several percent of your money right off the top to commissions, and then lose another percent or two annually to fees. Now it’s easy to make a stock trade for less than $10 in commissions, and it’s easy to find mutual funds and exchange-traded funds that charge fees of only a fraction of 1%.

Still, it’s easy to screw this up. Any investment that’s advertised is paying its…

Simple But Effective Hacks to Buy the Right Saddlebags

If you are investing a remarkable amount of money on a motorbike, it’s highly important to invest money on other accessories that you need for each trip. Be it your maintenance kit or a few other long-run accessories. For any sort of storage, motorcycle saddlebags are highly considered. There are multiple bag designs, but none can beat the use of saddlebags.

With the passage of time, motorcycle saddlebags have become a status trademark. But how will you start your search in finding the right saddlebags for your motorcycle? Before moving head, take a look at these solid reasons on why you should have saddlebags on your motorbike.

Safety

Ahead of any reason, safety will always be the uttermost priority. During a long tour, you need to keep a few necessary items to be safe—your documents, IDs and/or other sensitive items require a safe place. The saddlebag is always available with a safety lock that maintains your privacy and keeps the items safe.

Overall Looks

With the addition of hard or soft saddlebags,[1] your bike will have some unique and advanced features. Investing your money will become totally worth. Besides, it’s a great way to accessorize your bike.

Convenience

The presence of multiple accessories is always a hurdle for the bike rider. But embedding the saddlebag onto your bike will omit this trouble, as you just have one spot to put all of your items.

These three…

A Flying Car Company In Europe Receives $10 Million Investment

Flying cars have been zipping through our science fiction films and TV shows for decades, but in the real world they’ve yet to take off. It’s not that the technology isn’t there—flying cars that utilize vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) technology have been a possibility for years. But there are many roadblocks, like safety and cost, that have prevented them from becoming mainstream. Despite all the barriers, at least one group of venture capitalists still believes that flying cars are the future. As TechCrunch reports, the venture firm Atomico is investing €10 million (about $10.7 million) in a German vertical take-off and landing plane developer called Lilium Aviation.

Lilium cites several reasons why their concept will succeed…