Two Questions Investing Newbies Have Before Starting

Investing your money is a great idea!  However, when many people think about investing, the stock market and brokers, they can get overwhelmed fast.  Some people may think it isn’t worth the hassle to learn about investing.  If you are thinking about investing a little of your money, here are the answers to two commonly asked questions you may have before getting started.

Why?

Many people simply want to  know why they should even start investing.  Wouldn’t it just be safer to put the money away in a savings account so you know you won’t lose it?  Well, that could very likely be the case, but there are ways to make investing profitable and fun.  

Investing your money is a great way to build up wealth over time.  The stock market’s daily ups and downs may seem a little frightening to those who are risk-averse, but you have to look at the big picture.  With most stocks you will gain money over time.  Historically, on average there is a return of more than 9% yearly.*

Investing money can also help you reach your financial goals faster.  Many people use their stocks for retirement, college tuition or just to build up a nest egg for the future.  You can use them for whatever you want, but if you have a growing investment your goal will likely be met sooner than with a plain savings account.

How Much?

Another common question people ask before getting started on their investment journey is, “How much should I invest?”  Well, that is totally up to you.  You can invest as much or as little as you feel is needed, however experts recommend that you invest at least 10% of your income.  This includes any money that is taken out if you have a 401K with your job.

You may be thinking that you don’t have 10% of your income to spare.  If that’s the case, then start with what you can spare.  Make putting money towards your investments a habit.  You can even automate your payments to your funds with each paycheck if you want.  That way, you never even see the money–it just goes straight into your investment.  If you regularly make it a habit to invest, you will always be making your future a priority.  Small consistent contributions over time can turn into large investment amounts.  You don’t have to do it all at once.  

The whole investing game involves a learning curve, so it is important to take the time to research everything before you just dive on in.  However, when you learn the basics you will be amazed at how you can put your money to work for you through investing.

*Statistics and info from www.fool.com.

Budgeting & Financial Goals

Do you have goals in life that you want to achieve?  Of course you do!  Setting goals is an important part of keeping your life organized, and it gives you something to look forward to.  Setting financial goals is just as important as personal goals and will provide a “framework” for any future money decisions.  Here are some tips to help with setting goals while budgeting.

Call A Meeting

Every single year sit down and have a financial goals meeting with yourself if you are single, or with your spouse if you are married.  The purpose of this meeting is to set and evaluate your financial goals.  Look at the previous goals you set and see where you are at on the scale of completion.  Did you reach your goal over the past year?  Great!  It’s time to set new ones.  Setting new goals will make sure that you won’t get lax with your budgeting.  Oftentimes, when people reach one of their goals, their budget goes out the window.  That’s why new goals are so important.

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

Make sure each of your new goals are attainable.  Don’t make your goal so incredibly large that it will take 30 years to achieve.  If you do this, you will get discouraged and quit everything.  Set goals that you know you can achieve if you work hard.  Don’t base your goals off something that only has a chance of happening.  Set a solid plan in place that, if you follow it all the way, will lead to a known success.

Line ‘Em Up

When budgeting, it’s important to make sure that your financial priorities line up with your priorities in life.  If you set a goal of buying a house in the next five years, make sure your budget reflects that.  Don’t take lavish vacations all over the world multiple times a year if your true goal is to save for a house.  Now, if your goal is to be able to travel lavishly every year, then your vacation fund section of your budget should reflect that.  The point is, if you have a financial goal, make sure you aren’t wasting a lot of money in other areas if they aren’t priorities.

Think Both Ways

When goal setting in any area of your life, it’s always good to make short-term and long-term goals.  In finances, it is especially important.  Having long-term goals that you are working toward–such as retirement or emergency funds–can provide you with a peace of mind that you are on the right track.  If something happens, you have those goals you are working toward to back you up.  However, once you have those goals in place, setting short-term goals is what makes life a little more fun.  Setting budget categories for vacations, homes, home remodeling, cars, events, etc., will help you see that you can be responsible with money and still achieve all the things you want in life.  It just takes a bit more patience.  However, always make sure you are contributing to your long-term goals before you put money towards the fun categories.  

A good life is all about balance.  When you set financial goals, you are showing yourself that you can plan for the things you want and need in life, and you are in control of where you money goes.  Going through life without a plan, budget, or goals is sure to set you up for chaos.  Be smart–set goals you can achieve, and your life will be what you make it.

What Budgets Can Do For You

Making a budget and sticking to it may seem like a tedious task that only restricts you from doing the things you want, but in actuality it is the opposite.  Having a budget can set you up to win financially in the future.  It is only restrictive if you make it restrictive.  Here are a few good things that budgets can do for you and your life.

Reach Your Goals

Having a solid budget can not only organize your life, but it can help you reach all of your financial goals over time.  Setting financial goals can help you get to where you want to be in the future.  Making categories in your budget for each of your goals, and then regularly putting money in the categories will put you on the right track to reaching every single goal you set–as long as you stick your budget.  When you break your goals up into categories, it makes them seem more attainable.  When you feel your goals are attainable, you will be more likely to reach them.

Reduce Stress

While some people may believe that having to stick to a budget will cause stress, it’s actually the other way around.  Having a budget reduces stress because you know exactly where your money is going.  When you have a plan for your money, you don’t have to worry about there not being enough money left at the end of the month.  Budgeting lets you see where every dollar is being spent, and all you have to do is simply follow the plan.  Stress over finances significantly lessens when a proper budget is in place.

Shows Waste

Budgeting can show you many things about your life, but one of the main areas that gets brought to light is how much money you waste.  Do you feel like you never have enough money to put in savings?  If you look at your spending habits, you will probably find that there is money available to save, you’ve just been spending it on things like coffee shop coffee every morning, trips to the convenience store for snacks, eating out, etc.  Once you set a budget, you no longer waste that money because you have a certain amount to spend in those categories.  Once you’ve spent it, you’re done.  This leaves more money available to put in savings.

Builds Good Spending Habits

Along the same lines as eliminating wasteful spending, budgeting can help you build good spending habits.  When you have your financial life down on paper, it makes you realize that you don’t want to be wasteful with your money.  It helps you look at your goals and evaluate every purchase you make.  After several months or years of being conscious of your spending, this way of life will become second nature to you.  You won’t want to go back to the old way of spending because your budget has set you up for success.

Ways to Save Money While Doing Your Taxes

Doing your taxes is not exactly the most exciting task in the world.  Oftentimes we dread it or even put it off as long as possible because we don’t want to have to pay any money–whether it be paying the IRS what you owe or paying someone to do your taxes.  If it’s the latter you are worried about, we might can help!  Here are few different ways you can save money on tax preparations.

DIY

Many people prefer to go to an accountant to get their taxes done.  This is simply because they are experienced in the field and know what they are doing more so than the average person.  However, it is easy to do your taxes yourself thanks to increasingly intuitive tax software such as TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxAct, and more. These software programs prompt you through every single part of doing your taxes, making it super easy and efficient.  You really don’t have to do anything except have all of your information together.  Doing your taxes yourself can save you hundreds of dollars in fees from accountants.  Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable with the software, or you have a complicated situation, a professional might be a better option for you.

Organization is Key

If you want to have your taxes done by a professional, make sure you have all of your paperwork organized and turn it in early.  Tax professionals often charge extra if you are disorganized or if you need their services expedited.  Save a few bucks by having your papers together in a timely manner.

Compare Prices

Just as if you were purchasing something for your home, shop around and compare prices on tax software.  Prices will vary between products, and you want to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck.  Look for the difference in features, ease of use, and price point.  It also doesn’t hurt to get the price of a few professionals in your area and compare the software prices to their prices.  Doing your research always comes in handy when you are trying to save a few dollars.

Skipping Features

If you decide to go ahead and do your taxes yourself with software, check the different packages they offer before buying.  Some offer extra features like tools for tracking your charitable contributions or checklists for your paperwork that you don’t need.  Skip all the extra features and just get the bare minimum package that you need to get your taxes accomplished correctly, and your wallet will thank you.

There are many ways to save a few bucks on tax preparations, but it does require a bit of research.  Take your time, get your papers organized, and look around for the best deal, and you will have it done and your refund on the way in no time.