Tales from the Wallet: Retirement Savings

retirement savingsLadies, how much do you save for retirement? Why do you do it? There was an interesting commenter thread about feeling saving burnout and wanting to splurge a little — do you count retirement savings as something you can cut back on, absent a strong need? We’ve talked about how much to save for retirement, what kind of tax-savvy investments exist to maximize your retirement savings, when to pay down debt vs. save, and where retirement should fit in your total money roadmap.

(Pictured: Hobo ‘Taylor’ Glazed Leather Wallet, on sale at Nordstrom for $70.)

For my $.02, I didn’t get started saving for retirement in a 401K or other tax-savvy vehicle until my late 20s, and I regret that — as they say, there are few powers in this universe stronger than the power of compound interest, and this kind of chart always freaks me out. My husband and I have generally taken the view that saving for retirement is one of our top priorities, and we max out every tax-advantaged vehicle. Like most parents of small kids, I’ll admit that these past few years (yay, childcare expenses) have been tight, and we’ve been moving money from our other, non-tax advantaged savings in order to max out our retirement accounts. (In case that’s unclear — I try really hard for us to spend less than we earn, and I kind of freak out if our take-home earnings for the month are less than we need to pay our bills. But then I remember that our retirement savings and 529 savings are deducted before they get to our take-home earnings, so as long as I can use our other savings to make up for the shortfall, I feel OK about it — within reason.)

How about you, ladies — what are your strategies for retirement savings? Does anyone get a match or perk you’d care to tell us about (anonymously)? Any good tips on how to do it? 

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Tales from the Wallet: Paying Down Debt vs. Saving

paying down debt vs. savingIt’s the New Year, and I heard a lot of chatter among commenters about when they should be paying down debt vs. saving. It’s a huge question, and we’ve talked about some related things (like how to pay off huge student loans and live within your means), but we haven’t talked about when to save vs. when to pay down debt in too long. Readers, what are your best thoughts on paying down debt vs. saving? When is getting out of debt a priority?

(Pictured: Comme des Garçons ‘Super Fluo’ French Wallet, $204 at Nordstrom.)

A few thoughts from me:

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Tales from the Wallet – Buying a Home

Tips on Buying a Home | Corporette

How does buying a home affect your finances?  How can you best prepare for it?  This is a huge topic, but we’re going to attempt to take it on as part of our Money Milestones series, which explores how a few big milestones in your life can really affect your finances.  So far we’ve looked at wedding budgets, how to financially prepare for a baby, and how to pay for grad school.

This can be a tricky issue, and we’ve covered a lot of the hows in my last post on owning property (where we also discussed whether to buy a home when you’re still single), as well as in our discussion on where you live is one of the biggest money decisions you make. Some thoughts on how to prepare for and survive a home purchase:

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Tales from the Wallet: The Best Books and Sites for Financial Advice For Newbies

best personal finance booksWhich are the best personal finance books for newbies?  Reader E had a great question:

I absolutely love your Tales from the Wallet series, but I find a lot of the lingo is a little over my head. I do understand that most of your readers are lawyers and professionals with sizable incomes, but I was wondering if you had any book recommendations for readers like myself. I didn’t invest in a 401K through my employer because I didn’t understand it. The idea of having money deducted from my account for a stranger to manage and crossing my fingers for the best didn’t sound very appealing to me. After reading some of the comments, it looks like there’s more to it. I currently don’t have any investments and want to start to learn about vehicles to put my money in. Please share absolutely any resources for new investors! Thanks!

Everyone has to start somewhere, so I think this is a great question. We’ve talked about tax-savvy investments on here, of course (and may answer some of your 401K specific questions), but in general it can seem daunting to learn about personal finance. (Pictured: Kate Spade New York ‘Popsicle’ Coin Purse, $78 at Nordstrom — according to the reviews it’s surprisingly functional!)  I’ve read a bunch of personal finance books over the years; these are the best ones that I would recommend for newbies: [Read more…]

How to Pay Off Big Student Loans (and Other Big Debts)

how to pay off big student loansHow do you pay off big student loans?  Can you manage your debt when you’re facing huge numbers, such as six figures? We’ve talked about when to save versus when to pay down debt before, but a number of readers have asked for a post on Really Big Debt, so let’s discuss (particularly since the interest rate just doubled on new Stafford loans!).  I polled some friends to ask who had a plan or success story that didn’t involve inheritance/lottery, and thought I’d round up their stories, anonymously, below — but readers, please share your own! Have you paid off major debt (student loans or otherwise)?  What is your plan to pay it off? (Pictured: one of Nordstrom’s top rated wallets: Hobo  ‘Lauren’ Double Frame Clutch, with 95 positive reviews. Available in six colors for $110.)

M’s Story: Some repayment assistance / A whole lot of payment discipline

So, on my loans: the total between grad and law school was about $130k. I was fortunate to go to a law school with a repayment assistance program for graduates working in non-profit organizations… which requires the 10-year repayment plan. I bit the bullet and went for it, feeling like I’d rather suck it up for ten years and be FREE than have student loans following me into my 50s. Consolidated all the loans (with super-low interest rates, hooray), signed up for repayment assistance, and made sure to sign up for auto-pay on the loans to make non-payment/paying less not an option. [Read more…]

Tales from the Wallet: Asset Allocation and Rebalancing Your Investments

asset-allocationWhat does it mean to have balanced investments, and how do you do it? What is a proper asset allocation?  I first tried to answer these questions about six months ago (maybe longer) and finally think I’ve got it figured out… kind of.  Still, do note: this is not intended as a tutorial, just a jumping off point for a discussion. (Pictured: Kate Spade New York Carmine Street – Lacey Wallet, available at Nordstrom for $158 in green, pink, and black.)

Why You Should Balance Your Investments

First — why should you balance your investments, or allocate your assets?  I read Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You To Be Rich a while ago — a great introductory book if you’re new to financial stuff, and definitely a quick read.  One of the only things that was new to me was his explanation of how and why to balance your investments, which I’d heard about through the years but never really focused on.  (To be honest, I kind of thought all I needed to know was that bit about subtracting your age from 100 and putting that percentage in stocks, which roughly translated to me as “invest mostly in stock index funds.”)  In Sethi’s book, he talks about how you should have a target asset allocation (also quoted on his website) of something like 15% TIPS, 15% Government bonds, 20% REITs, 5% emerging-market equities, 30% domestic equities, and 15% developed world international equities.  Whoa! That’s a bit different than “mostly stocks.”  But I suppose it’s easy enough to figure out, at least if you’re just setting up your investments for the first time.  So, let’s say you invest accordingly, and in that first year, domestic equities do AMAZING and emerging-market equities have a lousy year — so at the end of the year you may end up with 60% of your holdings in domestic equities and only 2% in emerging-market equities.  So, Sethi says, at the end of each year you should figure out what your target allocation is and then readjust so that you’re putting something like 20% into emerging-market equities and only 10% into domestic market equities.  Uh huh. Ok.  Simple! [Read more…]

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