Buying a house is one of the largest financial decisions that most of us will ever make. I have bought two houses in my life. The first, I made many, many mistakes that I’ll share here for your amusement and general edification. The second, after having more experience in adulting and all things personal finance, I did in a much more planful and intentional way.
Through these two very different experiences, here are my top three tips for buying a:
A Note on the Use of Information in this Article
Here is my disclaimer regarding the content in this article. (We all know there has to be one of these just to set the record straight.) The ideas included are for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial advice. Concepts covered here are overly simplified examples of basic finance related information. Please consult a qualified financial professional to learn additional details about each financial concept and to help you figure out what is right for you.
A List of Don'ts: My Life as a Clueless First Time Home Buyer
The first time I bought a house, I did things in a way that hurts my current, better financially educated self. At the time, my then husband and I, were recently married and realized that more adultier adults bought houses. Here are the highlights of the poor decisions we made during this process:
Downright Awful Decisions:
A List of Dos: My Life as a Much Smarter Home Buyer
Years later, after having worked in the financial services industry for a bit, my soon-to-be fancy new husband and I decided to consider buying a place together. This time around, being 10 years older and a ton smarter, we had a more methodical process.
We talked about how we wanted to live our lives and bought a house that would support those wants and needs. We also worked with a realtor, who helped us through the details of being a smart homebuyer. Finally, we had a greater understanding of the financial aspects and what we were getting ourselves into.
Tip 1: Assessing Housing Wants and Needs
Before looking at houses, we talked about what we each wanted, and what was important to us collectively. We took our lifestyle into consideration and turned those abstractions into our list of must haves and nice to haves. Our list of requirements included the following:
Housing: Must Haves
Housing: Nice to Haves
Once we assessed our needs, we knew what we were looking for. We could also then assess if we were in a financial position to purchase a house that met our needs, or if we needed to wait longer.
Tip 2: Working with a Buyer's Realtor
When buying a house, there is no earthly good reason not to work with a realtor. Realtors get paid a percentage of the cost of the house being bought, which is paid by the seller. In short, it costs you no more money to work with a realtor than to work by yourself.
Realtors will also help you save time, money and frustration because this is what they do for a living. They will help you find possible houses that meet your needs. They arrange house showings so you can privately view a given house. They may also know about houses that are going on the market before they are listed to give you a head start on other potential buyers. They also typically have relationships with people who do financing and home repairs, so they can help with recommendations throughout the whole process. They can walk you through the paperwork from start to finish.
Typical realtors represent people who are buying and selling houses. We worked with one who only helps people buy houses—a buyer’s realtor. Part of the reason why we chose a buyer’s realtor is that their only job was to help us buy a house, not to also sell other people’s houses. This means that they do not have a possible conflict of interest (unlike realtors who both buy and sell houses) since there would be no temptation to try to sell us a house that they had listed.
Tip 3: Learn About the Financial Implications
Some people, mostly homeowners, tout the financial benefits of owning a home—and believe me, there are many. However, buying a home is also a multi-pronged financial commitment that goes beyond the desire to stop "throwing money away" on rent. Here are a few financial factors to consider when considering buying a house.
Figure Out How Much House You Can Afford
There are several calculators available online to help you figure out how much house you might be able to afford. If you look at guidelines for how much of your income should be spend on any given thing, typically they recommend spending 25-35% of your income on housing.
Personally, I think a lot of calculators suggest an amount that is higher than it makes sense to spend. (A calculator I ran recently suggested that I could afford to spend more than twice what I currently spend on my house—which is not something I would ever do on purpose). One more conservative recommendation is that you plan to spend 25% of your net income. (As a reminder, your gross income is the amount that your employer says they pay you, and your net income is the amount of money that actually shows up in your paycheck on payday). In the end, you need to figure out what makes sense for you.
Housing Costs: More Than a Mortgage
Financing Your Home Purchase
It’s not just the purchase price of your house, but how that translates into monthly payments for you. Most people obtain a loan to buy a home, which is called a mortgage. The amount you pay on a monthly basis depends on the interest rate, the term (how long you plan to pay it back) and the amount that you borrow.
There are several loan options, but here are two common ones:
House Buying Expenses
Ongoing Housing Costs
So Now What?
After you have a big long cry after realizing there is more to this than you thought there might be, realize that looking at houses is a part of adulting. Get thee a good buyers realtor, who has been through this a bunch of times, and then can help talk you through what you need to do. The more you know about the processes, the better off you’ll be.
What Do You Think?
What advice do you have for people considering buying a home? What missteps did you make that you’d like to help others avoid?
Going to work expecting to finish up a report and lead a meeting and having your workday end abruptly at 10:00 AM walking to your car with a box containing all of your workly positions, is jarring. What's even more jarring is the realization that now--SURPRISE--you have to find a new job so that you can continue your extravagant lifestyle of living indoors and eating on a regular basis.
For the whole of my professional career, I have worked in the field of corporate education in positions like software trainer, training specialist, sales training manager and instructional designer. Like many of my colleagues, I've also been laid off three times in my 20+ year career. (I know people who have me beat by at least a couple of times.) While fixating on the fear of losing your job is a horrible way to exist, there are a few things that you can do now--while you're happily, gainfully employed--that can help lessen the blow if you do happen to find yourself suddenly in need of a new position.
Build Your Professional Network
If you read any articles about effective ways to find a new position, leveraging your professional network is a key piece of advice. It's also harder to start networking when you have your proverbial hat in your hand and need something. It's better to start building your professional network before you need something. Your network is also much more than a job search resource.
LinkedIn is a great tool to help you build and connect with your professional network. At my current job, I connect with people on LinkedIn after we have met in person and even had a chance to work together. This way, the people in my LinkedIn network are not just a collection of random people I have as connections, but people who I actually know in a work context. I connect with people from my company, previous coworkers, friends from college, people I meet at professional development meetings and people who work as vendors with my current company.
I also foster a give and take of information with my network. I promote awards that my current company receives, share video content I've made and share resources that might benefit others. I also learn a lot from other people's postings, whether it's a useful article that a colleague wrote, an event that I may want to attend or industry news that might impact what educational content I might want to create next.
Update Your Resume In Real Time
My most recent layoff (which was 3+ years ago) happened after I had worked at the organization for 8 years. When my position was eliminated due to corporate restructuring, putting my resume together again was a challenge since I had years of diverse work experience to document. At that time, I knew details about recent projects, but it was harder for me to piece together all that I had done, and salient details that would help me get hired elsewhere.
Fortunately, and in rather unusual fashion, I was given a couple of months of notice that my job would be ending. That gave me the time to review my calendar, and files, to put together detailed descriptions of what I had done. This helped me put together a master resume. This isn't the final resume that you use to apply for a position. This is the big huge ridiculous document that contains everything you've done ever. From here, you pick and choose details that you'll include in your for real applying-for-a-job resume.
In general, I've become more proactive about recording what I do. In my time with my current company, I've had multiple job titles, managers and responsibilities. While these projects are fresh in my mind, I write down specifics on what I did, who I worked with, outcomes and tangible results. This helps me not only for a someday job search, but it also helps me position myself for additional projects, with professional organizations and as my company grows and evolves. Keeping a detailed list of projects, responsibilities and skills you were able to use will make resume writing much easier when the time comes.
Learn New Skills
Once upon a time, I was planning on being a high school English teacher. While my current career path focuses on education, suffice it to say that I ended up in a very different place than I originally envisioned. For example, much of my work in my day job revolves around planning, scripting and creating microlearning videos. Even 5 years ago, while I understood how to break down complex concepts to help others understand them, I did not have the technological skills created educational videos.
When I look at how the world has changed since earned my undergraduate degree, it's amazing. One of my first training jobs was as a software instructor teaching people how to use the big scary Internet. My first few job searches were done relying predominantly on the want ads in the Sunday newspaper. At one company, we were on the bleeding edge of technology by using instructor-led web based training before training by webinar was standard. With advances in technology, the workforce, and worldwide economic factors, things are always changing, and to stay employeable, you need to keep up.
Don't wait until your job's future seems uncertain to start learning. Go to professional meetings. Read website dedicated to your field. Listen to podcasts on topics of interest. Look at job descriptions for emerging positions to see what kinds of skills are in demand. Keep updating your skills so you're not left behind when change happens around you. Be Amazon, not Nokia.
What Do You Think?
What other career advice do you have to share?
Figuring out how to stay healthy is a bijillion dollar business. On a daily basis, we see ads trying to sell us products and services to help us eat less, move more or cure what else ails me. A big part of adulting is figuring out how to take care of your health so you have the energy and wherewithall to do all of the other adulting that needs to be done.
A lot of the issues that we have as adults are not problems we had as children. Children eat when they are hungry, play when they are antsy and sleep when they are tired. As we grow up, we're told taught that those thing we do naturally are all wrong, and we learn to adapt. Unfortunately, when we become the adults, we try to relearn ways of being that actually work.
Fortunately, through sheer luck, I have managed not to parent every good instinct out of my child, so she has less to unlearn and relearn. Here are my top three pieces of advice for my daughter on the topic of physical health. It's also a good reminder for those of us who are grown adults who need to remind ourselves of some key habits that can help us course-correct our current unhealthy path.
Eat When You're Hungry; Stop When You're Full
Like many adults, I've had a lifelong battle with my weight, which is sometimes more successful than others. One issue that I have is emotional eating. In short, I have a terrible habit of eating for reasons that are not being hungry. As children, we all get this. We eat when we're hungry, and stop when we're full--and it infuriates the adults in their lives to no end. I think of the speeches I received as a child about not wasting food, cleaning my plate, finishing what I ordered at a restaurant and more. I've personally seen adults eat food I have left on my plate instead of having to watch it "go to waste." The irony is that we're' treating ourselves as a garbage can by eating when we not hungry for out of some misplaced sense of financial prudence.
Fortunately, you get the whole "eat when you're hungry, stop when you're full" thing way more than I ever have. Keep having those healthy boundaries when it comes to food. Don't listen to people who tell you that you have to eat the special cookies/cake/jam made specially for you, , that you're too skinny, or that stuffing food in your face when you're not hungry is any kind of a good idea. Be polite and thank people for whatever they offer, and turn them down. This one habit will save you the frustration of unnecessary weight gain more than any other habit.
As a small child, you were all about playing. There was recess at school, hitting the playground on weekends and a neverending barrage of birthday parties featuring laser tag, jumpy castles and swimming. Over time, that slowed down. Now recess is a thing of the past, but there is jui jitsu, roller skating, roller derby, trips to the waterpark, walking around the neighborhood with friends and circus classes. The older you get, there will be less opportunities for physical activity, and more times when you'll be watching videos, working on a computer or just generally being stationary. You will most likely end up with an office job that involves more sitting than not.
As you get older, and more "grown up," keep on playing and being physically active. Go canoeing, skating and hiking. When hanging out with friends, walk and talk, don't just go to a coffee shop or restaurant. Find something that you love and keep doing it--whether it's biking, or martial arts, or climbing or something totally else. Just keep moving.
Sometimes people think that exercise has to be awful and unpleasant. Don't try to make yourself to something you hate. Find something active you like and do that. You don't have to run, do cross fit or do yoga flow if that isn't your thing. Just do something to stay active, and keep trying new things to keep moving your body. Build movement into your life so it's just a natural thing that you WANT to do, not something you HAVE to do.
Get Enough Sleep
You know what else most adults are terrible at? Getting enough sleep. Most adults skimp on sleep under the guise of getting more done--and we typically are less efficient and effective when we don't sleep enough.
So what should you do? Go to bed when you are tired. If you'll be out late, take a disco nap to help make up for the sleep you won't get that night. If you have a "slumber party", get some sleep the day after. Go to bed at a decent time on school nights so that getting up isn't any more unpleasant that it needs to be. Get 8 or more hours of sleep a night. Everything is better when you're not overtired.
So why get sleep? As if the beauty of taking naps isn't enough, here are just a few reasons why getting enough sleep is important. It helps you continue to grow in your ongoing quest to be a head taller than me. It also helps you think more clearly and enjoy things more. It helps you be in a better mood and not cranky. You make better decisions when you're well rested. It also helps keep your weight in check and regulates your mood. Sleep is the most underrated thing you can do to maintain your overall well-being.
What Do You Think?
What are your top pieces of health advice?
I live in South Minneapolis, just blocks from the house used as Prince's home in the movie Purple Rain. I also work in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis down the street from First Avenue, where much of Purple Rain was filmed. Minnesota loves Prince. Upon his untimely death, many artists started adding Prince covers to their sets. While amazing covers of "Purple Rain" and "Nothing Compares 2 U" abound, here are three amazing covers of 'When Doves Cry."
Choir! of 1999 Voices Sings Prince "When Doves Cry"
See this amazing chorus of 1999 people pay tribute to Prince by singing "When Doves Cry." This event took place on May 2, 2016 and was recorded live in Toronto at Massey Hall. These people were given a couple hours of rehearsal just prior to this moving performance.
Greensky Bluegrass: When Doves Cry (Prince Cover)
When I think of "When Doves Cry", I think of electric guitars and moaning. Or, in this case, guitars, banjos and string basses.
Jack Black (of Tenacious D) Sings "When Doves Cry"
It's Tenacious D, and its' time for Jack Black's solo. Hear "When Doves Cry" as only he can sing it. If you never knew Jack Black could sing, prepare to be delighted. Note it's not a "Tribute," but the actual song.
No one wants to be a victim. People talk a lot about self defense--which I usually think of as the ability to defend yourself against an attacker. Ideally, though, we can learn how to prevent many of those situations from becoming physical altercations.
I think it is important to be able to defend yourself. Most self-defense training, though, focuses on the point where you're being attacked, not on ways to prevent an attack from ever taking place. Here, I'm focusing on putting yourself in a position where you can avoid an incident (like being assaulted, robbed or raped) altogether.
As someone who lives and works in a large city, and doesn't want to sit home afraid, I focus on these three concepts for staying out of harm's way: situational awareness, being an imperfect victim and listening to my intuition.
Have Situational Awareness
Situational awareness is a fancy way of saying "pay attention." I'm amazed by the people I see on a regular basis, usually during my daily train commute, who seem completely disconnected from the world around them. For many, there seems to be the prevalent attitude that bad things simply will not happen to them regardless of what they do. Being actively disconnected from what is going on around you make you more likely to be assaulted or a victim of theft.
Here's what a lack of situational awareness looks like:
Here's what situational awareness looks like:
Overall, situational awareness is making a little effort to notice your physical environment so that you are in tune with it, instead of constantly surprised by it.
Be an Imperfect Victim
Again, no one wants to be a victim, but many of us do things that make us more likely to be one. Since typically people who are going to rob or rape others are looking for easy targets, being perceived as difficult is a great way to avoid an incident.
Here's what imperfect victims look like:
Imperfect victims also remember their boundaries. Too often, especially as women, we try to accommodate other people's requests because we want to be liked. Remember, though, you don't have to be nice to random people who approach you and demand things from you. You do not have to shake someone's hand, hug someone, or tolerate someone in your personal space. You do not have to give anything to an aggressive panhandler.
Tell people no, and do it loudly if required. Put your hands up between you and them when you say "no" to let them know they really do need to stop. You may even need to yell "Get away from me" loudly to make it clear that they need to give you space. People who speak up are perceived as being more trouble than they are worth.
Listen to your Intuition
You know how sometimes dogs don't like certain people? Or how babies cry and do not want to be held by just anyone? Their intuition is what makes them want to avoid some people. Unlike small children or animals, as adults, we tend to ignore our intuition. This is out of a sense of politeness or fear of being accused of being one of the bad -ists (racist, sexist, elitist). We need to re-learn to listen to our intuition for the sake of our well-being and trust that. This is not about political correctness or offending someone we don't even know. This is about our personal safety in what could be a dangerous situation.
Here are those feelings you need to honor:
Those weird feelings that you can't quite put into words? Listen to them. Remember, sometimes, our bodies figure thing out before our brains catch up. We need to learn to pay attention to our surroundings with our heads, and our bodies, and heed that warning. It will help keep us safe.
What Do You Think?
What safety tips do you have? How do you keep yourself out of harm's way?
I am a parent to a teenage daughter. [Insert appropriate level of panic here.]
Personally, I don't think most people really know what they are doing when it comes to parenting. I always felt like there would be a magical day when I felt grown up and like I knew all of the secrets of the world. Suffice it to say that it hasn't happened. Regardless, I have a child, and she's growing up, so I've continued to make things up as I've gone along, and it's been going pretty well. So far, she's a likable, considerate person who gets decent grades, has a lot of interests, and has friends whose parents I don't hate. As an extra added bonus, she gets along with me as a mom and a tolerable adult figure. I consider that a win.
With that less than stellar resume of my parental qualifications, here are my top 3 pieces of unsolicitied life advice for my teenage daughter. Who knows. Maybe your child, or any random adult for that matter, will learn a little something.
1. You actually don't "HAVE TO" do most things.
There are some basic life things that we all have to do--but there's a whole lot that we actually don't have to do, but that we do out of obligation. Let me rephrase. You do not have to do everything people ask or tell you to do, like or try. You get to say no and you don't even have to give said person a reason why either. How cool is that?
You don't have to like a band, hate a person, identify as gay/bi/straight, try a drug, do a shot, dye your hair, eat food, take a dare or do anything physically that you don't want to do. People of all ages will try to tell you otherwise, and they are wrong. This also goes for hugging someone creepy, eating a dessert that a coworker made or having a second helping of casserole because someone says "You are too skinny!" People often want some sort of validation for how they live their lives, and they will try to get someone to affirm their own choices by choosing them, too. You don't have to be that someone.
The flip side of this is that other people also don't have to do everything you tell them they have to do either. We each get to make our own choices, and take a "No" or "No thank you" or "I don't think so" as a real answer. Set the personal boundaries that are right for you, and accept other people's boundaries, too.
2. Plan ahead--at least a little bit.
Children and adults alike each deal with "emergencies" on a regular basis--many of which wouldn't have had to be emergencies with just a wee bit of forethought. Many day to day "emergencies" can be mitigated by having your cell phone, $10 in cash, and your house keys.
On the low end, here are a few super-easy tips from me to you. Bring a towel with you into the bathroom. Brush your teeth before you put on your lipstick. Put on your knee pads before your wrist guards. A little forethought goes a long way.
On to bigger and better things. Many other perceived "emergencies" have only become so because of neglecting to look ahead a few days to see what is coming up or a general lack of communication. On Sunday, look ahead at your week. Give me a heads up that you have a band concert, volleyball game, birthday party or sleepover at least 2 days before it happens. If I have to fill out paperwork, or give you permission to do something, or figure out any logistics, make that a week. All those activities that you are involved it don't just happen. It takes a bit to get a doctor's appointment for an athletics physical or request a copy of your vaccination records or lay hands on the special whatever-it-is that you want to get whats-her-name for whatever thing it is she's celebrating.
Also, just know that if you don't plan ahead, I am at the point where I'm done making your poor planning my emergency. I've got things going on too--must of which I had to schedule and arrange to accommodate all of your activities that I actually knew about.
Overall, take responsibility for your own life because no one is going to care more about your activities than you do. Get a calendar and write things down. While I'm temporarily still your chauffeur, I am not your concierge.
3. Seek out help when you need it.
Everyone needs help from an adult sometimes. Everyone. You can talk to me, or if you'd rather, try out these people: your dad, your step-dad, my best friend, your best friend's mom, a teacher at school who you like. Talking to your friends is great, but sometimes you need an adult opinion. (I have 30 years of life experience on you--which means I've been through a few things that are totally new to you.) You are fortunate that you have many, many people who care about you who want you to be well. Even if you think it's the most horrible thing that anyone could ever do, let's talk and figure out what's next. Give me a chance to help before you do something extreme like running away, hurting yourself or hurting others. I am also happy to share my list of stupid things that I did as a child (and some after that) that I also thought were super horrible then that you will find laughably lame, now.
If you know of someone who you think needs help, tell one of us about that, too. I am happy to talk to your friends, their friends, other people's parents, or whoever else you think is struggling to help them get through it--whatever it might be. Life is often hard, and going through it alone makes it even harder. Let one of us help--which includes picking you up and helping you get out of a messed up situation at some god awful hour in the morning (which I will happily do whenever it is needed.) I'm also not going to yell at you or give you a hard time. Again. Here to help.
What is your top "adulting" advice for others?
Many times, when you ask someone how they are "BUSY!" is a common response. Some wear "busy" like a badge of honor. "Busy" indicates that you are so good at pretty much everything that you are constantly in demand. While it's definitely nice to be wanted, it's also exhausting to try to do everything all the time for everyone.
As someone who was formerly a member of every group and an organizer of every event--to the point where it way way more work than fun--I've learned a thing or three about managing my time to increase my overall happiness.
Time Management Skill #1: Saying No
People talk a lot about time management as a way to squeeze the most life into every waking moment. I used to try really hard to do everything I thought I *should* do. (The word “should” is a hint that perhaps I didn’t want to do some things very badly.) Want to know a little secret? One of the real tips for effective time management is deciding what you’re not going to even consider doing.
I always appreciate being asked to help out, attend a function or be a part of a group. Now, I find other ways to help that involve a time commitment I'm willing to make. Do I want to volunteer to run a junior roller derby bout? No, but I'll donate items for the silent auction. Do I want to organize all of the volunteers for the school fiesta? No, but I'll volunteer for an hour to sell tickets or just contribute money. I've learned to say no to things that I'll end up dreading, and to say yes in a way that I won't hate.
Saying no is freeing. It's beautiful to be invited to an out of town wedding for a passing acquaintance and politely decline to attend. It's nice to not to go to every single class my daughter takes and feel like I'm a bad parent if I don't pay close attention to her every move. It feels good when I take care of myself by not committing to go to multiple events on a given day because it's just too much all at once.
I've also gotten better at realizing that I don't need to give an excuse or an explanation for saying no. I get to just say "no thank you" or "that's not my thing" or "I have a conflict" and that's enough. I get to manage my time, priorities and energy as I see fit--and everyone gets to be okay with that.
Time Management Skill #2: The "Stop Doing" List
In life, all of us have received a talking to regarding the value of sticking with things. I came equipped with way to much of that skill. I am the queen of work more, try harder and overachieve. I kept on dating someone way after it was clear that the relationship was going nowhere. I stayed involved in organizations long after the benefit to me was gone out of a sense of obligation (and probably of my own importance). I stayed in jobs that had stopped being interesting because it was easier to stay than it was to find something I'd like more. I've kept going with lots of things because "I'm no quitter!"
Today, I am proud to be a quitter. It's just a matter of figuring out when it's time to keep trying, and when it's time to call it a day.
I decided to end a marriage when there was nothing else constructive I could do to make it work that would not seriously impede my own happiness and self worth. I quit volunteering to run an art festival when I realized it was a source of stress instead of a source of joy. I quit a part time job because the hours were terrible and my time was more valuable to me than the small amount of pay I was receiving. Knowing that you don't actually have to finish everything you start is an important life lesson to learn.
My "stop doing" list was a welcome relief to obligations I was taking on for no good reason. I stopped getting together with friends who weren't fun. I stopped going to family gatherings where my drive time was way longer than time I would get to spend with individual people at the event. I quit finishing books that I started reading, but didn't like and stopped watching tv shows that lost my interest. I also quit denying the fact that I need a fair amount of alone time to maintain my happiness.
Quitting really is freeing when you don't view it as failure, but a non-judgmental ending that opens up the possibility of new beginnings.
Time Management Skill #3: Trying New Things
Really? How is trying new things a time management skill? For me time management is really happiness management. Part of my ongoing happiness comes from learning and trying new things. Now that I've freed up time by saying no and quitting things that no longer serve me, I have time available to try whatever appeals to me at the place I am in life.
Recently, I tried soma yoga, started a roller derby skills class and decided to go roller skating with my daughter weekly. I now block off time to blog and read. I also spend time with my husband, go to movies at my favorite local theatre, schedule much-needed introverting time and hike new trails with my best friend. Over time, I'll hang on to what I still enjoy, move on from what I've discovered isn't my thing. Maximizing my time (whatever that looks like to me) makes me feel better.
What About You?
Many people think of retirement as the magical day when they no longer have to work. The reality is that retirement is not just a one-time event. Instead, retirement is a phase of your life that could last decades. Part of the challenge of planning is making sure that you have enough saved in your retirement account so you can enjoy yourself without outliving your money.
My Experience with Retirement Planning
In a previous life, I worked as a corporate trainer supporting a group of Financial Coaches in one organization’s Retirement Planning Group. The goal of this team was to help people prepare to retire. This included financial coaching conversations about topics including saving, investment options, health care, and the million factors to be considered when figuring out the logistics of retiring. In addition, we also focused on helping people envision the lives they want to lead, and figuring out what financial resources would be necessary to make those retirement dreams a reality.
A Note on the Use of The Information in this Article
Here is my disclaimer regarding the content in this article. (We all know there has to be one of these just to set the record straight.) The ideas included are for educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial advice. Concepts covered here are overly simplified examples of basic retirement related information. Please consult a qualified financial professional to learn additional details about each financial concept and to help you figure out what is right for you.
Just Tell me the Magic Number
Now, let’s get back to an often asked question about retirement planning. Many time, when having initial conversations about retirement, people just wanted us to tell them what they perceived to be a very simple question: How much money do I need to save for retirement?
One Common Answer
Sometimes, articles on retirement planning suggest a simple answer that even includes an actual dollar amount: $1,000,000.
That’s right. ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Doesn’t that sound like a CRAZY amount of money? Certainly, if I had a million dollars, I’d be rich—and for sure able to do whatever I wanted in retirement.
One Key Factor: How Long Will Retirement Last
The trick with retirement is that it may last a really long time—think 30, 35 or even 40 years. When we’re working, we get more money every couple of weeks as long as we stay employed. In retirement, though, we start with a big pile of money and our goal is to figure out how to not run out of money while we’re still alive. So how do we do that?
How Much Yearly Income Could You Get from $1,000,000?
One common strategy for attempting to not outlive your retirement money is the 4% rule.
In super-oversimplified terms, the thought is that if you withdraw 4% of your total account value annually, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll have enough money to last you for 30 years. (Notice that the word “guarantee” is nowhere in this statement. There are no guarantees. There is only planning as best we can and adjusting our plan as we deal with the challenges life throws at us.)
Basically, if you start with $1,000,000 in retirement savings, and use the 4% rule as a guide, in your first year of retirement, you would withdraw $40,000 worth of income. If you’re for real using the 4% rule, you’d adjust what you take out each year based on inflation—meaning that you’ll typically end up taking out a little more each year.
How Much Do You Need?
Translating $1,000,000 into about $40,000 a year puts that amount in perspective. Depending on your lifestyle, you may need to save more, or less, money for retirement. One commonly recommendation for figuring out much income you need is to anticipate that you’ll need to replace approximately 85% of your pre-retirement income. If for example, your pre-retirement income is $50,000 per year, 85% of that would be $42,500. (Again, in this super-simplified version doesn’t consider other sources of retirement income, like Social Security, or inflation.)
One way to estimate the amount you may need to save is to take what you anticipate to be the annual income you want, multiply that number by 25, and use that as your overall savings goal. If, for example, you decide your annual desired income from your retirement account is $75,000 per year, $1,875,000 could be your desired retirement savings goal. (Again, in this super-simplified version doesn’t consider other sources of retirement income, like Social Security, or inflation.)
So Now What?
Check out these resources to give you another take on these topics. Don’t take my word for it—keep learning more so you can make the best decision for you.
Standard Personal Financial Advice
When it comes to basic financial advice, we all know what we're supposed to do. Spend less than you earn. Save for retirement. Pay down your debts. This covers the what, and a little bit of the how, but skips the most important part: the why.
Your Values Impact Your Budget
When figuring out how to budget your money, you need to know what you care about and how that influences what you spend your money on. Without thinking thorough the why, you may catch yourself spending money on things you don't really value just to keep up appearances--or because you think you should spend on those things.
Most of us inherently know what we care about, but we have a hard time putting it into words. Fortunately, Think 2 Perform offers a free, online tool that can help you name and prioritize your values. For me, this tool helped me translate my ambiguous thoughts about what matters to me into a few helpful terms.
Here are my top 5 identified values:
What Those Values Mean to Me
Here's what each value tangibly means to me:
How Values Translate to Spending
So how do those values translate to how I choose to spend my money? Here are a few examples on how this manifests itself :
So Now What Should You Do?
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I learn for a living. I distill my research into useful blog entries. Geek, parent, knitter, yogi, writer, educator, businessperson, gluten intolerant & roller derby nerd.