Personal Finance Blog


What Options Exist for Workers Nearing Retirement?

When you begin to reach retirement age, building up your savings really takes on a whole new level of importance. You might be facing the prospect of coming up short in your 401-k or other retirement savings, and are wondering with some despondency how you’re going to be able to retire at all, given the escalating cost of medical care, rising cost of living, and relatively poor performance in traditional investments.

The first thing you have to do is put away your despair. It won’t be that bad. With a little care and preparation, you should be able to at least enjoy those aspects of your retirement that are most important to you. Sure, you may not get to buy that globe-trotting ticket you had dreamed about, but really, even that can probably be pared down a little bit, providing you with at least enough experiences to be satisfied with the life you’ve led.

It’s important, though, to keep saving up as much as possible in tax-deferred accounts. You may find yourself having to sell some non-necessities, particularly things like expensive cars or other big-ticket toys that you may feel you’ve earned, but in particular if you’re making payments on those items, or on other heavy debts, retirement will be a lot less enjoyable later on. Sure, it might be great to cruise around on that brand-new Harley Davidson, but if you can’t afford to put gas in it, it won’t be so great, will it?

In the last ten years of your full-time working life, it’s a great time to really sock money away for your retirement. Many retirement plans allow you to make catch-up contributions in these years, so take advantage of them as much as possible.

Finally, work hard to get your debts paid off, and keep them paid off. Crazy, irrational spending will only weigh you down and prevent you from actually being able to relax in your retirement. Get your household budget worked out, and start living at the level you’ll need to retire on, and find yourself much more able to enjoy the fruits of your labor later on. Sure, it may be necessary to work part-time when you retire if you haven’t saved up enough, but these days, it’s actually pretty unusual to see retirees who don’t work at least a little bit to keep themselves busy, active, and to supplement retirement income streams.

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Should I Start an IRA if I’m young?

If you’re new to the working world, it can be a bit tough to navigate the financial world that you suddenly find yourself thrown into. Dealing with the prospect of student loans, part-time jobs, and rent can leave you scratching your head wondering how to get started in such a way that you don’t end up mired in debt by the time you’re in your mid-twenties.

Chances are you’ve heard of IRA accounts, but are you familiar with how they work? It’s a useful tool that will allow you to save for college even when you have to work for a company that doesn’t offer a 401-k. Additionally, it’s really a good idea to have an IRA account in your name for those times when you have to roll over a 401-k, and aren’t able (or want to) put that money into a new company’s 401-k or pension plan.

An IRA is simply an Individual retirement account, into which you invest money for your retirement. Most banks offer some form of IRA or other, and there are plenty of online options, as well. These days, even credit card companies who have branched out into banking are offering IRA investments. Take Capital One, for instance, which operates Sharebuilder, a popular online investment platform that offers stock and mutual fund trading, IRAs and other investments.

You can usually get an IRA started with very little money, which is a great bonus if you’re under about 24 years old (assuming most folks graduate college around that age,) and are working at a company that doesn’t offer a 401-k matching benefit. Now, that said, don’t pass up the opportunity for a 401-k match if it comes up, just use that IRA as a roll over account, and leave it alone! If it doesn’t charge fees, and you choose a well-established index fund (Risk is okay in your younger years, too, remember,) then it’ll build value throughout your working life, and leave you with a nice little nest egg later in life.

IRA, starting an IRA, retirement account, starting a retirement account, retirement, saving for retirement, how to save for retirement

Posted in:  Financial Planning, Investing, Retirement
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Are you Paying too much for Water?

It sounds like a crazy question, since there are people on Earth who simply don’t have access to fresh water, but the reality of the situation today is that in America, we enjoy drinking bottled water. For some, it’s the taste. For others, it’s the convenience. Either way, water has become the beverage of choice for millions of Americans, and we drink it in just about every way imaginable. So, while a somewhat absurd question, it does beg to be asked: Are you paying too much for your water?

First off, let’s look at the typical cost of municipal water compared against bottled water, then we’ll go from there. Just in the United States, the average person is supposed to drink 11-1/2 cups of water per day. If that’s out of the tap, it isn’t much at all. In fact, Fairfax Water indicates that the average price of water in the United States is just $1.50 per 1,000 gallons. Broken down, that’s about one and one tenth of a cent per day’s use of drinking water.

Put into perspective, that’s practically nothing for keeping yourself hydrated. That’s also a reason not to compare bottled water with municipal water. Sure, it’s so cheap it’s practically free, but you can’t very well carry a tap around with you all day to grab a drink when you’re thirsty. That’s just crazy talk! That’s where we run into bottled water. Now, before you go off the deep end, first let me just say that bottled water sometimes gets a bad rap from financial experts, and health nuts, and just about everyone from time to time. If they try to say that they’ve never drunk bottled water, though, I’d call them a bold-faced liar.

The convenience of bottled water is the best sales approach going. You can grab a bottle and go. The bottles are recycled and recyclable, so they’re relatively green as long as you do recycle, and at the end of the day, they just aren’t all that expensive, even if you’re into the premium glacier water that runs you three bucks a bottle. (That’s comparatively speaking, of course.) Look at the price of other premium beverages- throwback carbonated sodas and wild juice drinks, smoothies and protein drinks and all that stuff. Compared to those, which can easily run to $4 and $5 per glass, or Starbucks, which can top $8 for a cup of specialty coffee, that $3 premium water is a deal.

That said, there is a such thing as spending too much on bottled water. After all, most of them are just municipal tap water (unless specifically labeled as “spring” water,) that has generally been filtered and had minerals added for taste. Now, if you just happen to like the taste of your bottled water, than more power to you. Chances are you’re not going to get hold of a less expensive water that tastes similarly. Now, there are activists out there who would say that some bottled waters aren’t even filtered at all. That’s true. Many aren’t. You’re just drinking municipal water- but it may yet be tastier than the municipal water available in your area, so once again, more power to you.

Generally speaking, the best bottled water brands are the middle-of-the-road priced brands. Poland Spring rates highly, but Sam’s Choice (a Wal-Mart brand,) is less expensive, and rates highly in many tests. The truth is that while there are groups who would like to do away with bottled water all together, they’re generally barking up the wrong tree. Bottles are simply too convenient to just ditch all together. Just remember to recycle them. Additionally, if you want to get the best bang for your buck in bottled water if you can’t stand your local municipal water, then go middle of the road, and check your preferred brand against online ratings like are available from Consumer Reports if you’re concerned about purity.

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