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How Getting a Raise Can Cost You blog post image

How Getting a Raise Can Cost You

How Getting a Raise Can Cost You blog post image

Getting a raise at work should be all good. But many people fall into a trap and end up in worse shape financially. Discover how to stay out of the trap.

We discuss the trap that comes from getting a raise on The BIGG Success Show today. Here’s a summary of that discussion.

This show was inspired by our latest free resource. It helps you quickly discover how your finances compare to an average American in five key areas. (You can sign up below to get your free copy.)

Do you think a pay raise is a good thing? Of course, it is. Right? But only IF you understand the inherent problem that comes with it. That’s what we want to discuss with you today.
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Live Like a King on Less

ocean-viewMost people’s portfolios have been hit hard. They’ve come back some but we’re still down. People who are close to retiring are the most worried. However, we all have to think about having enough money for retirement.

We have three options – invest more, risk more, or plan to live on less when we do retire. None of those sound particularly attractive, do they?

Unless you can live like a king or queen on less!

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That’s why a recent article in Business Week caught our attention. It says that Panama is becoming a popular destination for retirees. It’s been going on for a few years now but really seems to be gaining momentum.

We hasten to say that, even if you’re not thinking about retiring soon or you wouldn’t even consider retiring outside your country, you still might consider putting Panama on your list of vacation destinations.

In addition to the Business Week article, we referred to PanamaInfo.com as a source for the information we’ll discuss today.

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georgeFrom everything I saw as we prepared for this show, I’d say a trip to Panama is in our future! I want to check it out.

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marylynnI’m on board, George. When are we leaving? Actually, let me rephrase that … I’m good with our weather this time of the year. I want to go there in the winter when it’s freezing cold here and 80 degrees there!

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Climate

It’s tropical and humid during the day most of the year in the highlands, which includes the capital of the country, Panama City. Temperatures range between eighty and ninety degrees Fahrenheit during the day.

The main tourist season corresponds with their dry season which runs from mid-December through May. In the rainy season, though, it rains for an hour or two about every day. That’s also when the hotels offer special rates.

Topography

Panama is an isthmus that connects Central America with South America. Hence the Panama Canal!

It has about 1,000 miles of coastline and 1,500 islands nearby. A mountain slices through the middle of the country. Panama also has five million acres of parks and more species of birds than the U.S. and Canada combined.

Cost of living

The main reason retirees are flocking to Panama is its low cost of living. The government encourages retirees to spend their golden years there. Seniors get discounts on just about everything.

For example, they save 50% on tickets to concerts, the theater and movies. A movie ticket normally costs $4 (dollars are the currency in Panama). Seniors pay $2.

They also get 25% off at restaurants, a 30% discount on most travel, except flights on which they save 25%. You name it and seniors likely get a discount, even on things like dentist and doctor visits.

Not that the price is high, relatively speaking, in the first place. The Business Week article points out that Panama has first-class health care at Third World prices.

Seniors even get a 50% discount on home closing costs. Once you buy your property, you have all the ownership rights any Panamanian would have.

And you don’t have to pay any property taxes for 20 years or pay any tax on your foreign income.

To give you some perspective on how inexpensive homes are there, the Business Week article mentions a couple who bought a 3,000 square foot oceanfront penthouse in 2007 for $250,000. At that time, it would have cost $3,000,000 to buy that same property in Miami.

Of course, it’s a lot cheaper in Miami now, but it’s still not close to $250,000. Speaking of Miami, Panama is only about a 2½ hour flight from Miami.

There’s a local joke that Panama is just like Miami. Except that it is safer. More people speak English. There are no hurricanes. And Americans are more popular!

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Thanks for reading our post today. Please join us next time when we ask, “Can you have too much money?” Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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I Need Money! Should I Borrow from my Retirement Plan?

balancingWe’ve been talking about money decisions in tough times and how it may affect your 401(k). We started by looking at cashing out a 401(k), which is the absolute last resort.

Next, we looked at cutting back on 401(k) contributions. This is a much better option than cashing out, but you should try to contribute up to the limit of your employer’s matching contribution. That’s found money so you’ll be thankful you did.

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Now, we want to look at borrowing from your 401(k). The best advice we can give you on this is … don’t listen to us! Seriously, we can only talk about this in a general sense. So before you make a decision, talk with your professional financial advisor about the specifics of your situation. Then you can do what’s best for you with confidence.

There may be a better solution

Before you borrow from your 401(k), consider whether a home equity line-of-credit might be a better solution. You may already have one you can tap into. If not, consider applying for this type of loan instead of borrowing from your 401(k).

These loans are not as easy to get as they were a couple of years ago. You also won’t get as much of a line as you might have then because house values in many areas.

How much can you borrow?

If you decide a home equity line-of-credit isn’t your best bet, you can tap your 401(k) up to two times each year for money. It’s your money, so there’s you don’t need to be approved for the loan. You can borrow up to half of the vested portion of your portfolio, with a $50,000 limit.

Pay back is purgatory!

A loan from your 401(k) is a relatively inexpensive source of money. However, you’ll be paying the loan back with after-tax dollars (i.e the interest isn’t deductible). Compare that to a home equity line-of-credit, which is deductible in most cases.

In the eyes of the government, you and your 401(k) are two separate “entities”. So even though you think you’re borrowing from yourself, you’re not – you’re borrowing from your 401(k) so you have to pay it back within five years with an exception for first time homeowners who may have a longer payback term.

You can do that with each paycheck or you can do it in installments. You have to make a payment at least once every quarter. For example, if you borrowed $10,000, you would have 20 quarters to pay back the loan so you would have to pay $500 every quarter plus interest.

Of course, while you’re paying back the loan, you’ll have less money to spend every paycheck or every quarter, depending on which way you choose to pay back the loan. If things are tight now, what will they be like with even less free cash flow?

The other thing to consider about paying back your loan is that the dollars that were taken out of your portfolio are only earning whatever interest rate you’re paying. If that rate is less than what you could have earned if you kept it invested in your portfolio, you’re losing money you would have had at retirement.

No pay back is hell!

So it may be tempting to “borrow” the money and then not pay it back. In the government’s eyes, that’s the same as cashing out. So you’ll have to pay income taxes and, if you’re under 59½, you’ll also pay a 10 percent penalty. 

Analyzing the scenarios

The Center for American Progress Action Fund recently analyzed a number of scenarios [pdf]. Let’s look at the two extremes:

IF you take out a loan, pay it back with interest, and continue making your regular contributions, THEN there is almost no effect on your expected portfolio at retirement. In fact, in all the scenarios they considered under these conditions, there is less than a one percent difference in the end portfolio. Not so bad, huh?

But that ignores the fact that we’re borrowing money because we need it now. So we’re likely to cut back on our 401(k), if not stop making contributions altogether. That’s the double whammy.

IF you do that (i.e. the double whammy), THEN you can expect your savings at retirement to be as much as 22 percent less. 

What if …

Before you borrow, ask yourself some questions. For example, what if your company cuts back and you lose your job? Let’s spin it in a positive direction, what if you get a great job offer? You want to consider these scenarios as well before deciding if you want to borrow now.

Bottom line

Look for other ways to cut back on your spending. Even a little bit here and there can make a bigg difference. Consider temporarily cutting back on your contributions, but don’t dip below your employer’s match if you can possibly avoid it. Borrow if you must, but don’t cash out unless there is just no other alternative.

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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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