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Ramp Up Your Savings

uptrend.jpgBigg success is life on your own terms. One of the five elements of bigg success is money. We need to plan ahead so we have enough money to live our golden years on our own terms once we no longer work, another one of the five elements. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine our golden years being golden.

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The silver lining

There’s at least one silver lining (boy, we’re hitting all the precious metals today) in the dark cloud we’ve been experiencing with the economy – we’re saving money again! It’s not easy to save money, but many of us have realized how important it is to have a reserve.

Financial planners say we should save at least ten percent of our income to put toward retirement. We’ve even heard some recommend twelve percent.

A lot of us face a bigg challenge in socking away that amount of money. Some people may get discouraged because they can’t come close to saving ten percent. So they just don’t save at all.

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georgeI can relate to that because I’m somewhat of an all or nothing guy. But as my dad used to say, “Fifty percent of something is better than a hundred percent of nothing!”

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marylynnAnd nothing is what we end up with if we don’t stash some away now! But there’s no need to get discouraged if you’re not saving all that financial planners recommend.

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Ramp up your savings pain-free

Let’s consider a hypothetical couple that has a household income of $100,000. They should save $10,000 according to the experts, but they’re only able to save $3,000.

However, they are determined to find a way to get to that ten percent. They decide that, one way or another, they will make an extra $2,000 every year, year after year, for the next five years. So they plan to make $102,000 next year, $104,000 the following year and so on. This may come from pay raises, bonuses, or a part-time job or business.

Let’s assume that they’re able to invest all of this extra money in a tax-deductible retirement account so they don’t have to pay any taxes on this income now. They also keep investing the $3,000 base they started from.

By the fifth year, our hypothetical couple is making $108,000 and saving $11,000. So they’re now actually saving a little more than financial planners recommend and they did it relatively pain-free!

Ramp up your savings pain-free

Let’s consider a hypothetical couple that has a household income of $100,000. They should save $10,000 according to the experts, but they’re only able to save $3,000.

However, they are determined to find a way to get to that ten percent. They decide that, one way or another, they will make an extra $2,000 every year, year after year, for the next five years. So they plan to make $102,000 next year, $104,000 the following year and so on. This may come from pay raises, bonuses, or a part-time job or business.

Let’s assume that they’re able to invest all of this extra money in a tax-deductible retirement account so they don’t have to pay any taxes on this income now. They also keep investing the $3,000 base they started from.

By the fifth year, our hypothetical couple is making $108,000 and saving $11,000. So they’re now actually saving a little more than financial planners recommend and they did it relatively pain-free!

  • not being discouraged at what they could save now
  • saving every bit they could now
  • improving it a little bit every year

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The underlying secret

In this simple example is a secret that can help you with all your goals, not just your financial ones. Bigg success is life on your own terms. If you think about “terms” as time frames, you can reach bigg success faster.

We’ve said that you are the entrepreneur of a very important enterprise – your life. You may or may not be an entrepreneur in the traditional sense of the word. That’s immaterial. What’s important is that we can learn a lesson from successful entrepreneurs, particularly those who work with outside financiers like venture capitalists.

Milestones

An entrepreneur and a venture capitalist come to terms and strike a deal. The venture capitalist will invest a large amount of money in an entrepreneur’s company. However, the entrepreneur only gets a certain amount of it upfront. He or she must complete some agreed upon action – for example, get a customer – by a certain time to insure the venture capitalist puts in more money. These agreed upon actions with a deadline are called milestones.

As the entrepreneurs of our own lives, we think it’s helpful to set milestones in all areas of our lives.

Think about your bigg goal.

Then carve it up into milestones – specific activities you will complete by a certain time.

By breaking your bigg goal into little actions with deadlines, you can achieve things that you would think were impossible otherwise.

You can measure your progress each step of the way. You can take corrective action if you’re off the mark. Or if you’re ahead of schedule, you can celebrate your bigg success!

Do you set milestones?

Tell us how you do it by leaving a comment below, calling us at 888.455.BIGG or sending us an e-mail at bigginfo@biggsuccess.com.

Thanks so much for reading our post today!

Please join us next time as we build on this subject of milestones. We’ll talk about creating a cumulative advantage.

Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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The Deal of Your Lifetime

sale We have an idea for your personal finances. Now if you’re one of our regulars, we may surprise you a little with what we’re about to say …

Go out and spend some money!

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Markets go through cycles. Sometimes it’s a seller’s market. But right now, we’re in a buyer’s market for almost everything!

Now, before you take our advice and rush out the door on a quest for that perfect item, consider these four questions:

  • Do you feel relatively secure in your job or your business?
  • Are you debt-free except for your low-cost mortgage on which you’re current?
  • Are you funding your long-term obligations (e.g. the kids’ college, your retirement)?
  • Do you have a nice stash of cash set aside for emergencies?

If you clear those four hurdles, you’re good to go … to go get the deal of your lifetime.

Spend, baby, spend!

It’s good for the economy, but even more important, it’s good for you. Because we’re seeing deals right now that we will probably never see again in our lifetimes.

Like the car dealer who is offering a two-for-one sale – buy a car and he’ll throw in a second car of equal or lesser value for free! That’s right … free! Did you ever think you’d see anything like that?

Many contractors are starving for work. It’s a great time to remodel your home – get those improvements done you’ve been putting off, add that room, remodel that bathroom or kitchen.

While we normally don’t suggest building a new home, for financial reasons as well as the emotional strain it can put on a relationship, it’s a fantastic time to think about having that dream house built.

And let’s not leave out businesses. Vendors in so many product lines just want some business. It’s a great time to expand or upgrade your business.

The paradox

Here’s the irony in our current situation – spenders are faced with great deals, but they often can’t clear the hurdles above. So they can’t spend!

Many savers have seen the value of their investments fall back ten years. So perhaps the lesson – live a little now, too! It will go against your grain to go out and shop. But look at it this way – you’re saving money because, by doing it now, when suppliers across the board need the money – you’ll get the deal of your lifetime! 

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
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Thanks so much for reading our post today. Join us next time when we diss on Plan B. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

Subscribe to the Bigg Success feed.

Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00346-030909.mp3

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My Employer is Eliminating 401(k) Matches

retirement Companies are responding aggressively to the bad economic news. Layoffs, hiring freezes, and salary freezes have been some of the most common actions so far.

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Now, more and more employers are looking at eliminating the matching of 401(k) contributions. According to a survey by Watson Wyatt, the global human resources and financial services firm, things are changing quickly. In October, 2% of firms said they had already cut back on these matches and 4% said they planned to. Two months later, in December, 3% had already made the cut and 7% said they intended to.

And these are large companies. Established brands that we all know. Motorola, FedEx, Kodak, and Starbucks just to name a few.

They’re usually using the word “suspend” rather than “eliminate” when they announce these cuts. But it raises a question:

If my employer stops matching my contribution to my
401(k), should I still keep making contributions myself?

It forces us to save

This is perhaps the biggest reason to keep making contributions. Financial planners have said for years that we should pay ourselves first. Investing it before we get it, as we do with our 401(k), is the best way to make sure that happens.

Most people report that they don’t really miss the money. It’s like the taxes that are deducted from our paychecks – the government knows most of us won’t miss the money if we don’t see it.

Of course, there are ways to set up an automatic deduction from our checking or savings account for investments outside of a 401(k). That’s really close to having it deducted from our paycheck, but it’s not quite the same. That little variation can make a bigg difference for some people. You have to judge that for yourself.

Higher limits

The next best option to a 401(k) for most people would be an IRA because contributions may also be deductible. You should check with your financial advisor about the specifics of your situation.

Because you invest before paying taxes, it’s as if the government is making part of the contribution for you. For example, if you made a $1,000 contribution to one of these retirement plans and you’re in the 25% tax bracket, you would pay $250 less in taxes. So, in essence, you’re only out of pocket $750.

With either plan, you don’t pay taxes on the money you earn on your investments until you pull it out. Deductible and deferred – that’s a pretty powerful combination.

Where the 401(k) gains favor is that it has higher maximum limits – your contributions to your 401(k) can total up to $16,500 in 2009 ($22,000 if you’re over 50). You can’t contribute more than $5,000 to an IRA in most cases.

If my employer cuts or eliminates my 401(k) match, are there
reasons to fund my retirement through another vehicle?

A lot of 401(k) plans offer fairly limited investment options and you may pay lower fees in a plan that’s not a 401(k). 

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
Subscribe to the Bigg Success Weekly – it’s FREE!

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The bigger issue

It’s not like we don’t already have a sense of it. But recent months have reinforced this paradigm. We can’t count on anyone or anything for any part of our financial future. We must take full control of our own finances. We have to build our own safety nets to make sure we are financially secure.

How much will you have at retirement?

It really boils down to three factors:

  • how much we invest
  • how much we earn on our investment (after all fees and taxes)
  • how long it is invested

From these three factors, we see that we have three options if we don’t want to retire on less money:

1st – We can try to earn more on the money we invest.
That involves taking more risk and we don’t have much appetite for that right now. So this probably isn’t going to fly with most of us.

2nd – We can postpone our retirement.
This buys us more time. People who are really close to retirement right now may not have much of a choice. They may have to do this. But if you still have some time on your side, there may be a better way.

3rd – We can increase our contributions.
Look at your budget and see if there is any way you can make up for the investment your company was making.

If your employer reinstates matching contributions, you can stop contributing at the increased rate and enjoy the extra money in your budget … or …

… you can keep making your higher contributions to give your retirement a kick!

To all our readers in Australia, happy Australia Day! And we hope our friends in India enjoy Republic Day!

And thank you so much for spending time with us today. Join us next time when we discuss extreme multi-tasking. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00316-012609.mp3

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Should I Stick with Stocks?

mattress Last time, we talked about a new trend – people stuffing their mattresses the 21st century way. Baby boomers seem to be the main group behind this trend. They are buying treasury bills and gold coins as safe harbors from the volatile stock market.

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It’s understandable that baby boomers are looking for alternatives because many of them are so close to retirement.

But what if you’re not about to retire … should you stick with stocks?
We’ve heard a lot about how the recent decline in stock prices has wiped out all of the last ten years worth of gains. So it’s a really good question. We decided to do some analysis of our own.

Before we start, allow us to make one disclaimer: We’re going to provide an example to help you understand how the market works. Your decisions about your portfolio should be based on your specific situation. We recommend that you talk with a certified financial advisor to help you with that.

Stocks and Certificates of Deposit

To keep it simple, we looked at just two assets – stocks, represented by the S&P 500 (Source: Yahoo! Finance) and risk-free investments, represented by one-month CDs (Source: Federal Reserve) in FDIC-insured institutions.

There may be better assets to invest in (e.g. a broader stock market index), but we still felt that these represented risky assets and risk-free assets relatively well. We were curious about what has happened in the past, looking at various scenarios, with these two assets. This is a good place to insert a couple of caveats:

  • We are looking at historical numbers. We’re not psychic nor do we possess any other ability to project the future.
  • We used nominal pre-tax rates of return, so inflation and taxes have not been factored in to the returns we’ll discuss.

The last ten years
When we look at the last ten years (going back from December 31, 2008), we see that the stock market underperformed its historical average through almost the entire decade.

The best mix of these two assets for the last ten years would have been no mix at all. Investing 100 percent in CDs provided the best return. Even then, the return was not that great: 3.62% per year by our calculations. The worst return, as you might guess, was being 100 percent invested in stocks over the last ten years. They lost about one percent per year.

What about prior ten-year periods?
One ten-year period isn’t all that instructive. So we went back ten more years (January 1, 1989 to December 31, 1998) and looked at those returns. The highest returns in that period came from a portfolio of 100% stocks, which returned 17.28% annually.

So stocks are one for two. Let’s break the tie and go back another ten years. Can you hear the disco music playing?

A portfolio that was fully invested in stocks delivered the best return in that period (January 1, 1979 to December 31, 1988) as well. They earned a return of 14.36% per year.

Is ten years long enough?
Financial advisors have said for years that stocks perform best over longer periods of time. They used to tell us that we should have at least five years before we needed the money or we shouldn’t invest in stocks. Now we’re hearing more and more that ten years is the magic number.

But here’s the thing … we really shouldn’t even count on that as we’ve learned the last ten years.

How long until you retire?
Let’s think about this … if you’re 40-years old, you might have twenty years before you want to retire. At 30, let’s say you have 30 years. How have the returns looked over that period?

Looking back twenty years, even with the most recent decade, our best bet would have been to be fully invested in stocks. Our return would have been 8.14% annually. It’s ditto for the most recent thirty years. An all-stock portfolio returned 10.21% per annum, about its historical average.

So, our research shows that history shows that you should stick with stocks over the long term. But is there a way to lower your risk without sacrificing returns unjustly?

The price of a higher return
There is a price to pay to get a higher return. That price is more volatility and volatility equals risk. Riskier investments should pay more to compensate you for the risk you’re taking. Stocks are riskier than CDs; therefore, they should pay more.

The price of less risk
We just said that riskier investments generally offer higher returns as compensation for the risk. So why not just invest in CDs and other risk-free assets? Because they may not return enough to get you where you need to go. There is a better answer.

Diversification smoothes it out
When you diversify your assets – investing part of your portfolio in risky assets like stocks and a portion in risk-free assets like CDs, you smooth out the volatility, relative to just investing in stocks, while still getting a higher return than if you invested all your money in just CDs.

Example: A 50/50 Mix

As we discussed earlier, had you just invested in stocks over the last thirty years, you would have made about 10 percent per year on your investment. However, you would have lost about one percent a year in the most recent decade.

What if you can’t stomach losses like that?

Obviously, any money invested in stocks is at risk. However, if we had invested 50 percent in stocks and 50 percent in CDs over the last thirty years:

  • We wouldn’t have lost money over the last decade. In fact, we would have made 1.31% per year.
  • The thirty-year return on our portfolio would have been 8.32% a year. While it’s less than the 10 percent we could have earned by just investing in stocks, it’s not that much less. Looks pretty good right now, doesn’t it?

We want to emphasize again that we’re not saying a 50/50 mix is right for you. Consult your financial planner. We just picked 50/50 to see what would have happened with an even mix of these two assets.

Long on stocks
As you can see from the returns we quoted earlier, the experts are right – stocks are good long term investments. If you need the money ten years from now, you need to be careful. If you’re a 30- or 40-year old funding your retirement, a good basket of stocks as part of a well-diversified portfolio is a great place to stick your money.

Short on dollars
Going back to where we started, more people are investing very conservatively in treasuries right now. The problem is, if you invest too conservatively, you have to make a choice. Will you be short on dollars now or at retirement?

If you choose to fully fund your retirement, it means you’ll have to invest more now to reach your goal, which means you’ll have to sacrifice more now than is probably necessary.

We still don’t know if we’ve hit bottom on the stock market. But here’s what we do know – most market timers get it wrong most of the time. That’s why we won’t try!

If you have time until you need the money, invest in a well-diversified portfolio. You won’t be quite as happy in the good times, but you won’t be nearly as upset during the bad. 

We really appreciate you spending some time with us today. Join us next time when we interview John Jantsch, The Duct Tape Marketer, about how to make customers stick without busting the bank. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00265-111408.mp3

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