It’s All About Balance

Many of us have struggled to juggle our financial commitments and goals at some point. It’s all about how you adapt and balance it all. Balance is so important within your finances. You have to have a happy medium between spending and saving you money.

Goal Setting

Goal setting is one of my favorite things to do because I am a very goal driven person. Setting goals means discipline. You have to stick with your budget in order to meet your goals on time. Saving money tends to be easier when you have a certain purpose in mind. To develop a clear plan, these goals must have both a time frame and a dollar amount. Once you have listed and quantified your goals, you need to prioritize them. You may find, for example, that saving for a new home is more important than buying a new car. Be specific with your goals.

Pay Yourself

Save and invest 5-10% of your gross annual income. Of course, this can be much harder than it sounds. If you’re currently living from paycheck to paycheck, begin by creating a solid budget after tracking all monthly expenses. Once you figure out how you can control your discretionary spending, you can then redirect the money into a savings account. For many people, a good way to start saving regularly is to have a small amount transferred automatically from their paycheck to a savings account or mutual fund. The idea: If you don’t see it, you don’t miss it.

Have An Emergency Fund

Before you commit your savings to investments, make sure you have at least three to six months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund to see yourself through difficult times. Keeping it liquid will ensure that you don’t have to sell investments when their prices are down, and guarantee that you can always get to your money quickly. If you have trouble deciding how much you need to keep on hand, begin by considering the standard expenses you have in a month, and then estimate all the expenses you might have in the future (possible insurance deductibles and other emergencies).

Generally, if you spend a larger portion of your income on irregular expenses that you could cut easily in a financial crisis, the less money you need to keep on hand in your emergency account. If you have dependents, you’d want to keep more money in your emergency fund to offset the greater risk.

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Have a Debt Repayment Plan

If you’re trying to save while carrying a large credit card balance at, say, 19.8%, realize that paying off the debt is a guaranteed return of nearly 20%. Once you pay off your credit cards, use them only for convenience, and pay off the balance each month. If you tend to run up credit card charges, get rid of the plastic and go back to using cash. Don’t buy it unless you can pay with cash. You never want to increase your bad debt unless absolutely necessary. It’s easiest to create this plan after you have figured out your monthly expenses and how much you can potentially put towards your debt each month.

Utilize Tax-Deferred Investments

If your employer has a tax-deferred investment plan like a 401(k) or 403(b), use it. Often, employers will match your investment. Even if they don’t, no taxes are due on your contributions or earnings until you retire and begin withdrawing the funds. Tax-deferred savings means that your investments can grow much faster than they would otherwise.

The same is true of IRAs, although the maximum amount you can invest annually in an IRA is substantially less than what you can put in a 401(k) or 403(b). You should also consider diversifying your investments. All investments involve some trade-off between risk and return. Diversification reduces unnecessary risk by spreading your money among a variety of investments. Aside from diversification, the single most effective strategy is to invest continuously over time, with a long-term perspective.

Create a Will

The simplest way to ensure that your funds, property and personal effects will be distributed according to your wishes is to prepare a will. A will is a legal document that ensures that your assets will be given to family members or other beneficiaries you designate. Having a will is especially important if you have young children because it gives you the opportunity to designate a guardian for them in the event of your death. Although wills are simple to create, about half of all Americans die without a will. With no will to indicate your wishes, the court steps in and distributes your property according to the laws of your state. If you have no children and die without a will, it’s even possible that the state may claim your estate.

To begin, take an inventory of your assets, outline your objectives and determine to which friends and family you wish to distribute your belongings. Then, when drafting a will, be sure to include the following: name a guardian for your children, name an executor, specify an alternate beneficiary and use a residuary clause which typically reads “I give the remainder of my estate to …” Once your will is drafted, you won’t have to think about it again unless your wishes or your financial situation change substantially. I intend on re-evaluating my will every ten years.

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Finances: Where to Start

Not knowing where to start is OKAY. Trust me, you are not alone. So many people struggle with those scary wandering around in the dark feelings when it comes to their money.

I grew up around the financial world. Budgeting and saving is like second nature to me. I have done my budget since I was 18 years old. Once I got my first real job outside of my family’s business and I LOVED shopping at Target. I had to figure out a way I could save money but also have fun and buy myself something I wanted.

Start With Your Budget

Start with your budget. Your budget is the road map or blueprint to guide you where ever you want to go. Budgets are LIFE. Every month I customize my own budget along with my monthly clients so we can see our areas of OPPORTUNITY. These are the categories you overspend in. Monthly adjustments are something that keep you in check with your goals whether short term or long term. It’s all about Balance, Consistency, and Discipline.

Setting a Realistic Budget

Setting a realistic budget means diving into those sticky areas of your life and seeing what type of spending you have been doing. What type of categories do you have within your budget? Do you have long term goals? Do you have debt? By answering these questions you can track these and make sure every dollar has a purpose. I have a great blog post about the foundation of a budget that you should check out called Budgets: Foundation for a Solid Budget.

Balance

Balance is key in life in general but especially within your finances. You need a balance between spending money and saving it. You should be spending money on bills plus any irregular expenses that pop up throughout the month, but you should also have a “Savings” & a “Retirement” category to toss money in each month as well. These categories being in your budget will ensure you add money to it if you are also consistent and disciplined.

Here are some ways to bring balance to your financial life:

  • Set some goals
  • If you are a small business owner, pay yourself on a schedule
  • Have an emergency fund
  • Create a debt payoff plan
  • Utilize tax-deferred investment plans
  • Create a Will

Consistency

Consistency is so important when it comes to your budget. You have to keep up with your budget to see results. REMEMBER, it is just a blueprint for you to follow. It should not feel like a restriction, but more like a structured guideline that helps you figure out what your areas of OPPORTUNITY are. Consistently checking in with your spending is like going to the doctor for a check up. It keeps you healthy and aware.

Here are some ways to stay consistent with your finances:

  • Increase your knowledge
  • Increase your income
  • Change your money habits
  • Be rich, don’t look rich

Discipline

Discipline is hard. I feel you. We all have trouble telling ourselves no. I love buying gifts for my family and friends. Something I have to constantly check in with is WHY I want to spend money. I used to shop A LOT and I racked up a huge credit card bill which took me about a year to pay off. I use that as an example when talking to myself about why it’s probably not a good idea to buy that $400 purse.

Since having kids though, I have transitioned my way of thinking. I now appreciate experiences more than “things” or “stuff.” I want to provide my children with life experiences and teach them to be kind humans rather than purchasing things trying to look “cool.” It is definitely a priorities game. Whatever is a priority to you will end up on your budget. It’s all about Balance, Consistency & Discipline.

Here are a few ways to stay disciplined in the new year:

  • Set some financial goals
  • Use automation for your bills
  • Give yourself a challenge
  • Change your money habits
  • Get an accountability partner or financial coach

Free Gift

Check out the FREE video series on my 3 Keys to Unlocking Your Financial Freedom! This video series touches on Budgets, Tackling Debt, and Ways to Increase Income TODAY! I created this series for those of you who have been hit hard by COVID-19. I want you to know there is nothing you can’t accomplish and creating a plan of action is always a great starting point.

Debt Payoff Methods: 4 Strategies to Tackle Your Debt

Debt is a tricky thing and no one wants it but everyone has it because thats just what you have to do in order to have nice things. WRONG! First of all, we want to BE rich not LOOK rich so that mentality needs to check itself at the door. I’m a firm believer in saving for goals and paying in full. You need to have discipline in order to thrive. Saving is one way to reach for a goal and not acquire debt. Yes, saving may take a while to reach a major goal but in the end its worth it if you have zero debt. Your credit will be better and once you achieve that goal it will be so sweet. These two methods are just a couple examples of ways to tackle debt.

Snowball Method:

The snowball method is one way to pay off debt. You basically choose the loan or card with the smallest amount in debt and make the maximum payments you can. You will pay more in interest in the long run but if you thrive on accomplishing small goals then this is the method for you. This is my personal option because I am one of those people who really like crossing things off my list and when I can get the small debts out of the way first it makes me so excited. Financial stuff doesn’t have to be scary you just have to look for the positives in everything you do including your finances.

Avalanche Method:

The avalanche method is the second way to tackle debt. This is where you choose the loan or card with the highest interest rate and take that one down first. You will pay less in interest over time and its best for people who thrive on numbers over emotions. I see the benefits in using this method but like I said before, I enjoy small wins. This one definitely will make sense to a lot of people and its probably the smarter way to go if you want to pay less in the end.

Here are my 4 strategies to help you tackling debt:

  1. Make a budget and stick to it.

Creating a budget will change the game in regards to your financial wellness. A budget is an estimate of income and expenses for a set period of time. A budget allows you to gain feedback on areas of opportunity. It helps you check yourself and set up goals for short and long term. This is something that must be a priority. A budget is basically your financial plan for a defined period, often a month or one year. It may also include planned trips, major purchases, sales volumes and revenues, costs and expenses, assets, liabilities, and cash flows. This is a vital tool for any person who owns a small business.

2. Set realistic financial goals. If you can’t pay cash for it then don’t buy it.

Goals are everything. When dealing with money it’s smart to set short term and long term goals. Something to work towards is always a great motivator. When setting goals it’s a crucial thing to save money. Meaning, if you don’t have the money don’t spend the money. You’ll never reach your goals if you spend all the money you bring in each month. Budgets and financial goals go hand in hand. It lays the foundation to set you up for success. You will be able to crush your financial goals with a budget.

3. If you use a credit card, pay on time and more than the minimum payment.

Global credit card debt continues to rise. Make the minimum payment on every card, every month, but throw whatever extra money you have at the one with the lowest balance. When that one is paid off, take the money you were applying to it, add it to the minimum you were paying on the second card and pay it off. Keep going until all cards are paid. According to incharge.org, the average adult who doesn’t pay off the balance on credit cards each month, owes $7,527 on their credit cards. If there are two adults at home, that’s a little more than $15,000. If there are children in that house, there is usually an urgency to do something about it.

4. Always monitor your debt

Watch for a change in rates and fees and if possible contact the lender and see if you can lower your interest rates or if they would be willing to work with you. It never hurts to ask. The worst thing is they could say no. Checking in on your financial well-being should be a priority. Finances are very uncomfortable and a lot of people don’t like looking at that student loan payment or that debt that’s in collections. For me, its the dentist. I get that sick to my stomach feeling then I start shaking because I always think the worst is going to happen. When there is something that needs to get fixed I just don’t want to talk about it or know about it. Once I fix the issue though, I always feel better.

Free Gift

Check out the FREE video series on my 3 Keys to Unlocking Your Financial Freedom! This video series touches on Budgets, Tackling Debt, and Ways to Increase Income TODAY! I created this series for those of you who have been hit hard by COVID-19. I want you to know there is nothing you can’t accomplish and creating a plan of action is always a great starting point.

7 Principles for Financial Wellness

Strive to Thrive

These are my 7 principles to live by in order to make your finances work for you. I follow these on a daily basis and it has brought so much awareness to my finances. I talk about these principles in all of my programs and educate my clients on how to implement these steps into their lives. The results of utilizing these principles is like nothing else and if you put your finances as a priority and manage your monthly system its guaranteed to work for you. This is about discipline and creating a positive money mindset to achieve your ideal lifestyle.

Make a plan, create a budget

This is all about how to make S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific. Measurable. Assignable. Relevant. Time-based. Create a list of your income so you can see what your actual income is per month on average. Create a list of expenses and put them into categories so you can get an idea of where your money is going. Create a realistic budget based on 3 months worth of your bank statements. You will be able to see your areas of opportunity within your budget and how to refine your needs to meet your projected budget. Every household or individual budget will be unique.

Tackle Debt

Get into a solid money mindset so you can acknowledge what you owe and get it organized so you can start tackling your debt. Examine your bills and see what we can get rid of. Explore all of your options in regards to decreasing your interest rates on debt that you may have. Create a clear plan to eliminate your debt and set a time-based goal to do so. This is where discipline comes in. You have to be strategic with your spending and saving when it comes to paying off debt. Open another savings account to put money to pay off debt specifically so it is out of sight out of mind. Debt is scary and no one wants it but some things are out of your control. If you want to take control back follow these principles.

Increase Income

Increasing income is easy. Your basic hobby can be turned into a thriving business nowadays. It just depends on how much time you have to put into it and how much passion and drive you have to do so. I have many universal strategies to generate more income and I can customize those strategies based on your unique lifestyle. This is an opportunity for you to get creative and come up with different ways to increase your income. You know you and you know what you are capable of. Reach for something out of your comfort zone and don’t take “no” for an answer. Everything is negotiable, even your current salary.

Live Below Your Means

Living below your means doesn’t sound very sexy, I know. Being resourceful is a talent that you should acquire. It will benefit you to try and cut back on certain luxuries if you are in a tight spot money wise. For example, stretching your grocery/eating out budget so that you account for every penny. Cooking at home is definitely cheaper than eating out. I know this because I was eating out close to 5 days a week about a year ago. I didn’t have the energy or want to cook at home. I was LAZY. By the end of the day I was not trying to cook dinner AND clean up the mess so Doordash sounded great every night. Until my money was dwindling and my belly was inflating. Frugal living isn’t about being stingy; it’s about being resourceful.

Question Whether You Need It Or Just Want It

I always say, question whether you need it or just want it. This is huge. This is something I have burned into my brain so that whenever I go to purchase something I check in with myself to make sure I am making a good money decision. Print out a bank statement, highlight every expense that was a “want” and calculate the total so you can then set a goal to put that exact amount into your savings accounts the following month. This will show you exactly how much you spend on things you don’t really need so you can then check in with your budget and make adjustments. You are the CEO of your finances and YOU need to make this a priority.

Invest & Save For Retirement

Investing and saving for your future is so important. THIS is something your future self will love you for. You should at least try and save for that future relaxing time. It pains me that society has burned it into our brains that a typical 9-5 job is how life is SUPPOSED to be when you are in charge of your life. If you don’t have the skills to do a job with flexible hours or be self employed, educate yourself. It’s never too late to learn. I personally try and read AT LEAST one book per month just to continue my education. Considering American schools, we didn’t learn too much about personal finance so I am constantly trying to grow my knowledge so I can be the best at what I do and serve with excellence. Look into stocks, craft a solid plan to start saving towards an emergency fund, and think about 401(k) options and retirement plans. If you need more guidance on this topic reach out.

Journal About Your Spending

This topic is one of my favorites for sure for the simple fact that it gets people out of their comfort zone. Journaling about your spending and how it makes you feel will open your eyes to emotions you never knew you had. This will help you check in with your spending habits and see what your spending triggers are. Some people can’t control their spending because it makes them feel better to do an impulse buy so they can suppress their feelings in another area of their life. This is where I want you to put everything out on the table and get down and dirty with your inner self. I want you to open up about anything and everything you have been avoiding in regards to your finances. Look into how overspending affects mental & physical health, learn how overspending impacts your relationships, find out how journaling alleviates stress & boosts mood, and strategize on priority financial problems. This week provides an opportunity for positive self-talk.

Free Gift

Check out the FREE video series on my 3 Keys to Unlocking Your Financial Freedom! This video series touches on Budgets, Tackling Debt, and Ways to Increase Income TODAY! I created this series for those of you who have been hit hard by COVID-19. I want you to know there is nothing you can’t accomplish and creating a plan of action is always a great starting point.

Budgets: Foundation for a Solid Budget

Accurate Spending Categories

You need to have accurate spending categories to see where your money is going each month and where your areas of opportunity are. Some people over spend in their grocery category or their misc purchase category. These categories will be very unique to you and what your life entails. My categories range from pet medications to my daughters school fees to utilities for my home. It just depends on what you have going on.

Accurate Income Projections

This requires you to print out bank statements from at least 3 months and go through your income to get an average income to put on your budget. Some months may vary with different circumstances. If you are doing a new budget system currently but you have been laid off due to COVID-19 that would be a circumstance where you have zero control. You do however have the opportunity to pick yourself up and generate income by any means necessary.

Categories for Irregular Spending

This means a category for random things that come up each month or new subscriptions you’re paying for. Typically your budget will come in close to what you project but there will be times where you overspend at Target on clothes when your budget only called for groceries. This means you have budgeted for these things in that irregular spending category to cover times like this where you purchase many different types of things with one type of budget. Like going to Target for groceries and buying clothing at the same time.

Tracking Cash Purchases

Tracking cash purchases might not seem like a big deal but it is crucial to keeping tabs on all your purchases. If you are really trying to keep a close eye on your transactions then I would recommend getting the Microsoft Office Lens app for your phone and taking a picture of all cash receipts and then putting them in a folder on your phone or the Google Drive for safe keeping. This is great especially for self employed individuals to keep track of cash purchases and business expenses for tax purposes.

Plan for Major Purchases

You must always keep a list of ongoing goals whether they are short term or long term so you can incorporate them into your budget each month. You should have accounts called “sinking funds” for these goals.

7 Sinking Funds to Include in Your Budget:

  1. Christmas
  2. Important Birthdays/Events
  3. Car Maintenance
  4. Home Repairs
  5. Pet Expenses
  6. Travel
  7. Medical Costs

4 Rules For a Successful Budget:

  1. Give every dollar a job
    • You’re the boss. When you earn money, you prioritize how you’ll use it.
  2. Embrace your true expenses
    • Turn large, less-frequent expenses into manageable, monthly bills.
  3. Roll with the punches
    • Be flexible and address overspending as it happens. No guilt necessary.
  4. Age your money
    • Consistently spend less than your earn, and be more than prepared for the future.

Those negative feelings associated with money will subside- the stress, anxiety, confusion, and shame gets replaced with confidence, calm, and even joy and excitement as you really start to feel in control of your money and tap into the potential of what it can do in your life.

7 Budgeting Basics For Small Business Owners

  1. Keep your small business finances out of your personal finances
    • This one is huge! Co-mingling business and personal money may seem easier, but it can lead to complications down the road. Keep a record of your business expenses to take advantage of available tax benefits. It also can be risky to use personal money to fund your business as it increases your personal liability. Person and business finances are equally important for success and keeping them separate will help.
  2. List your expenses
    • Next, you’ll need to know exactly how much your business is going to cost to run daily and monthly. List out all your expenses, rent, employees, supplies, services, etc. Make short-term and long-term projections with your income.
  3. Budget for your wants
    • If you’re planning ways to improve your business, be sure to budget for them, and save until you can afford them. If they are not necessary for your business to run well, there’s no need for you to go into debt.
  4. Know what to expect from your business income
    • Relying on your business to provide for your family takes some planning and knowing exactly how much money to expect each month. If you have no idea how to much money will come in, then there’s no way to budget and allocate your money to certain things.
  5. Set a savings goal for expansion or security
    • Start a savings plan for your business. In order to expand, hire more people, and provide security for your family, its important for small business owners to set aside small amounts of money to have long-term financial health. Small business owners often face difficulty saving money, since many have very tight budgets when they start. Saving from the beginning will help ensure you have some cushion in tough months.
  6. Look for areas where you can cut costs
    • Efficiency and frugality will help your small business succeed. I recommend taking inventory of your expenses every month and considering areas where you can cut costs, not with cutting quality. I’m not advising cutting corners, but there are ways to save money and run your business efficiently without affecting quality of your product or service.
  7. Be realistic
    • Make sure you have realistic expectations for your income and your expenses. Do your research, and don’t expand too quickly. Budgeting is essential for your small business success. Its important to keep your personal finances separate from your business finances so that you know exactly where your money is going and are able to easily provide documentation for your business taxes.

Durbin Bookkeeping Website

How Retirement Works

For most people, it’s like this: you reach a certain age and start thinking about spending your days on the golf course or on a beach. Then you look at your bank statement and freak out and think about taking on a second job instead. You should be doing less and less work as you are getting older. Retirement accounts let you do less work. All you have to do is start a retirement account NOW, which I’ll show you exactly how to do.

How do retirement accounts work:

Many people mistakenly think that retirement accounts are just places for you to save money until you’re 65. Actually, they offer you humungous benefits if you agree to save for a long-term horizon. Let’s compare regular (taxable) investing accounts with how retirement accounts work.

Regular Investing Accounts vs. Retirement Accounts:

Regular Investing Accounts: When you open up an account at ETrade or whatever, you’re generally opening p a regular investing account, which is also called a taxable account. This means that when you sell your stocks, you’ll pay taxes on your gains-and if you sell your stocks in less than a year, you’ll pay a huge amount (regular income-tax rates, like 15% or 30%).

Retirement Accounts: Retirement accounts, quite simply, give you huge tax/growth advantages in exchange for your promise to save and invest for the long term. Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to hold the same stock for 30 years. You can buy and sell shares of almost anything as often as you want. But with a few exceptions, you have to leave the money in your account until you get near retirement age.

Here’s how retirement accounts work, and where the magical benefits kick in. In a retirement account, you get big tax benefits. While 10% or 20% may not seem like much in a year, when you compound that over 30 years, it becomes a gigantic amount. In fact, start a retirement account next week and two things will happen: (1) You will be more financially prepared than 99% of your peers, and (2) you will be rich. If you start a retirement account in your early 20’s and you fund it regularly, you will be rich.

Understanding Your 401(k):

A 401(k) is a type of retirement account. If you work for a company, chances are you already have one offered to you. Here’s how it works: You put pre-tax money into the account, meaning you haven’t paid taxes on it yet. In regular, taxable investing accounts, you pay taxes on your income and then invest it. So for every $100 you make, you might actually only be able to invest $85 of it. 15% (or whatever, depending on your tax rate) goes to the tax man. There’s an extra benefit, too: Your company might offer a 401(k) match. For example, a 1:1 match up to $2,000 means that your company will match every dollar you invest up to $2,000, therefore, investing $2,000/year really means you’re investing $4,000/year. Basically, your money goes into an investing account where a professional investing company manages it. You can choose from a bunch of different investing options, like aggressive, mixed, international, etc. Don’t worry about switching jobs; if you leave your company later, you can take your 401(k) with you. And be aggressive with how much you contribute to your 401(k) because every dollar you invest now is worth many more times that in the future. The hardest part is making the first phone call to HR to get it set up.

401(k) Restrictions:

            The 401(k) isn’t tax-free. The government has to get its tax revenue sometime, so you’ll pay ordinary income tax on the money you withdraw around retirement age. You’re currently limited to putting $19,000/year in your 401(k). You’ll be charged a big penalty of 10% if you withdraw your money before you’re 59.5 years old.

401(k) Summary:

  • $19,000 annual limit
  • Pre-tax money
  • Company matches supercharge growth even more-this is free money you must take

Understanding your Roth IRA:

            A Roth IRA is another type of retirement account. Every person in their 20’s should have a Roth IRA. It’s simply the best deal I’ve found for long-term investing. A Roth IRA is different than a 401(k). A Roth uses after-tax dollars to give you an even better deal. With a Roth, you put in already taxed income into stocks, bonds, index funds-whatever- and you don’t pay when you withdraw it. Here’s how it works: When you make money every year, you have to pay taxes on it. With a Roth, you take this after-tax money, invest it, and pay no taxes when you withdraw it. If Roth IRA’s had been around in 1970 and you’d invested $10,000 in Southwest Airlines, you’d only have had to pay taxes on the initial $10,000 income. When you withdrew the money 30 years later, you wouldn’t have had to pay any taxes on it. Oh, and by the way, your $10,000 would have turned into $10 million. You pay taxes on the initial amount, but not the earnings. And over 30 years, that’s a stunningly good deal. The maximum you can contribute into your Roth IRA is $6,000 per year.

Roth IRA Restrictions:

You are penalized if you withdraw your earnings before you’re 59.5 years old. (Exception: You can withdraw your principal, or the amount you actually invested from your pocket, at any time, penalty free.) There are other exceptions for example, buying a home or for emergencies. There’s a maximum income of $137,000 to make full contributions to a Roth.

7 Retirement Options You Should Consider

WE’VE ALL HEARD THE warnings and are well aware that we should save more for retirement. The new year is a good time to resolve to find the best retirement plan to build wealth for the future. Uncle Sam wants you to save for retirement so much that the federal government has created a number of tax-advantaged retirement accounts, including popular choices such as the 401(k) and individual retirement account.

Types of retirement accounts to consider:

  • 401(k) or 403(b) offered by your employer
  • Solo 401(k)
  • SEP IRA
  • Simple IRA
  • IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Health savings account (HSA)

For most people, especially young people, the best place to start is with the 401(k) program at work. This is a particularly enticing option if your employer matches a portion of your contribution. That’s essentially free money. “If you’re working at a company that offers a 401(k) and they match contributions, you should really save in that plan,” says Wei-Yin Hu, vice president of financial research at Financial Engines, an independent investment advisory firm in Sunnyvale, California. “It’s a great way to get a really good head start on building your retirement savings.”

If you’re self-employed, you have even more options, some of which allow significant tax savings. Exactly which retirement plan, or combination of accounts, is best depends on your personal financial situation. “There’s a category of people who are self-employed or own their own businesses and have more complicated choices to make,” Hu says.

You may want to consult an accountant or engage a financial planner to discuss the best strategy. Not only do you need to figure out which kind of account to use, you also need to pick a financial services company to handle your accounts, unless your employer picks one for you, and then choose investments. If you can’t afford a financial advisor, see what free advice is offered by the company that holds your money. Be aware that all accounts come with fees, and higher fees can eat into your returns. “If you have a very long-time horizon, you can afford to take some risk for higher growth,” Hu says. But you want to select “the right funds so your exposure to the market is diversified.”

More people are being offered something that they may not recognize as a retirement savings tool: a health savings account. These accounts are only available to those with a high-deductible health insurance policy. Not only can a health savings account lower the cost of your insurance plan, it can also help boost your retirement savings. “What a lot of folks don’t realize is both of these tools can help you save for retirement,” says Steve Christenson, executive vice president of Ascensus in Brainerd, Minnesota.

You can use the money in your HSA for doctor visits, contact lenses and medications not covered by insurance. But that’s not your only option. You can also pay those expenses out of pocket and leave the money in your HSA to grow. If at some point you need money, you can be reimbursed for past expenses. “Essentially, those dollars grow on a tax-deferred basis,” Christenson says. “It can actually turn itself into a very good retirement account.”

The Internal Revenue Service has its own set of complex rules for each type of retirement account. Some tax breaks are only available to people at certain income levels.

All these retirement accounts provide a tax incentive to retirement savers. Some accounts allow you to defer paying tax on your contributions until retirement, while others accept after-tax dollars and no tax is due at withdrawal. If you withdraw money before you reach age 59 1/2, in most cases you will have to pay a 10 percent penalty in addition to regular income tax.

Here are seven types of retirement savings accounts to consider:

401(k) or 403(b) Offered by Your Employer

For most people, a 401(k) plan is the easiest and best place to start investing for retirement. The money is withheld through payroll deduction, and you can save up to $19,000 of your pre-tax income in 2019 ($25,000 if you are 50 or older). If you leave your job, you can roll the account over into a new employer’s 401(k) or your own IRA. A 401(k) is usually offered by a for-profit company, while teachers and other employees of nonprofits may be offered a 403(b) instead.

Solo 401(k)

A sole proprietor can set up an individual 401(k) and make contributions as both the employee and employer, up to a total of $56,000 in 2019 (or $62,000 for someone 50 or over).

SEP IRA

SEP stands for simplified employee pension, and this kind of account is used primarily by the self-employed or small business owners. As the employer, you can contribute up to 25 percent of your income or $56,000 in 2019, whichever is less. These accounts are easier to set up than a solo 401(k). If the business has employees, the employer must contribute for all who meet certain requirements.

Simple IRA

This plan allows small employers (fewer than 100 employees) to set up IRAs with less paperwork. Employers must either match employee contributions or make unmatched contributions. An employee can contribute up to $13,000 in 2019, with an extra $3,000 allowed for those over 50.

IRA

You can contribute up to $6,000 a year to an IRA ($7,000 if you’re 50 or older). The money grows tax-deferred until you take withdrawals. You can contribute to both an IRA and a 401(k), but if you’re covered by a retirement plan at work, you can’t deduct your IRA contributions from your taxable income if you earn more than $74,000 (for single filers) or $123,000 (married filing jointly) in 2019. After earning $64,000 and $103,000, respectively, you get only a partial deduction. If you’re not covered by a retirement plan at work, you get the full deduction no matter what your income, unless you file jointly with a spouse who has a retirement plan at work.

Roth IRA

With a Roth IRA, you are contributing after-tax dollars, and you get no tax deduction for your contribution. However, the money you earn grows tax-free, and you pay no tax on withdrawals after you reach age 59 1/2. Plus, unlike with regular IRAs, there are no mandatory withdrawals after age 70 1/2. You can also withdraw the amount you contributed (but not your investment earnings) at any time with no penalty and no taxes due, which is not the case with traditional IRAs. To contribute to a Roth IRA, you must make less than $137,000 (if you’re single) or $203,000 (if you’re married filing jointly) in 2019. If your income is more than $122,000 (single) or $193,000 (married filing jointly), your allowed contribution is reduced. You can contribute to both a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA, but the contribution limits apply to your total deposits. Some people who make too much to contribute to a Roth IRA contribute to a conventional IRA and convert it into a Roth later.

Health savings account

Those with certain high-deductible health insurance plans can save money tax-free in an HSA. You can contribute up to $3,500 a year for an individual or $7,000 for a family. If you’re 55 or older, you can contribute $1,000 more. You can withdraw money from your account to pay allowable medical expenses, including copays and items such as eyeglasses. If you don’t spend the money, it rolls over indefinitely. Once you’re 65, you can withdraw money for any reason without penalty, but you have to pay income taxes on money you withdraw. Or, you can use it for retiree medical expenses tax-free. If you withdraw the money before you’re 65 for any reason besides medical expenses, you have to pay taxes and a 20 percent penalty. But as long as you save your receipts, you can withdraw money to reimburse yourself for expenses you paid years ago. If you don’t need the money for medical expenses, you can invest it as you would other retirement savings.

Retirement Plans For the Self-Employed

I am self-employed and I thought other self-employed people might like this little spreadsheet I created. It breaks things down into regular lingo verses financial talk. I really like how much info it gives you and the categories each one are in.

I personally have a SEP IRA. I use Meryl Edge for my investments and I love their customer service. I am the type of person to question everything and every time I have had a question they are very prompt in returning my emails and very concise when explaining things to me. I am so happy with my choice.

 SEP IRASolo 401(k)/Solo Roth 401 (k)SIMPLE IRAPayroll Deduction IRAProfit Sharing
Best forSelf-employed people; employers with one or more employeesSelf-employed people with no employees other than a spouseSelf-employed people; businesses with up to 100 employeesSelf-employed people; employers with one or more employeesSelf-employed people; employers with one or more employees
Funded byEmployer; individual, if self-employedSelf or qualified spouseEmployee deferrals; employer contributionsEmployee, via payroll deductionEmployers, at their discretion; might be linked with employer’s workplace retirement plan
2018/2019 EMPLOYEE contribution limitsContributions for employees made solely by employer (or sole proprietor); limit of 25% of net self-employment income, to a maximum of $56,000 Lesser of $19,000 or $25,000 for those age 50 and older and 100% of earned income$13,000; $16,000 for those age 50 or older Based on employee’s IRA eligibility; maximum of $6,000; $7,000 for those age 50 and olderBased on employee’s IRA eligibility; maximum of $6,000, or $7,000 for those age 50 or older
2018/2019 EMPLOYER contributionsThe lesser of up to 25% of compensation or $56,000 As both an employee (of yourself) and employer, up to $56,000, or $62,000 with catchup contribution Mandatory matching contribution of up to 3% of an employee’s compensation or fixed contribution of 2%N/AThe lesser of up to 25% of employee compensation or $56,000
Taxes on contributions and earningsContributions and investment income are tax deferred; earnings grow tax-deferredContributions and investment income in a traditional Solo 401(k) are tax deferred; contributions to a Solo Roth 401(k) are taxable; earnings grow tax-freeContributions and investment income are tax-deferred; earnings grow tax-deferredContributions to a traditional IRA might be deductible; contributions to a Roth are taxable; earnings grow tax-deferredNo taxes on contributions; earnings grow tax-deferred
Taxes on withdrawals after age 59 1/2Taxed at ordinary ratesTraditional Solo 401(k) withdrawals are taxed at ordinary rates; Solo Roth 401(k) withdrawals aren’t taxedTaxed at ordinary ratesTraditional withdrawals are taxed at ordinary rates; Roth withdrawals aren’t taxedTaxed at ordinary rates
ProsSimpler for employers to set up than Solo 401(k)s; employers get tax deductions on contributionsAllows small business owners to make both employee and employer contributions for themselves; has higher contribution limits than some other plansEmployees can contribute up to 100% of compensation, up to limitEasy to set up and maintain; no minimum employee coverage requirementsEmployee might be able to borrow penalty-free from vested balance before retirement age (although borrowed amounts are subject to income tax)
ConsLower contribution limits for sole proprietor than a Solo 401(k); doesn’t allow catchup contributions; employer contributions are discretionaryMore complicated to set up than a SEP IRA; only allows withdrawals before age 59 1/2 for disability or plan termination25% penalty on distributions made before age 59 1/2 and within the first two years of the plan; no loans allowedEmployees subject to Roth and traditional IRA eligibility requirementsVesting period is generally required; no diversification, tied to employer earnings
Good to knowThere is a different calculation to determine allowable SEP contributions if you’re both the employer and employee   Employer contributions might be subject to vesting termsDistribution rules penalize rollovers to another account within the first two years of plan ownership; a SEP IRA or 401(k) might be better for the self-employedThe employer chooses the providerContributions are at employer’s discretion and can vary based on salary and job level

Wants vs Needs

With any budget, you have your categories that label what your spending your money on. Within those categories you’ll be able to see your areas of opportunity. I have an activity that I have all of my clients do at the very beginning of working together. This activity shows my clients how much they are spending just on their WANTS.

You need three months worth of bank statements. You will then highlight all of the “wants” you purchased. Add up all of those “wants.” The total is how much you spent on just things you WANT. This is to check in with yourself.

How much did you spend?

Does spending that money on random stuff you don’t really need make you feel a certain type of way? Would you rather spend it on something more responsible?

Are you in debt? Could you have paid off some debt with the amount you spent on “wants?”

Do you have short term or long term goals?

Do you have a retirement fund?

Do you like having “things” instead of going on trips for an experience seeing the world?

These questions are to help you see the difference between wants vs needs. Needs should be a priority and if they aren’t you need more discipline in your life. Money management is a mindset. If you are not in the proper money mindset, you can kiss all your extra money goodbye. Which ever type of person you are, whether you’re a money hoarder or an emotional spender, you need to have a balance with your finances. You can’t keep all the money in an account somewhere untouched and expect to have it grow or make you less stressed. You also can’t go around making it rain either. Balance, discipline, and consistency is key in financial wellness.

If you are in need of some financial advice check out my Taxes, Bookkeeping & Financial Wellness Facebook Group!