Just got your first job? Start planning for retirement!

1132814335-63153 (2)

You aced your interview and are now working in your first job after graduating college. Your human resources manager just handed you a packet of information about benefits, including vacation and sick time, the work lunch program and oh yes, your 401k or IRA plans. Where do you start?  Retirement is the furthest thing from your mind but you know you’ll to fill out the paperwork, so might as well do it right.

401k plans

Let’s start by explaining a 401k plan. These plans, referred to as a defined contribution or qualified profit sharing plans allow you to contribute part of your wages into funds comprised of mutual funds, variable annuities or life insurance that allow your money to grow due investment growth and compounding interest. Compounding interest is the act of adding interest to the principal of a deposit or loan so it can earn even more interest. This is a great strategy that will help your money grow at a quicker pace.

401k’s are not taxed while gaining investment earning. Your employer will make contributions to your account based on your salary level and investment earnings accumulate tax-deferred. You become vested in your plan between 3 to 6 years depending on your employer and if you leave before becoming fully vested, you forfeit all or part of your plan’s accumulated value. Distributions are only taxed after you reach retirement age or terminate employment. Be careful, if you take money out of your plan before age 59 1/2 it is subject to a 10 percent penalty. However, this tax does not apply if you withdraw due to a qualifying disability. Annual contribution limit for a 401k is $18,000.

There is the traditional 401k, a safe harbor 401k and a Simple 401k plan. The most flexible is the traditional 401k. In this plan, the employer can make contributions on behalf of employees, to match what the employees contribute or do both. Participants make pre-tax contributions through payroll deductions.

The safe harbor plan unlike the traditional 401k is not subject to annual nondiscrimination testing which is the annual ADP or ACP nondiscrimination test. In a safe harbor plan, employees must adhere to certain contribution and vesting requirements.

A simple 401k plan is used by small businesses with 100 or less employees who received at least $5,000 in compensation from their employer in the preceding year. It enables employers to offer cost effective retirement plans to their employees.


There are two types of Individual Retirement Plans (IRAs), a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. You can contribute $5,500 to a traditional IRA up to the age of 70 1/2 and deduct it from your salary if you and your spouse, if married are not covered by a retirement plan at work. If you have a retirement plan at work, your deduction may be limited. You can withdraw money anytime but know that earnings you withdraw are taxable. If you take out money before turning 59 1/2, you may have to pay an additional 10% tax penalty. However, you must start withdrawing from your account by April 1 following the year in which you turn age 70 1/2 and by December 31 of later years.

A Roth is different in that you can contribute at any age if you have taxable compensation and your modified adjusted gross income is below a certain limit. You contribute after tax money that you’ve earned so it is not tax deductible to an annual limit of $5,500. Unlike the traditional IRA, you are not required to start taking distributions at a certain age. You do however pay a 10% tax penalty if you withdraw before 59 1/2.

How to choose a fund

When analyzing which fund to put money into, don’t just go by the name of the fund, this could be misleading. Find out what is the objective and strategy of the fund. Look at Morningstar and Yahoo Finance to help you with your research. Also, check out long term returns to give you an idea of how the fund has behaved throughout the years. Consider if you want your investments automated such as in a target fund, asset allocation fund or life cycle fund or if you would rather actively manage your investments. It all depends on how comfortable you feel.

Remember, check out fees, invest in the long term and diversify your portfolio but take some time to decide.



Radical retirement: Can you retire in your 30s or 40s? What you need to know

Many workers would love to retire in their mid-30s or early 40s to enjoy their youth, health and families. But is this realistic?

Retiring super early can be a downright dangerous idea, says Mike Lynch, vice president of strategic markets at Hartford Funds.

“If you stop funding your retirement and start using it 30 years ahead of schedule,” says Lynch, “it is therefore unlikely that you will receive Social Security benefits. And if you do, the amount will be significantly reduced due to early retirement.”

Check out the rest of my story:  http://www.bankrate.com/finance/retirement/can-you-retire-in-30s-40s.aspx#ixzz4IFU8fqTO

Be Careful of Black Henna Tattoos

Image from Flickr: Evonne

Image from Flickr: Evonne

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the temporary black henna tattoo used in place of the traditional henna can be potentially harmful to some people. The ink used in henna may actually be hair dye or a mix of other ingredients such as a coal-tar hair dye containing p-phenylenediamine (PPD), “which can cause dangerous reactions in some people” according to the FDA By law, this PPD chemical is not permitted in cosmetics used to stain the skin. The report states that these black henna tattoos may be used in temporary tattoo kiosks at beaches, boardwalks as well as ethnic or specialty shops. Depending on the state, it’s possible no one is checking the safe practices of the artist. Some people have had bad reactions to this black henna temporary tattoo occurring within immediate contact to two to three weeks later. Some reported problems include redness, blisters, raised red weeping lesions, loss of pigmentation, increased sensitivity to sunlight, permanent scarring and ongoing skin sensitivity.


If you have a reaction to or concern about a temporary tattoo or any other cosmetic, contact your health care professional. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asks you to contact FDA’s Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program at 1-800-FDA-1088 or online at http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/default.htm. You can also contact an FDA consumer complaint coordinator in your area. A list of coordinators can be found at: http://www.fda.gov/safety/reportaproblem/consumercomplaintcoordinators



Reading Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

I’m currently reading Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olen.

I was initially attracted to reading this book after reading a piece about financial literacy on a website. The piece talked about how the book’s author says that the movement towards financial literacy education to the general public and school-age children is not beneficial. Olen says that instead we need regulation, a better economy and more jobs to help people thrive.

So as an advocate for financial literacy education, I felt compelled to read this book to learn what exactly her stance was and how she defended her point of view.

I’ve read the beginning pages and I’ve learned that she thinks educating folks about their money has been used as a sort of ruse by the bigger companies to try and sell their financial products. She also goes after the well-known financial experts Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman and Jim Cramer, stating that they give people money advice as a means to grab their attention and then try to sell their books, seminars and financial products.  She also sites a study that indicates that financial literacy education makes no difference to the way people manage their money. In other words, financial education does not help at all. This is difficult for me to believe but I’m very early on into reading this book to yet put together a fully educated opinion, I do think financial literacy can help people, but let’s see what Olen says. I’ll keep you posted…..

What will make us happy?

Courtesy of planwallpaper.com
Courtesy of planwallpaper.com

Ever sit down and wonder, “Hmm, what could make me really happy?” It’s difficult to know what will make us truly happy. Maybe if we buy that house we’ve always dreamed of, maybe if we get that shiny new car, a cute puppy, get married, have some kids, get a new job, a whole new wardrobe, eat a chocolate cake! Who knows, the truth is we are all searching for happiness, for a way to feel better about ourselves and what we do in our daily lives. We all want to feel wanted, loved, appreciated and we all want to laugh. At the end of the day, every single human being on this earth just wants to be happy – that is our lifelong goal…to be genuinely HAPPY!

As we go on our journey through life, we will sometimes lose, sometimes win, sometimes be bored and sometimes be ecstatic, these are the ups and downs of our different paths, but we are all searching for the same thing. From meditating, doing yoga, exercising, reading spiritual stories I’ve learned that the only happiness we need and have been searching for is right here within us.

We carry this happiness inside of us, in how we perceive our life through our eyes. We are the only ones responsible for seeing this happiness. It’s all around us really. When our children smile… that is happiness. When we can have a great talk with a friend… that is happiness. When we open our eyes in the morning and see a new day, when we get a warm hug or drink a nice cup of warm tea, when we sit with our family to have dinner and share our day’s events, when someone tells us they love us or gives us the gift of a warm smile or holds the door for us on our way into the supermarket. Happiness is in all the little things that are good that happens to us throughout the day. We just have to let ourselves see and feel these things, and then we will understand what happiness truly is.

Happy National Financial Literacy Month!

Drum roll please…. April is National Financial Literacy Month! This means that April is the month you will see many events and activities around the country focused on financial education. Since 2003, the United States has recognized April as Financial Literacy Month in an effort to shine a spotlight on how important it is to educate everyone about the economy and how to better manage their finances. The Council for Economic Education (CEE) will have events this month concentrating on training teachers with professional development workshops, increasing free resources available to the public and lots of press coverage involved financial education.

For more information on how you can get involved, visit the CEE website here.

Twitter: #finlit #financialliteracy

Also, in honor of Financial Literacy Month, the experts at Money Management International (MMI) created the website, FinancialLiteracyMonth.com. They provide many resources to help folks learn more about their personal finances. According to Money Management International, Americans carry more than $2 trillion in consumer debt and 30 percent of consumers report having no extra cash; making it impossible to escape the burden of living paycheck to paycheck. This month, Money Management International will provide on FinancialLiteracyMonth.com free webinars, financial tracking worksheets such as income, expense, debt load forms you can easily print and work off from, an ebook full of savvy tips and a goals certificate you can personalize to help motivate you to reach your financial goals.

So please take advantage of all the resources available and get ahead in your financial journey starting today!