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Financially Fearless America


The 50/20/30 Book Tour
Financial planning doesn’t have to be scary, stressful, or complicated. That’s why Alexa von Tobel, founder and CEO of LearnVest, is kicking off the new year by touring the country and spreading the word about how all of us can take control of our money.
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Get a little smarter with the latest personal finance news and articles


Your Ultimate Budget Guideline: The 50/20/30 Rule

When it comes to our money, there is no shortage of ways we could spend it: food, rent, gifts, medicine, clothing, education, technology, gym membership, gas … you get the picture. We’re often asked, “How to budget my money?” so we came up with the ultimate guideline for when you set up a budget: the 50/20/30 Rule.

When creating a budget, which you can do for free in the Money Center, it’s tempting to throw up your hands, say, “Forget it,” and hope for the best.

The 50/20/30 Rule changes that.

No matter whether you’re a mom with two kids or a recent college grad working your first job, this rule will help you not only figure out how much you should be spending in each area every month; it will also tell you in what order you should be spending your money. Read More

40 Financial Things You Should Know By 40

Many by-40 milestones have become debatable: Get married? Only if you really want to. Own a home? If it’s financially feasible. Know what you want to be when you grow up? Well, if 40 is the new 30, you’re certainly entitled to change your mind.

But there’s one thing that’s nonnegotiable: By age 40, you can’t get away with being financially clueless anymore. Especially since retirement might be a lot closer than you think! We’ve put together 40 money things, big and small, you should know before you turn the big 4-0. Why? So you can help achieve your financial goals with plenty of time left over to enjoy them! Read More

How We Spend and Save: 4 Dual-Income Families’ Budgets

Between 1996 and 2006, the number of dual-income families in America increased 31%, according to the Department of Labor. In fact, among families with children, 59% have two working parents, 2012 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows. In other words, two adults bringing home the bacon is the new norm.

What's more, in a 2013 survey conducted by LearnVest and Chase Blueprint®, six in ten Americans told us they believe you need dual incomes these days to afford your dreams.

But with college costs rising and employers slower to give raises due to the recession, not even pulling in two paychecks may offer a magic bullet when it comes to making ends meet. Read More

You’ll Never Believe How Much I Saved ... and How

A penny saved may be a penny earned, but the truth is that most people don’t have all that many pennies stashed away.

According to a recent study conducted by CreditDonkey, 41% of Americans have less than $500 in savings. And if you’re among the 76% in this country who are living paycheck to paycheck, you may wonder how people have even that much saved up.

And that’s precisely why we found six regular folks (read: not millionaires, although one of them is well on his way) to let us in on their saving secrets—including not just how much they squirreled away, but how exactly they pulled off the financial feat. Read More

Confessions of an Over-Saver: Why I Hate Spending Money

Everyone is talking about the crisis among twentysomethings. We don’t save enough. We’re behind on retirement. Our loans are untenable. We have high credit card debt.

Not me.

I’m a 27-year-old legal consultant in New York City. I don’t make six figures, but I make a comfortable income. And I like saving. A lot. Maybe a little too much. I max out my 401(k), have a robust savings account and no credit card debt, and I paid off $34,000 in student loans in less than a year. Even my parents think I’m an over-saver, and they save a lot. Read More

The 7 Biggest Retirement Mistakes Financial Planners See

With all the planning we need to do for retirement, wouldn’t it be great if we could call up a retirement planner?

Unfortunately, “retirement planners” don’t exist. What do exist, however, are certified financial planners™, who can help you with your retirement planning.

And they’re happy to share their wisdom. In fact, we picked the brains of two experienced CFPs® to find out some of the most common mistakes their clients make—so you don’t have to.

Read this and you can check off “Get retirement right!” from your to-do list. Read More

5 Red Flags When Choosing a Financial Planner

You know what they say: You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your financial planner.

Or something like that.

One of the great things of being in charge of your money is choosing who (if anyone) will help you manage it.

The choice isn’t always an easy one. How will you know that your planner is reputable and trustworthy? Perhaps more importantly … how will you know when she isn’t? Read More

9 Types of Financial Advisers: Which One Is Right for You?

We know you care about your financial future, from the simple fact that you’re reading this article. We also know that it can be difficult to get good financial advice.

The internet has only expanded the glut of information, and it’s not always clear which sources are the most reputable. Making matters even more confusing, there’s a slew of certifications for financial advisers. Maybe you only wanted to ask a few questions of a financial expert, but now you’ve got to wade through an alphabet soup just to figure out whom to ask.

Regardless of the credential, it’s important to know two things about your adviser. How do they get paid? Many advisers collect commissions for selling you certain kinds of products. Read More

Are You Financially Ready to Live to 100?

Three of my great-grandmothers lived into their late nineties. And my two grandmothers are both 86—and in great health. So barring a tragic accident, my gene pool suggests that I have a good shot at a long life.

And it turns out that I’m not the only one.

According to the Social Security Administration, one in four 65-year-olds will live past 90—and one in 10 will make it past 95! And with scientists continuously uncovering more and more secrets behind longevity, it’s possible that today’s 20-year-olds will live even longer.

It’s great news for people who, you know, like living. But it’s also a frightening prospect to contemplate that the money you retire with at 65 might need to last you for 35-plus years. That’s why we spoke with financial experts to get the lowdown—decade by decade—on how to properly plan for a lengthy life, so you can celebrate your 100th birthday in style and financially worry-free. Read More

Do You Need a Retirement Planner? 5 Times You Might

If you think saving for retirement is hard, just wait until you get ready to retire.

While it sounds like spending the money you’ve saved might be the easy part, it’s far from it. The confounding factor of not knowing how long you’ll live forces many retirees to walk the tricky line of spending frugally enough to last their lifetime, while not being so overly penny-pinching that they don’t enjoy their retirement.

What makes matters more challenging are the decreasing popularity of pensions, which give pension holders a predictable amount of retirement income, and the rise of retirement plans like 401(k)s, which don’t, and instead may overwhelm retirees with questions like, “What do you want to do with this $500,000 you’ve saved?” or “Which retirement accounts do I draw from and which investments do I sell in order to pay the least in taxes?” Read More

I Paid Off $90,000 of Debt in Just 3 Years

If you think saving for retirement is hard, just wait until you get ready to retire.

While it sounds like spending the money you’ve saved might be the easy part, it’s far from it. The confounding factor of not knowing how long you’ll live forces many retirees to walk the tricky line of spending frugally enough to last their lifetime, while not being so overly penny-pinching that they don’t enjoy their retirement.

What makes matters more challenging are the decreasing popularity of pensions, which give pension holders a predictable amount of retirement income, and the rise of retirement plans like 401(k)s, which don’t, and instead may overwhelm retirees with questions like, “What do you want to do with this $500,000 you’ve saved?” or “Which retirement accounts do I draw from and which investments do I sell in order to pay the least in taxes?” Read More

3 People, 1 Big Student Loan Debt: My Make-Ends-Meet Plan

If you think saving for retirement is hard, just wait until you get ready to retire.

While it sounds like spending the money you’ve saved might be the easy part, it’s far from it. The confounding factor of not knowing how long you’ll live forces many retirees to walk the tricky line of spending frugally enough to last their lifetime, while not being so overly penny-pinching that they don’t enjoy their retirement.

What makes matters more challenging are the decreasing popularity of pensions, which give pension holders a predictable amount of retirement income, and the rise of retirement plans like 401(k)s, which don’t, and instead may overwhelm retirees with questions like, “What do you want to do with this $500,000 you’ve saved?” or “Which retirement accounts do I draw from and which investments do I sell in order to pay the least in taxes?” Read More

The Top Debt Mistakes to Avoid

Getting out of debt can seem intimidating, but avoiding these common debt mistakes will help you do so as quickly and smoothly as possible.

1. Falling Into Credit Card Debt
What we mean: Don’t spend beyond your means every month and depend on your credit card to make up the difference.

Why: Using credit cards for everyday stuff like groceries and gas can land you reward points and even cash back. And cards are essential for things like booking a flight. But lingering credit card debt is especially nasty, because the interest, which is generally high, is added to your existing balance every day.

How to avoid it: Only pull out the plastic if you’re positive you can and will pay off the balance at the end of the month. Read More

How I Paid Off $100,000 of Credit Card Debt

I’ve been a debtor all my life.

My parents first met at a financial loan office—my dad issued loans, my mom worked in the office. They divorced when I was 10 and my mother was left to raise two daughters in Cincinnati, Ohio on a $20,000 a year salary. Money—or the fact that we didn’t have any—was a constant topic of conversation. My mother turned to credit cards to feed, clothe and house her daughters.

So when I was a 19-year-old freshman at Ohio University, I didn’t see the danger of debt. When a credit card company arrived on campus to sign students up for cards, I grabbed a clipboard, filled out the paperwork and got my first card on the spot. My only income was a campus job that paid minimum wage—$3.85 an hour in 1992. I also had student loans since I was paying my way through college. But I didn’t see the potential trouble of having a credit card of my own. To me, credit meant power. Read More

10 Questions for ... a Debt Counselor

There’s a reason why it’s called “drowning in debt.”

When you feel as if you’ll never pay off your mountain of loans or credit card bills, it can be hard to see a way out.

Americans have been consistently trimming their debt since the 2008 financial crisis, but those balances have been edging up again in recent months.

According to the latest data from the Federal Reserve, consumer credit broke a record $3 trillion in the second quarter of this year, driven largely by increases in borrowing for student and car loans. Americans also remain saddled with high levels of credit card debt—to the tune of more than $15,000, on average, among indebted households. Read More

How I Saved $60,000 for Retirement... on a $40,000 Salary

Want to know my money secret? It’s simple: Trick yourself. Put money aside by pretending that you don’t have it in the first place.

That’s what my wife, Tracy, and I do while raising our daughters Ava, 9, and Ella, 6. And even though we live on my moderate teacher’s salary of $41,000, we’ve managed to save $250 per month since 2002, allowing us to amass about $60,000 for retirement. We’re well on our way to cashing out as millionaires by 65.

We’re not like those couples for whom money remains a taboo topic. We’re very open and honest about our finances. We discuss our hopes and our dreams—and then go for it. Read More

How to Save for Retirement ... When You Have Student Loans

If you have student loans, you already know they can be overwhelming. But as any responsible spender knows, they aren’t the only demand on your budget.

Along with rent or a mortgage, the day-to-day business of living and any credit card debt you have, there’s also saving for retirement, that period of 20 years—or far longer—during which you may need to live almost completely off the money you’ve saved. The thing about retirement savings is that there’s no substitute for starting early—and it can be incredibly difficult to make up for lost time.

If you’re wondering how on earth you’re supposed to put money in your IRA or 401(k) when your student loans have already laid claim to your budget, you’re not alone. Read More

How I Rebooted My Retirement Savings After 40

With age comes wisdom about a host of things, including, hopefully, money.

In my twenties I was more focused on winning advertising awards than achieving financial stability. My life in New York City, a month-to-month rented affair, created a short-term focus. Therefore I contributed huge amounts of money to paying my rent, but modest amounts to my retirement account.

When I started work, fresh out of art school, like most recent grads I was trying to get into the working game, not sock money away for my future old self. Making my way in pricey New York City, my income fueled practical needs. I acquired a taste for vodka martinis simply because they mandated I sip and savor, stretching my entertainment budget further. Read More

9 Things People Don't Do With Their Retirement Accounts--But Should

Time flies, doesn't it? Before you know it, it will be time to retire. And that's something that sneaks up on all of us.

It also means something different to each of us: Maybe you intend to spend your retirement volunteering at the local library, setting sail to Bora Bora or writing a memoir.

Whatever your dream is, our experiences will share a common characteristic: They'll require money.

And to fund your dream, you need to start saving now: According to the 2010 Retirement Confidence Survey, only 16% of workers feel very confident they'll be financially secure in retirement. By age 67, Social Security's full retirement age, only 55% of households say they're financially prepared for it. Read More

The 60/80/90 Question: Do You Need to Recalculate Your Retirement Number?

Whether it’s a ballpark figure (“$1 million should cover me, right?”) or a carefully considered sum, figuring out the retirement number that will fit your needs requires first calculating your replacement ratio—the portion of your current income that you’ll need to “replace” each year once you’re retired.

LearnVest certified financial planner™ David Blaylock explains how a replacement ratio works, how to determine the kind of income that you’ll need to maintain your lifestyle in retirement—and why the 50/20/30 rule should be an important part of your retirement plan. Read More

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