Tag: Grow

529 Plans: A Complete Guide to Funding Future Education

Do you have kids? Are there children in your life? Were you once a child? If you plan on helping pay for a child’s future education, then you’ll benefit from this complete guide to 529 plans. We’ll cover every detail of 529 plans, from the what/when/why basics to the more complex tax implications and investing ideas.

This article was 100% inspired by my Patrons. Between Jack, Nathan, Remi, other kiddos in my life (and a few buns in the oven), there are a lot of young Best Interest readers out there. And one day, they’ll probably have some education expenses. That’s why their parents asked me to write about 529 plans this week.

What is a 529 Plan?

The 529 college savings plan is a tax-advantaged investment account meant specifically for education expenses. As of the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (in 2017), 529 plans can be used for college costs, K-12 public school costs, or private and/or religious school tuition. If you will ever need to pay for your children’s education, then 529 plans are for you.

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529 plans are named in a similar fashion as the famous 401(k). That is, the name comes from the specific U.S. tax code where the plan was written into law. It’s in Section 529 of Internal Revenue Code 26. Wow—that’s boring!

But it turns out that 529 plans are strange amalgam of federal rules and state rules. Let’s start breaking that down.

Tax Advantages

Taxes are important! 529 college savings plans provide tax advantages in a manner similar to Roth accounts (i.e. different than traditional 401(k) accounts). In a 529 plan, you pay all your normal taxes today. Your contributions to the 529 plan, therefore, are made with after-tax dollars.

Any investment you make within your 529 plan is then allowed to grow tax-free. Future withdrawals—used for qualified education expenses—are also tax-free. Pay now, save later.

But wait! Those are just the federal income tax benefits. Many individual states offer state tax benefits to people participating in 529 plans. As of this writing, 34 states and Washington D.C. offer these benefits. Of the 16 states not participating, nine of those don’t have any state income tax. The seven remaining states—California, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, New Jersey, and North Carolina—all have state income taxes, yet do not offer income tax benefits to their 529 plan participants. Boo!

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This makes 529 plans an oddity. There’s a Federal-level tax advantage that applies to everyone. And then there might be a state-level tax advantage depending on which state you use to setup your plan.

Two Types of 529 Plans

The most common 529 plan is the college savings program. The less common 529 is the prepaid tuition program.

The savings program can be thought of as a parallel to common retirement investing accounts. A person can put money into their 529 plan today. They can invest that money in a few different ways (details further in the article). At a later date, they can then use the full value of their account at any eligible institution—in state or out of state. The value of their 529 plan will be dependent on their investing choices and how those investments perform.

The prepaid program is a little different. This plan is only offered by certain states (currently only 10 are accepting new applicants) and even by some individual colleges/universities. The prepaid program permits citizens to buy tuition credits at today’s tuition rates. Those credits can then be used in the future at in-state universities. However, using these credits outside of the state they were bought in can result in not getting full value.

You don’t choose investments in the prepaid program. You just buy credit’s today that can be redeemed in the future.

The savings program is universal, flexible, and grows based on your investments.

The prepaid program is not offered everywhere, works best at in-state universities, and grows based on how quickly tuition is changing (i.e. the difference between today’s tuition rate and the future tuition rate when you use the credit.)

Example: a prepaid credit would have cost ~$13,000 for one year of tuition in 2000. That credit would have been worth ~$24,000 of value if used in 2018. (Source)

What are “Qualified Education Expenses?”

You can only spend your 529 plan dollars on “qualified education expenses.” Turns out, just about anything associated with education costs can be paid for using 529 plan funds. Qualified education expenses include:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Room and board (as long as the beneficiary attends school at least half-time). Off-campus housing is even covered, as long as it’s less than on-campus housing.

Student loans and student loan interest were added to this list in 2019, but there’s a lifetime limit of $10,000 per person.

How Do You “Invest” Your 529 Plan Funds?

529 savings plans do more than save. Their real power is as a college investment plan. So, how can you “invest” this tax-advantaged money?

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There’s a two-part answer to how your 529 plan funds are invested. The first part is that only savings plans can be invested, not prepaid plans. The second part is that it depends on what state you’re in.

For example, let’s look at my state: New York. It offers both age-based options and individual portfolios.

The age-based option places your 529 plan on one of three tracks: aggressive, moderate, or conservative. As your child ages, the portfolio will automatically re-balance based on the track you’ve chosen.

The aggressive option will hold more stocks for longer into your child’s life—higher risk, higher rewards. The conservative option will skew towards bonds and short-term reserves. In all cases, the goal is to provide some level of growth in early years, and some level of stability in later years.

The individual portfolios are similar to the age-based option, but do not automatically re-balance. There are aggressive and conservative and middle-ground choices. Thankfully, you can move funds from one portfolio to another up to twice per year. This allowed rebalancing is how you can achieve the correct risk posture.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Using a 529 Plan

The advantages of using the 529 as a college investing plan are clear. First, there’s the tax-advantaged nature of it, likely saving you tens of thousands of dollars. Another benefit is the aforementioned ease of investing using a low-maintenance, age-based investing accounts. Most states offer them.

Other advantages include the high maximum contribution limit (ranging by state, from a low of $235K to a high of $529K), the reasonable financial aid treatment, and, of course, the flexibility.

If your child doesn’t end up using their 529 plan, you can transfer it to another relative. If you don’t like your state’s 529 offering, you can open an account in a different state. You can even use your 529 plan to pay for primary education at a private school or a religious school.

But the 529 plan isn’t perfect. There are disadvantages too.

For example, the prepaid 529 plan involves a considerable up-front cost—in the realm of $100,000 over four years. That’s a lot of money. Also, your proactive saving today ends up affecting your child’s financial aid package in the future. It feels a bit like a punishment for being responsible. That ain’t right!

Of course, a 529 plan is not a normal investing account. If you don’t use the money for educational purposes, you will face a penalty. And if you want to hand-pick your 529 investments? Well, you can’t do that. Similar to many 401(k) programs, your state’s 529 program probably only offers a few different fund choices.

529 Plan FAQ

Here are some of the most common questions about 529 education savings plans. And I even provide answers!

How do I open a 529 plan?

Virtually all states now have online portals that allow you to open 529 plans from the comfort of your home. A few online forms and email messages is all it takes.

Can I contribute to someone else’s 529?

You sure can! If you have a niece or nephew or grandchild or simply a friend, you can make a third-party contribution to their 529 plan. You don’t have to be their parent, their relative, or the person who opened the account.

Investing in someone else’s knowledge is a terrific gift.

Does a 529 plan affect financial aid?

Short answer: yes, but it’s better than how many other assets affect financial aid.

Longer answer: yes, having a 529 plan will likely reduce the amount of financial aid a student receives. The first $10,000 in a 529 plan is not part of the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) equation. It’s not “counted against you.” After that $10,000, remaining 529 plan funds are counted in the EFC equation, but cap at 5.46% of the parental assets (many other assets are capped higher, e.g. at 20%).

Similarly, 529 plan distributions are not included in the “base year income” calculations in the FAFSA application. This is another benefit in terms of financial aid.

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Finally, 529 plan funds owned by non-parents (e.g. grandparents) are not part of the FAFSA EFC equation. This is great! The downside occurs when the non-parent actually withdraws the funds on behalf of the student. At that time, 50% of those funds count as “student income,” thus lowering the student’s eligibility for aid.

Are there contribution limits?

Kinda sorta. It’s a little complicated.

There is no official annual contribution limit into a 529 plan. But, you should know that 529 contributions are considered “completed gifts” in federal tax law, and that those gifts are capped at $15,000 per year in 2020 and 2021.

After $15,000 of contributions in one year, the remainder must be reported to the IRS against the taxpayer’s (not the student’s) lifetime estate and gift tax exemption.

Additionally, each state has the option of limiting the total 529 plan balances for a particular beneficiary. My state (NY) caps this limit at $520,000. That’s easily high enough to pay for 4 years of college at current prices.

Another state-based limit involves how much income tax savings a contributor can claim per year. In New York, for example, only the first $5,000 (or $10,000 if a married couple) are eligible for income tax savings.

Can I use my state’s 529 plan in another state? Do I need to create 529 plans in multiple states?

Yes, you can use your state’s 529 plan in another state. And mostly likely no, you do not need to create 529 plans in multiple states.

First, I recommend scrolling up to the savings program vs. prepaid program description. Savings programs are universal and transferrable. My 529 savings plan could pay for tuition in any other state, and even some other countries.

But prepaid tuition accounts typically have limitations in how they transfer. Prepaid accounts typically apply in full to in-state, state-sponsored schools. They might not apply in full to out-of-state and/or private schools.

What if my kid is Lebron James and doesn’t go to college? Can I get my money back?

It’s a great question. And the answer is yes, there are multiple ways to recoup your money if the beneficiary doesn’t end up using it for education savings.

First, you can avoid all penalties by changing the beneficiary of the funds. You can switch to another qualifying family member. Instead of paying for Lebron’s college, you can switch those funds to his siblings, to a future grandchild, or even to yourself (if you wanted to go back to school).

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What if you just want you money back? The contributions that you initially made come back to you tax-free and penalty-free. After all, you already paid taxes on those. Any earnings you’ve made on those contributions are subject to normal income tax, and then a 10% federal penalty tax.

The 10% penalty is waived in certain situations, such as the beneficiary receiving a tax-free scholarship or attending a U.S. military academy.

And remember those state income tax breaks we discussed earlier? Those tax breaks might get recaptured (oh no!) if you end up taking non-qualified distributions from your 529 plan.

Long story short: try to the keep the funds in a 529 plan, especially is someone in your family might benefit from them someday. Otherwise, you’ll pay some taxes and penalties.

Graduation

It’s time to don my robe and give a speech. Keep on learning, you readers, for:

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

-Ben Franklin

Oh snap! Yes, that is how the blog got its name. Giving others the gift of education is a wonderful thing, and 529 plans are one way the U.S. government allows you to do so.

If you enjoyed this article and want to read more, I’d suggest checking out my Archive or Subscribing to get future articles emailed to your inbox.

This article—just like every other—is supported by readers like you.

Source: bestinterest.blog

Grow Your Money: Mutual Funds, Index Funds, & CDs

If you’re looking to save money for a short, intermediate or long-term goal, such as retirement, you need to find a safe place to park it, earn interest, and have fairly access to your money.

But, how do you find such a safe place?

The good news is that there are several places to put your hard-earned savings.

Besides a savings account, three of the most common accounts available to you are mutual funds, index funds and certificate of deposits.

We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these short and long-term investments below.

Before we go in detail with the differences between these accounts, you might be wondering about mutual fund.

You may have heard a lot about certificate of deposits, but you may not know a lot about mutual funds.

But one thing you should know is that the question of ‘what is a mutual fund?’ is searched online more than 16,000 each month.

So people are actively looking for the definition. This is what a mutual fund is:

What is a mutual fund?

A mutual fund is an investment vehicle, where investors pool their money together to buy shares.

A professional manager manages the fund. They invest the money for you in securities such as stocks and bonds.

However, a mutual fund differs from an index fund, a certificate of deposit, or Vanguard CDs. 

CDs are safer than mutual funds and index funds, because mutual funds and index funds invest in stocks and bonds. One type of mutual fund, money market fund, invests in money and is quite safe.

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Nonetheless, mutual funds and index funds in general are safe for various reasons (more on this below).

One thing for sure is that in most cases, you can expect a higher return on your investment with a mutual fund and index fund than a certificate of deposit.

However, be ready to come up with a bigger minimum deposit with a mutual fund and index fund.

Mutual funds vs index funds vs certificate of deposits: what’s the difference?

All of these accounts are safe comparing to investing in individual stocks. However, there are key differences between mutual funds, index funds and certificate of deposits.

First of all, most mutual funds and index funds invest in stocks or bonds — with the exception of money market funds, which invest in “money.” 

Even though there is a possibility that shares in a mutual fund and index fund can drop significantly due to volatility of the stock market, mutual funds and index funds return a much higher yield than a certificate of deposit.

However, index funds deliver a better return than mutual funds.

Index funds, unlike mutual funds, are managed by a computer. An index fund simply invests to match the performance of an index such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks.

So, they stay invested and thus deliver better returns.

Unlike certificate of deposits, mutual funds and index funds do not require you to keep money for a specific period of time.

With a mutual fund, just like an index fund, you are free to withdraw your money at anytime you want. In other words, there is no penalty for selling your share in a mutual funds.

However, CDs have something that mutual funds and index funds lack. They are insured by the federal government (FDIC insurance) for up to $250,000. That means your money is always protected.

Having said, mutual funds that invests in stocks or bonds are still safe due to their diversification.

Mutual funds are safe, because they invest in dozens of stocks (from large, mid, and small size companies) across different and multiple industries.

Advantages and disadvantages of mutual funds vs index funds vs CDs

To understand better how these products can grow your money, it’s important to know their pros and cons. Here they are:

Mutual Funds

Generally, mutual funds offer higher returns than certificate of deposit.

Pros

  • Higher returns: Compared with CDs and savings account, expect a a higher return on your money.
  • Accessibility: You can easily sell your shares, either via your fund company’s website online or via their toll-free number. Also, most money market funds offer check-writing privileges.
  • Diversification:  while most mutual funds can be risky (especially those that invest in stocks), their diversification make them a safer investment. Most mutual funds own stocks or bonds from dozens of companies across multiple industries. So, if one stock is not doing well, another stock can balance it out.  

Cons

  • Less safe: Unlike CDs which are FDIC insured, mutual funds are not. If you want to make sure that you don’t lose your money because you want it in the short term, stick with money market funds. Although, they too are not federally insured, they are considered very safe.
  • Initial investment minimum: Most mutual funds have high minimum investment requirements compared with saving accounts and certificate of deposits. Many mutual funds have minimums of $3,000 or more.

Index Funds 

Index funds, unlike mutual funds, are passive. That means they are managed by a computer and not actively managed by a fund manager.

Index funds seek to track the performance of a particular index, such as the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of 500 large U.S. company stocks or the CRSP US Small Cap Index.

Index funds don’t jump around; they stayed invested in the market.

Pros

Easy to purchase: Just like mutual funds, you can buy index funds through fund companies like Vanguard and Fidelity.

Expense is low: Like mutual funds, index funds have low-cost, which is usually less than 1% annually. This lower operating expenses help boost your returns. 

Diversification: Another benefit of index funds is that they are diversified. Like mutual funds, they invest in multiple companies, thus spreading out the risk.

Tax-friendlier: When you invest in index funds in non-retirement accounts, you are taxed less than you would in mutual funds.

Because mutual fund managers are actively buying and selling in an attempt to increase returns, that increase a fund’s taxable capital gains distributions. Index funds are traded less frequently. 

Cons:

One of the downside with index funds, is that they won’t outperform the market they track.

Certificate of Deposit

If you need safety and a competitive yield on your money, CD is a good place for you. But you will need to agree to leave a certain amount of money with a bank for a specific period of time.

If you withdraw your money before the agreed period of time, you will end up paying a penalty.

Depending on the length of the CD and the amount of money you put in, you might earn a higher return than a regular savings account, but not a mutual fund.

Pros

  • Safety: CDs like savings accounts are federally insured up to $250,000. That means your money is protected.
  • Interest rate: CDs pay a higher interest rate than savings account. 
  • No fees: Unless you don’t withdraw your money before maturity, there is no fee.

Cons

Low accessibility: When you invest in a CD, the money is not easily accessible. You can withdraw the money, but a penalty will apply.

Penalty: if you withdraw your money before it becomes “due” or before it “matures,” then you will pay a penalty.

However, there are some banks that offer CDs with no penalty. But these CDs usually come with lower APYs.

Who should benefits from mutual funds, index funds and CDs? 

Choosing among a mutual fund, index fund, and CDs depend on your goals (whether short-term and long term) and your current financial situation.

If you don’t have a lot of money, it might make sense to start with a CD, since some CDs have minimum deposit requirement as low as $1000 or less.

A CD investment can be used as short-term investment as well.

If you’re thinking of buying a house in 2 years  and want the money for the down payment, a CD is a good choice.

But if you’re thinking of tapping into your money at any time, then a savings account can be a better option.

On the other hand, if you want to save for retirement, mutual funds and index funds are good long-term investments.

These investment vehicles are the most aggressive because they invest in stocks and bonds. More specifically, they are good for you if:

  • don’t expect to tap your money for 5 years or more;
  • you want to maximize your income and are willing to tolerate the stock market volatility.

How to use mutual funds, index funds, and CDs for your saving goals

These accounts can help you save money for different type of goals.

If you invest money for long-term goals, such as retirement, index funds and mutual funds are great choices.

So, don’t use these funds to invest money you plan to use in the next 5 years or so, because the stock market can drop significantly and you can lose your money.

For short-term goals, consider CDs. As mentioned, CDs are a safe, higher-yielding alternative to savings accounts.

Best Index Funds

So what are the best index funds?

No doubt, Vanguard has some of the best index funds. Among them is the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Admiral (VFIAX). 

This fund invest in 500 of largest U.S. companies with a few a midsize stocks. Some of the big companies in this index fund includes Apple (AAPL), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google/Alphabet (GOOGL).

Moreover, this Vanguard index fund has a pretty low cost, (0.04%) if not the lowest of all the index funds.

Plus, the initial minimum investment is also low ($3,000).

So if you’re looking for an index fund that maintains low operating expenses while enjoying a good rate of return, the Vanguard S&P 500 Index Admiral is for you.

Best Mutual Funds

We are big fan of Vanguard Mutual funds. The reason is simply because they are of high quality, reasonably cheap, professionally managed and are cost-efficient.

So, if you’re in the market for the best Vanguard funds, you have many options to choose from. One is the Vanguard Total Stock Market Admiral (VTSAX).

This Vanguard fund gives long term investors a broad exposure to the entire US equity market, including large, mid, and small cap growth stocks.

Some of the largest stocks include Apple, Facebook, Johnson And Johnson, Alphabet, Berkshire Hathaway, etc…

Note this Vanguard fund invests exclusively in stock. So it’s the most aggressive Vanguard fund around. You need a minimum of $3000 to invest in this fund. The expenses are 0.04%, which is extremely low.

Best CDs

Vanguard CDs are the best out there. But you should know that Vanguard only offers brokered CDs.

Banks issue brokered CDs. Banks sell them in bulk to brokerage firms such as Vanguard and Fidelity.

Vanguard CDs are some of the best, because they offer higher rates than most Bank CDs.

In conclusion, there are several options to choose from when it comes to finding a safe place to save and invest your hard-earned money.

Speak with the Right Financial Advisor

  • If you have questions beyond investing in index funds, mutual funds and CDs, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).
  • Find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.
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The post Grow Your Money: Mutual Funds, Index Funds, & CDs appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

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Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift

If you have a special child in your life, you may be wondering what to put under the tree this year. One long-lasting and truly meaningful way to show the child in your life that you care is by taking a few minutes to set up a UGMA/UTMA account and give them a leg up in life.

The earlier you open a UGMA or UTMA account for a child, the longer your initial gift has to grow, thanks to the magic of compound interest. For example, investing just $5 a day from birth at an 8% return could make that child a millionaire by the age of 50. By setting up a UGMA/UTMA account, you’re really giving your beneficiary a present that grows all year round. Now, that’s a gift they’re sure to remember!

What is a UGMA/UTMA account?

UGMA is an abbreviation for the Uniform Gifts to Minors Act. And UTMA stands for Uniform Transfers to Minors Act. Both UGMA and UTMA accounts are custodial accounts created for the benefit of a minor (or beneficiary).

The money in a UGMA/UTMA account can be used for educational expenses (like college tuition), along with anything that benefits the child – including housing, transportation, technology, and more. On the other hand, 529 plans can only be used for qualified educational expenses, like summer camps, school uniforms, or private school tuition and fees.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that you cannot use UGMA/UTMA funds to provide the child with items that parents or guardians would be reasonably expected to provide, such as food, shelter, and clothing. Another important point is that when you set up a UGMA/UTMA account, the money is irrevocably transferred to the child, meaning it cannot be returned to the donor.

 

Tax advantages of a UGMA/UTMA account

The contributions you make to a UGMA/UTMA account are not tax-deductible in the year that you make the contribution, and they are subject to gift tax limits. The income that you receive each year from the UGMA/UTMA account does have special tax advantages when compared to income that you would get in a traditional investment account, making it a great tax-advantaged option for you to invest in the child you love.

 

Here’s how that works. In 2020, the first $1,100 of investment income earned in a UGMA/UTMA account may be claimed on the custodian’s’ tax return, tax free. The next $1,100 is then taxed at the child’s (usually much lower) tax rate. Any income in excess of those amounts must be claimed at the custodian’s regular tax rate.

A few things to be aware of with UGMA/UTMA accounts

While there’s no doubt that UGMA/UTMA accounts have several advantages and a place in your overall financial portfolio, there are a few things to consider before you open up a UGMA/UTMA account:

 

  • When the child reaches the age of majority (usually 18 or 21, depending on the specifics of the plan), the money is theirs, without restriction.
  • When the UGMA/UTMA funds are released, they are factored into the minor’s assets.
  • The value of these assets will factor into the minor’s financial aid calculations, and may play a big role in determining if they qualify for certain programs, such as SSDI and Medicaid.

Where you can open a UGMA/UTMA account

Many financial services companies and brokerages offer UGMA or UTMA accounts. One option is the Acorns Early program from Acorns. Acorns Early is a UGMA/UTMA account that is included with the Acorns Family plan, which costs $5 / month. Acorns Early takes 5 minutes to set up, and you can add multiple kids at no extra charge. The Acorns Family plan also includes  Acorns Invest, Later, and Spend so you can manage all of the family’s finances, from one easy app.

 

During a time where many of us are laying low this holiday season due to COVID-19, remember that presents don’t just need to be a material possession your loved one unwraps, and then often forgets about. Give the gift of lasting impact through a UGMA/UTMA account.

The post Why UGMA/UTMA Accounts Are the Perfect Holiday Gift appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer’s Help

How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer's Help

Saving for retirement is easy to put off, but delaying ultimately can make your life harder. Even if your work does not provide any retirement savings plan, you can still make it happen. It may seem frustrating to watch your friends add up their matching 401(k) contributions, but you do not have to be any further from post-work bliss than they are. Check out these tips on saving for retirement without your employer’s help.

Identify Your Goal

Carefully consider how you plan to live after you leave work so you can calculate how much savings you need for retirement. Once you have an amount in mind, you can figure out a realistic payment plan to reach it. A good rule of thumb is stashing 10% to 15% of your income for retirement. If that isn’t affordable, you can start with a smaller amount and grow your savings from there. One tactic is to just get started with a number you can afford and increasing your savings by 1% every year.

Know Your Options

Even without employer help, there are plenty of ways to save for retirement. An IRA, or individual retirement account, is the most common non-employer plan and opening one should be your first step in most cases. Contributions to a traditional IRA are tax-deductible, while nondeductible Roth IRAs are tax-free on withdrawal so investigate carefully which is best for you. Before investing, consider the risks, timing, fees and your liquidity needs — a financial professional can help you construct a portfolio.

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Put Your Savings on Autopilot

No matter what type of account you use, it’s a good idea to have the amount automatically transferred from your checking account once you get paid. This way you cannot make a decision that something else is more important than retirement saving and you can more easily stick to your commitment. It is also a good idea to increase your monthly deposit with every raise or bonus so you will likely have what you need to retire how and when you want.

The most important part about retirement planning is saving early and often — whether you have help from your employer or not, it’s important to get educated about retirement saving and take control of your finances. You can establish and maximize your retirement fund no matter how difficult or far away it may seem.

More Money-Saving Reads:

  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • What’s a Bad Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

Image: iStock

The post How to Save for Retirement Without Your Employer’s Help appeared first on Credit.com.

Source: credit.com

How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?

long-term care can help you or a loved one live comfortably well into their Golden Years

A 55-year-old can expect to pay a long-term care insurance premium of $2,050 per year on average, according to a 2019 price index survey of leading insurers conducted by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTC). That will cover $164,000 in benefits when the policyholder takes out the insurance and $386,500 at age 85. (Policies often include an inflation rider.) However, long-term care insurance costs vary widely, depending on factors like your age, health condition and the specific policies of your insurance carrier. The AALTC estimates that a single 55-year-old can pay around $1,325 to $2,550 a year for a policy. That’s why it’s important to shop around to find the best rates and terms. You should also speak with a financial advisor who can help you plan the future.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost?

The AALTC provides the following estimates of annual premiums based on its 2019 study of different long-term care insurance carriers.

Annual Premium Estimates Status Age Premium Single Male 55 $2,050 Single Female 55 $2,700 Couple 55 $3,050 (Combined cost)

Keep in mind, though, that these are only averages based on a pool of data gathered from leading insurance carriers. The costs of long-term care insurance can vary widely,  depending on several key factors. We explore some of these below.

Health: Some medical conditions will disqualify you from even being able to purchase a policy, including muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and dementia. That’s because insurers will likely lose money on those policies. Generally, the healthier you are, the less likely you’ll ever need to file a claim – and so the lower your premium.

Age: In general, you’ll pay more in long-term care insurance if you take out a policy when you’re older, since you’re probably less healthy and you’re closer to needing the assistance the policy covers. This is why the AALTCI recommends you begin shopping for long-term care insurance between the ages of 52 of 64.

Marital status: When combined, premiums tend to be lower for married couples than they would be for individuals paying for a personal policy.

Gender: Because women tend to live longer than men and make claims more frequently than their male counter parts, women tend to pay more for insurance premiums. The AALTCI study showed that a single female pays an annual premium of $3,050 on average while the single man that age paid $2,050.

Carrier policies: Each insurance carrier sets its own rates and underwriting standards. In fact, costs for the same services can vary widely from one company to another. This is why you should gather quotes from various carriers. You can also work with an experienced long-term care insurance agent who can gather these for you and help you understand the differences between insurance policies. They can also help you determine the kind of coverage you’re likely to need, so you don’t over-insure.

Should I Get Long-Term Care Insurance?

Long-term care costs can climb high, so you'd want to start saving now.

The average 65-year-old today has a 70% chance of needing some kind of long-term care eventually, according to the Urban Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Of those who need it, most would use it for about two years, but around 20% would require it for more than five years.

The smart money, then, would prepare for this significant cost. To give you a sense of how much bills can run, below are the estimated annual costs of different types of long-term care services, according to Genworth Financial, which has been tracking them since 2004.

Estimated Annual Costs Type of Services Price Private room nursing home $102,000 Assisted living facility $48,612 Home care aide $52,624 Home care homemaker $51,480

What’s more, costs have been rising faster than even inflation. Genworth found that the average cost of home-care services increased about $892 annually each year between 2004 and 2019. The average cost for a private room in a nursing home jumped by about $2,468 each year during the same time period, currently putting the average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home at $89,297 per year. As noted before, about 20% of Americans will require more than five years of care.

Unfortunately, with these costs, many retirement nest eggs will come up short. And contrary to popular belief, Medicare covers only limited medical costs, e.g., brief nursing home stays and narrow amounts of skilled nursing or rehabilitation services. The scope for Medicaid is even smaller. On average, it covers about 22 days of home care services if you meet very low income thresholds.

Of course, there’s no way of knowing how much long-term care coverage you’ll need. But knowing what long-term care insurance does and doesn’t cover is key to making sure you’re not over- or under-protected.

What Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cover?

Long-term health insurance typically covers services not provided for by regular health insurance. This can include assistance with completing daily tasks like eating, bathing and moving around. In the industry, these are known as activities of daily living (ADLs). Long-term care insurance policies generally would reimburse you for these services in such locations as:

  • Your home
  • Adult day care center
  • Assisted living facility
  • Nursing home

Some policies also cover care related to chronic medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.

But keep in mind that these are generalizations. There is no industry standard that sets ADL requirements for claim eligibility or what kinds of illnesses long-term care insurance will cover. Each insurance carrier makes its own rules.

So it’s essential to understand when coverage kicks in – and for how long. Policies used to provide coverage for life, but now most cap benefits at one to five years. If possible, some experts recommend extending the initial period when you are not compensated for costs (it’s often 90 days) in exchange for a longer period on the other end of receiving benefits. You also will want to know how premiums may increase over time and whether the cap on benefits will, too. Some carriers allow you to place an inflation rider that increases your daily benefit every year. That increase can be up to 3%.

How Does Long-Term Care Insurance Work?

After you apply for long-term care insurance, the insurer may request your medical records and ask you some questions about your health. You can choose the type of coverage you want, but the insurer must approve you.

When the company issues you a policy, you begin paying premiums every year. Once you qualify for benefits, which is often defined by not being able to perform a set number of ADLs, and the required waiting period has passed, you can file a claim. The insurance company then reviews your submitted medical records and may send a nurse to perform an evaluation before approving a payout. Once approved, you will be reimbursed for paid services, up to the cap on your policy.

Ideally, you’ll stay healthy and your long-term care needs will be minimal. Though your premiums will add up over time, this is one situation where you hope not to get your money’s worth. On the bright side, to lessen the hit to your wallet, the government may give you a tax break.

Tax Relief for Long-Term Care Premiums

If you don't lock in your long term care insurance cost when you are relatively healthy, it will only rise as you age and your health declines.

Some or all of the long-term care premiums you pay may be tax deductible at the federal and state level. But you must make these payments toward a tax-qualified insurance policy. Also, you must meet certain income thresholds.

Maximum Deductible Premium

Age Maximum Deduction 40 or under $420 41 to 50 $790 51 to 60 $1,580 61 to 70 $4,220 71 and over $5,220 How to Buy Long-Term Care Insurance

You can purchase long-term care insurance directly from carriers or through a sales agent. The agent can help you shop around for comparable rates. This professional can also help you understand how different policies work and what they offer.

Also, you may be able to get long-term care insurance through your employer. Some allow you to purchase policies at discounted group rates. However, you should get quotes from multiple insurance companies. In some cases, you may find better rates for more suitable policies that aren’t through your employer.

How to Calculate Your Long-Term Care Insurance Costs

Some websites such as Genworth Financial provide interactive calculators that can estimate what long-term care premiums may be like in your area. Prices and policies can vary, depending on the state.

Tips on Paying for Long-Term Care 

  • If you have a health savings account (HSA), you may want to start socking away more money in it for long-term care. Also called health IRAs, these plans allow your money to grow tax deferred. (But you have to have a high-deductible health plan to open an HSA). To find out more, check out our report on the best HSAs.
  • Don’t go it alone. A financial advisor can help you devise an insurance plan and figure out how you’re going to pay for it. If you are in the market to buy insurance now, some advisors are also licensed insurance agents. Use our matching tool to find the right advisor for you.

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The post How Much Does Long-Term Care Insurance Cost? appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

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