Go out into your yard and dig a big hole. Every month, throw $50 into it, but don't take any money out until you're ready to buy a house, send your child to college, or retire. It sounds a little crazy, doesn't it? But that's what investing without setting clear-cut goals is like. If you're lucky, you may end up with enough money to meet your needs, but you have no way to know for sure. Read More
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When you roll over a distribution from a 401(k), 403(b), or governmental 457(b) plan, you generally don't pay any taxes until you receive a distribution from the new plan or IRA. If you take a distribution but don't roll it over, it will be subject to federal (and possibly state) income taxes (except for any after-tax contributions you've made); and if you haven't yet reached age 59½, you may also be subject to a 10% early distribution penalty tax unless you're eligible for an exception. Read More
You know how important it is to plan for your retirement, but where do you begin? One of your first steps should be to estimate how much income you'll need to fund your retirement. That's not as easy as it sounds, because retirement planning is not an exact science. Your specific needs depend on your goals and many other factors. Read More
Recent market news — around social-media driven stock trading that created extreme price swings for shares of certain companies — may have you wondering whether you should jump into the excitement. Before you leap, you might consider this advice from legendary investor and teacher Benjamin Graham, considered the father of value investing: "The individual investor should act consistently as an investor and not as a speculator." Read More
Once you've identified your financial and investment goals and assessed your investing personality, you'll need to create an investment portfolio that fits your needs and understand what's involved in managing that portfolio on an ongoing basis. Entire books--actually, shelves full of books--have been written about ways to design and manage a portfolio, so this discussion obviously can only serve as a basic introduction to the process. However, it can help you understand the challenges involved and decide just how much assistance you might need, as well as how involved you want to be in managing your portfolio on an ongoing basis. Read More
It's nice to own stocks, bonds, and other investments. Nice, that is, until it's time to fill out your federal income tax return. At that point, you may be left scratching your head. Just how do you report your investments and how are they taxed? Read More
When you die, you leave behind your estate. Your estate consists of your assets — all of your money, real estate, and worldly belongings. Your estate also includes your debts, expenses, and unpaid taxes. After you die, somebody must take charge of your estate and settle your affairs. This person will take your estate through probate, a court-supervised process that winds up your financial affairs after your death. Read More
With your estate plan successfully implemented, one final but critical step remains: carrying out a periodic review and update. Imagine this: since you implemented your estate plan five years ago, you got divorced and remarried, sold your house and bought a boat to live on, sold your legal practice and invested the money that provides you with enough income so you no longer have to work, and reconciled with your estranged daughter. This scenario may look more like fantasy than reality, but imagine how these major changes over a five-year period may affect your estate. Read More
Few terms in personal finance are as important, or used as frequently, as "risk." Nevertheless, few terms are as imprecisely defined. Generally, when financial advisors or the media talk about investment risk, their focus is on the historical price volatility of the asset or investment under discussion. Read More
Investment planning during retirement is not the same as investing for retirement and, in many ways, is more complicated. Your working years are your saving years. With luck, your income increases from year to year as you receive promotions and/or pay raises; those increases offer some protection against rising costs caused by inflation. Read More