We have a CPA IN THE HOUSE! In the And Then We Saved House that is. This is a good contributor folks a REAL good one! (ah, I say that every week I know, I know, but it’s SO true!)
Please help me welcome:
Alexandra has five years of experience working at local and regional public accounting firms in Southern California and is a CPA (Certified Public Account). She will be completing her master’s in business taxation at USC (University of Southern California) in May.
She says, “I have always been interested in personal finance. When I was younger I would ask my dad if I could help him pay bills! (Yes, I’m slightly crazy.) I love reading about personal finance and sharing this information with my friends. I handle the finances for my boyfriend’s small freelance graphic design business, so I also have experience helping small business owners maximize their investments and minimize their tax bills.
I’m just very passionate about personal finance, and I find it so heartbreaking that a lot of people come out with a four year college education knowing nothing about the topic. Many of my friends have been working for many years and don’t have savings accounts, retirement accounts, and lots of credit card debt. I attribute this mostly to the fact that they were never taught how to be financially responsible. It’s not something most people inherently know, it takes work and I love helping people get on the road to financial success.”
No other word brings so much joy and fear to my heart. Most Americans have less than $25,000 saved for retirement! As a CPA, I am a little compulsive when it comes to planning, so I have used all of those handy calculators to tell me how much I need to save for retirement ($3.7+ million) and how far I am behind schedule (VERY!). Seeing that $3.7 million number can send even a financially secure person into a tizzy. Saving for retirement is much like getting out of debt. It can seem overwhelming, unattainable, and so far off that why should you bother when there is a new pair of shiny Miu Miu shoes that you can have right now. I’m not sure if it’s a product of my generation, but I sure love instant gratification. Saving for something 40 years in the future can seem like an uphill battle that isn’t worth fighting sometimes. But then I wake up for work far too early on Monday morning and think about how glorious it would be to retire. So I make a plan. And I make plans for my friends. And my boyfriend. Because really, who wants to retire all alone? We need to keep our friends on track too so that we have a wonderful group to play shuffleboard with before eating our early bird specials at the Sizzler.
The easiest way to get on track for retirement is to make saving automatic. Enrolling in your company’s 401K makes it easy. If the money doesn’t make it into your bank account you can’t spend it. Opening a 401K also offers you a tax deduction, and you can contribute as much as $16,500 per year.
A lot of my friends don’t have jobs that offer 401K plans, either because they don’t get benefits or because they freelance. While there are many savings vehicles for the self-employed, I tend to recommend an individual retirement account, or IRA, to my friends. Like a 401K plan, you can set it up to be an automatic monthly deduction from your bank account. Again, if you don’t see it in your account, you won’t spend it. Also, provided you fall under the income limits ($56k for single and $90k for married filing joint) you can deduct it like a 401K contribution.
Something that gets a lot of attention is the Roth IRA or Roth 401K. I recently recommended a Roth 401K to my sister. With a Roth account you don’t get a tax deduction in the year of contribution, but your money gets to grow tax-free. So if you think your income level (and tax bracket) will rise as your career progresses, a Roth is a great option for you! While many of my peers forgo this because the lack of a tax deduction in the year of contribution, I urge all of you younger readers to table your desire for instant gratification and focus on the future.
Opening an IRA is easier than most people think. You can open one at Fidelity for as little as $200 per month, or through ING Direct with no minimums. If you are under 50, you can donate up to $5,000 per year into an IRA (Traditional or Roth).
Once you get the money into an IRA or 401K, what do you do with it? While I can’t recommend a specific fund that will deliver stellar returns (call Miss Cleo for that), I like the age-directed funds such as Fidelity’s Freedom Funds. You pick your target retirement date, and they do the rest. The fund has the appropriate mix of investments for your age group. In my opinion it’s much easier than having to periodically rebalance your portfolio and is less daunting than hoping you pick a good mix of funds.
The most important thing is to make saving for retirement a part of your everyday routine. Start small, even $100 a month adds up to something big! And enlist the help of your friends. If they can drag your butt to yogalates, you can all help each other get on track for retirement. After all, what are friends for?
Alexandra Perwin ● THANK YOU ● for being a part of And Then We Saved!
P.S. Want to change your mindset? Here’s a game-changer alert! CLICK HERE for the Money Magnet + Abundance Affirmations Super List