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Want to be a Millionaire? Here’s How to Think Like One

saleCNN Money recently asked forty people for the best advice they ever got about money. One of the people featured is Bill Nygren, the great manager of the Oakmark Select Fund.

He refers to an episode of the Johnny Carson show, where Johnny asked financial guru Andrew Tobias how someone with only $1,000 should invest it. Andrew Tobias said they should buy non-perishable items.

The crowd got quite a kick out of that answer!

Here was this great financial mind suggesting that people, with only a small amount of money, buy common, every day items instead of investing it.

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Saving money beats making money

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I Need Money! Should I Cut Back on My Retirement Plan Contributions?

graph_barThe phrase “perfect storm” has been used more recently than when the movie was out! Here in the United States, we’re being hit with rising costs, falling home prices, volatile stock prices, the subcrime (oops, make that subprime) mortgage crisis, and talk of a possible recession.

Recently, we discussed why cashing out a 401(k) is one of the worst things to do in response to these tough times.

Today, we want to discuss cutting back on contributions to a retirement plan. Two to three months ago, the word was that people weren’t reducing the investments they make for their golden years.

Even now, the overwhelming majority of people aren’t making any changes. However, there is evidence that more people are considering (or are) cutting back.

It’s certainly understandable – insurance, groceries, gas, taxes all keep going up. Investing less in a 401(k) is a way to put more dollars into a paycheck now.

3 reasons not to cut back on your 401(k)

#1 – Contributions are made with pre-tax dollars – Assume you’ve been contributing $1,000 a year to your 401(k). You stop making contributions so one would think that would mean $1,000 more in your paychecks over the course of the year. But you have to account for taxes – if you’re in the 30% tax bracket, you’ll owe $300 in taxes on this $1,000. So you’ll only net $700 by stopping your contributions.

#2 – Money accumulates tax-deferred
– With your retirement plan, money is compounding on money on top of more money. And since you don’t pay any taxes on it until you take it out, all of your money keeps working for you, rather than paying a part of it every year in taxes (and therefore having less money to accumulate on top of).

#3 – Employer match – Employers match as much as 100%, up to some limit. So say, for example, you contribute 3% of your salary and your employer matches that. It’s like found money … your employer is guaranteeing you a 100% return on your initial investment.

Now granted, this is part of your overall compensation. However, we often look at our tax refunds as found money, when it is just a return of an overpayment. This is truly found money – the employer is giving you money as long as you invest up to the maximum. It’s your choice.

Cutting back could cost you $53,551

Consider a fictional 30-year old woman who has been investing 3% of her $50,000 salary, with her employer matching it 100%. Money is tight, so she decides that she will stop investing for three years. This $125 invested for just three years, and then left alone until she retired (at age 62) would have grown to $53,551, if she earned just 6% on her money.

So if she invested just 3% of her salary for the next 3 years, it would grow to 108% of her salary when she retires.

A small amount of money now makes a huge difference in the long term. So at least try to keep investing as much as your employer matches because you get a huge boost in your portfolio by hitting that target.

Until next time, here’s to your bigg success!

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9 Questions to Answer Before You Make Extra Mortgage Payments

Bigg Challenge
One of our listeners, Randy, is considering making paying his mortgage every two weeks instead of every month so he can pay it off faster. He wants to know if this is a good idea..

Bigg Advice
We can’t give you a direct answer, Randy, but we will give you nine questions that will help you determine if you should make the extra payments.

#1 – Do you have any other debt?
Chances are your mortgage is the cheapest debt you’ll ever find, after taxes are considered. So if that’s the case, you should pay off your other debt first.

#2 – Do you have an emergency cash reserve?
The general wisdom among financial planners is that you should have somewhere between three months to a year of living expenses in an account that’s readily available.

#3 – How good is your credit rating?
The better your credit rating, the better chance you have to borrow in the future at a reasonable cost should the need arise. When you make extra payments, you’re essentially investing in an illiquid asset. So if your credit score needs some improvement, work on that first.

#4 – How do you feel about debt?

Some people don’t like having any debt at all. If you’re one of them, and if you’re happy with the answer to the first three questions, then make extra payments!

#5 – What’s your interest rate?
This question gets you ready to determine your best financial move. There are two things you need to know:

  • the interest rate on your mortgage
  • your tax bracket (i.e. how much you’ll pay in taxes on your next dollar of income, that’s called your marginal tax rate).

Multiply your interest rate by (1 – your marginal tax rate) to get your after-tax cost of interest.

#6 – How disciplined are you?

If you’re likely to just spend the extra money if you don’t make extra mortgage payments, then by all means just make extra payments. If you’re disciplined
(or set it up so you don’t have to be), then you’re ready for the next question.

#7 – When do you plan to retire?

In general, the longer you have until you retire, the more aggressive you can be. So if you plan to retire in a relatively short time, lean toward extra payments. If you have a relatively long time before you retire, you’re probably better off investing.

#8 – What could you earn if you didn’t pay off your mortgage early?
You figured out your after-tax interest cost in Question 5. That’s your cost of money. Now you’re going to look at how much you can make from your investments. That’s your projected return. If the return on your portfolio is greater than your cost of money, that’s a sign you shouldn’t make extra payments on your mortgage.

#9 – Will your current portfolio support your desired lifestyle?

If you already have enough money to keep you happy for the rest of your life, why do anything risky? Just pay off your mortgage and reduce your risk even more.

We’ve offered some general advice here. Find a certified financial planner or CPA to help you with your specific situation. 

Want to read more? Here are the
9 questions you should ask before paying off your mortgage
in more detail.

Our bigg quote today comes from Walter Savage Landor:

“We talk on principle, but we act on interest.”

But you shouldn’t pay down your principal unless it’s in your best interest.

Next time, we’ll share a love story with lessons. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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