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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
Karen Chan

If you haven’t yet filed for Social Security, you may need to change your plans.

Were you planning to file-and-suspend or file a restricted application when you claim Social Security benefits? Your plans could be derailed by the new Social Security rules that were signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. If you aren't really familiar with Social Security rules and benefits, you might want to start with a general o...

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Plan Well Retire Well Wins National Award

I'd like to take a minute to toot our own horn. The writing team behind the Plan Well Retire Well blog just won two awards for Internet Education Communications from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) at their annual conference held November 2-5, 2015 in White Sulfur Springs WV. We received first-place in the Central regi...

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Transitions: What Happens to My Health Savings Account When I Leave My Job?

When you leave a job, HSAs are simpler in some ways than the FSAs I discussed last month: there is no need to spend down the account while you're employed, or at the end of the year. The money is yours. You decide when to submit expenses for reimbursement, and you can decide which financial custodian you want to use for the account. If you wish, you can ro...

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Transitions: What Happens to My Healthcare Flexible Spending Account When I Leave My Job?

Healthcare flexible spending accounts (FSAs) are great ways to avoid income tax on money you use for medical expenses. The tax isn't just deferred – you never pay tax on the money if you use it for qualified expenses. What happens to those accounts when you leave your job? There are special rules for this situation, and ignorance could be costly. Say you signed up to pu...

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Transitions: Leaving a job, and the lesson my father taught me

For the past several months, I've been writing about the financial decisions that young adults face. This month, I'm switching gears to talk about a different kind of transition that could happen at any point in your working years: leaving a job. Whether you're taking a new job, being laid off, or retiring, there are probably more financial decisions and ramifications than you might thi...

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Dear Young Friend: “Cheap Insurance” for the Things You Worry About

Dear Young Friend, If you're twenty-something, what do you worry about? Karen ___________________   That's the question I posed on my Facebook page when I was working on last month's post, How to Think about Risk and Insurance , as part of my...

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Dear Young Friend: How to Think about Risk and Insurance

Dear Young Friend, We haven't talked much about insurance and risk. Before we wrap up our conversations, I wanted to share some thoughts on this. Karen ________________   Here's a question for all my twenty-something friends: What do you worry about? What kinds of things should...

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Dear Young Friend: IRAs Offer Tax Breaks on Your Long Term Money

Dear Karen, You mentioned that putting my long term savings into an IRA could save me some money on income taxes. How would that work? Your Young Friend ________________ Dear Young Friend,...

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Buckets for your money larger

Dear Young Friend: Investing Your Long Term Money

Dear Karen, We've talked about the need to keep some money handy for expenses, and some more where I can get to it in case of an emergency. So what do I do with Bucket #3. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the idea of investing. It seems like the stock market has been a bad place to have your money pretty often over the last few years. Your Young Frien...

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MSW ORG A 2015

Choose what you want to learn during Money Smart Week, April 18 - 25

Money Smart Week is coming, April 18 to 25, 2015. It's the best time of year to learn anything you want about managing your finances. Why is it the best time? It's all free. There will likely workshops near you . Over a thousand programs will take place across Illinois. There are also programs in about...

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Online banking

Dear Young Friend: Thinking About Online Banking

Dear Karen, One way I might be different from a lot of other young adults is that I'm not enthusiastic about online banking and I haven't done much of it. Other than being able to bank from home and potentially finding higher interest rates on savings accounts, are there any advantages? Other than losing the experience and comfort of in-person banking, are there...

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Buckets for your money larger

Dear Young Friend: Maximize Interest on Savings in Buckets #1 and #2

Dear Karen, Thank you so much for the thoughtful information! I've read through it, and now it's marinating in my brain. I like the idea of "buckets," and I appreciate you breaking things into smaller chunks. (You must have heard stories of me and my "financial fatigue.") This all does help things feel less complicated, although I don't think anything with money...

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Dear Young Friend: Three Buckets for Your Money

I have been talking with a young friend about a lot of different financial topics over the past couple of months. I realized that the challenges my young friend faces are the same things that almost all young adults deal with. Over the next few months, I'll be sharing some of our conversations. Maybe you're wrestling with some of the same questions. Or, like me, maybe you have a young frien...

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bigstock-List out the expenses to plan a monthly budget-6709874

The Odious Task of Tracking Expenses

I come from a long line of habitual expense trackers. Growing up, there was always a legal-sized ledger book in the drawer. A new page was started for each month. Every receipt was entered. There were often a few loose receipts tucked into the book, waiting to be logged. When my mom passed away and I became the keeper of my grandfather’s papers, they included his ledger from 75 years ag...

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credit score ratings from e-news

FICO 9 May Improve Your Credit Score – Someday

You answer the phone. Or open a letter that came in the mail. It's from a collection agency. A medical bill that you never knew existed has been turned over to collections. What goes through your mind? "My credit score just went down the tubes." I may have some good news for you. Under FICO 9 – the new version of that credit score which was just released – that collection action...

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401k loans

401(k) Loans: Whose Advice Should You Trust?

I was stunned this week when I read a research article contending that taking a loan from your 401(k) is preferable to most other kinds of loans. That flies in the face of what we've all been told over the years. Two days later, I received my November issue of Consumer Reports Money Adviser, which had a sidebar titled Decision: Borrow from your 401(k)? And it began lik...

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Tax Uncertainty? Tax Diversification to the Rescue

Diversification is the first rule of investing. You knew that, right? But have you thought about tax diversification? Yep. Smart investing isn't just what you own, it's where you own it and how it gets taxed when you take it out. From a tax standpoint, you have three different types of accounts: Regular (taxable) accounts, like your checking and savings accounts and accounts with...

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401k road sign

What to do with your 401(k)? Consider costs, investments, and services

The decision of whether to leave money in your old employer's retirement plan, or to move it to your new employer plan or an IRA, doesn't always have an obvious answer. Last week , we looked at factors concerning your age and when you want to have access to your money – or be required to begin distributions. Today, we'll talk about comparing costs, investmen...

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what to do w 401k

What to do with your 401(k)? Think about when you want your money.

You retired. Or changed jobs – maybe several times. So did I. And at many of those jobs, we had a 401(k) or some other type of retirement plan. If your account held less than $5000, you may have been forced to make a quick decision about what to do with the money. Otherwise, you probably did what many of us do so well: procrastinate . Maybe now is a...

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Stress Test Your Financial Plans

When I faced a major life decision two years ago, looking at my financial situation was a big factor in the decision. I estimated what my future expenses would be, and compared those against my expected income. I did a net worth statement , which forced me to total up my assets and liabilities. I even guesstimate...

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The Frugal Gardener

I love growing perennials in my small suburban lot. But I'm very cost-conscious about it. I've sometimes thought about giving my garden a name, but The CheapSkate's Garden doesn't sound too appealing. However, I thought that readers of this blog might enjoy hearing about some of the things I've done to cut costs in my garden. Edging: One garden chore I don't enjoy is ed...

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savings bond

About those savings bonds…

I am one of the 55 million Americans who own savings bonds. Almost all of those bonds are the old-fashioned paper ones, like mine. And my guess is that most of us do the same thing with our savings bonds: put them away and forget about them. That's okay for a while, but any financial asset needs to be reviewed periodically. I did that last week, and here are the things I thought about....

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April 15

Losing a Loved One: 1099s and Interest on Savings Bonds

It's been a year since Kathy Sweedler and I started our series of posts about losing someone close to us. For my final post on this subject, I guess it's appropriate that taxes get the last word. My father died toward the end of January of last y...

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MSW ORG A 2014

Get Ready to Learn: Money Smart Week 2014 Is Coming!

Money Smart Week is coming, April 5 to 12, 2014. It's the best time of year to learn anything you want about managing your finances. Why is it the best time? It's all free. There will likely workshops near you . Over 1025 programs will take place...

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Health Savings Accounts: Ten Things to Do and Not Do

My husband is contributing to a Health Savings Account (HSA), so of course I wanted to learn all the in's and out's of this relatively new animal. If this is new to you, check out the benefits and who qualifies in last month's post . If you take a few moments to learn the rules, you can reap significant benefits for y...

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