6 Reasons to Try the FIRE Movement

The idea behind FIRE is if you can earn more money, live on less, and save and invest the rest, you can cut years — or even decades — off of your working career. Of course, the FIRE movement has its problems. 

Not everyone can save 50% or more of their income to work toward FIRE. And most who retire early continue working in some capacity to avoid running out of money early. Also, achieving FIRE is considerably easier during times of economic prosperity — no matter what anyone says, it would’ve been a lot harder to get excited about FIRE in 2008 when the Dow dropped by 33.84%!

Achieving FIRE and retiring early sounds good in theory, but it’s actually very hard to execute in a real-world sense. But here’s why you should try anyway.

6 Reasons FIRE Still Works

But, you know what? I would argue that anyone who can, should at least try to pursue FIRE anyway. As I’ve become more interested in financial independence, I’ve learned that there are side benefits to cutting expenses and learning to save money and invest more. Some advantages to FIRE don’t even have anything to do with money at all.

If you’re on the fence about FIRE, here are some of the reasons you might want to change your way of thinking and get on board.

1. Encourages Living With Intention

After reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Living Forward, its concept of “drifting” stuck with me. Drifting occurs any time you’re going through the motions in life, but living without any concrete plans or goals. 

Maybe you’re going to work every day, taking care of your kids, and keeping up with bills. But in these day-to-day tasks, you’re not actively achieving anything in particular. 

You’re just waking up and getting by.

With the FIRE movement though, you learn to live with intentionality because you’re forced to focus on your spending, and the specific goals necessary to reach financial independence. 

As you pursue FIRE, you can’t simply drift through life in hopes that the numbers work out in your favor. To have enough money to retire early, you need a plan. You have no choice but to set goals, and the act of doing so forces you to get real about how you’re living and what you really want in life. 

Are you saving to buy a house? Are you saving to pay for college? Are you saving to retire early? Whatever your goals are, FIRE forces you to reverse engineer your long-term plan so it’s actionable and intentional today.

2. Feels More Financially Secure

Here’s another potential side benefit of pursuing FIRE — you get the opportunity to feel more secure and sleep better at night. This is something I personally experienced when I started becoming FIRE-minded, but it’s also backed up by research. 

In fact, a 2019 survey from Schwab showed that 63% of people with a written financial plan said they felt financially stable, compared to only 28% of those without a financial plan. Further, 56% of people with a financial plan said they felt “very confident” about reaching their financial goals.

If you’ve ever felt helpless about your finances before, then this probably makes total sense. Having a plan provides some comfort — even if you are far away from your goal. At least you’re working toward something, and that provides peace of mind. 

3. Forces You to Take Control

I don’t always agree with everything Dave Ramsey says, but I do love some of his best quotes. One example is:

“You must gain control over your money or the lack of it will forever control you.” — Dave Ramsey

The point I’m making is that, if you don’t ask yourself important, uncomfortable questions, you might never get control of your finances — or your life. 

Think about it this way. If you’re drifting through life and spending money without really saving for a goal, you’re at the mercy of your job and outside factors that affect your income and savings. But if you learn to take control of your spending, you’ll also learn to take control of your future finances in ways you probably never realized before.

When most people start pursuing FIRE, they realize right away that the biggest part that’s in their control is their spending. The other side of that coin is, of course, how much you’re able to save.

A recent survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis shows the average American set aside 5% to 8% of their income in savings. In contrast, those who pursue FIRE, frequently save 50% to 70% of their incomes toward their goals. 

When you find a way to save a large percentage of your income, this means you’ve taken control of the reins. You have goals and you have a purpose, and your money is no longer controlling your future. You are.

4. Empowers You with Information

According to a joint study from PwC US and the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial literacy. And, even with minimal knowledge of their own, only 27% had sought out professional financial advice. 

This is one area where even studying FIRE can leave you dramatically ahead. After all, pursuing FIRE or even reading about it forces empowers you with information about saving and investing for the long haul. 

For example, through FIRE you’ll randomly learn personal finance lessons like the 4% rule for retirement and how to create a budget. These are cornerstone concepts of the FIRE movement. 

You’re also forced to think about your income and your financial situation in a brand new way. This includes questions, like “How much are you actually earning?” and “How much interest are you paying toward debt every month?”

As a financial advisor, I can tell you for sure that a lot of people don’t know the answer to any of these questions because they’ve never thought about it before. You wind up learning so much that can help you along the way toward your goal.

5. Learn How to Budget and Question Yourself

I remember back in the day when my wife and I first started getting serious about budgeting. We’d sit down to look over our bills, and were shocked by some of our ongoing expenses and subscriptions. 

These budgeting “meetings” made a big difference in how we worked together to achieve our financial goals. When we sat down to look over our expenses, our income, and where we were headed, we found ways to spend less without affecting our quality of life.

Now, I hate budgeting, but I do think it’s an important part of pursuing FIRE — especially at first. After all, you can’t really work toward major financial goals if you have no idea where your money is going every month. 

And, the thing is, you can’t really argue anything when you start budgeting and tracking your expenses. You get the chance to see where your money went, in black and white, and you get the opportunity to act accordingly. This may sound like a huge buzzkill, but I’ve found that taking control and budgeting is actually really empowering. 

Crazily enough, not enough people have any idea how they spend the income they work so hard to earn. In fact, a recent survey from the budgeting app Mint found that 65% of respondents had no idea how much they spent last month. 

When you ask someone pursuing FIRE how much they save each month, these people know. In fact, they often know their savings amount down to the penny. 

6. FIRE Helps You Be Grateful

Finally, there’s one more major benefit of FIRE that goes largely ignored. I’m going to call it the “contentment factor”. It’s the ability to be content with what you have. 

Everything involved with FIRE — tracking your spending, cutting things you don’t care about, creating long-term goals — can really put your life in perspective for you. It also makes you realize you might have more power over your life than you realized. That’s a pretty amazing lesson. 

And of course, learning contentment leads to learning how to feel grateful. How amazing is it that, in this broken world we live in, you can earn a living, care for your family, and set aside something for the future? How amazing is it that you have the chance to work hard and retire early, and then spend decades doing whatever it is you love?

This brings me to a quote I love from Oprah:

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ―

Oprah Winfrey

This is what I love about FIRE; it really encourages you to be grateful and teaches you to be content with what you have. After all, there is no way you could ever save 50% or even 30% of your income without these lessons. 

Pursuing FIRE teaches you that you don’t need the hottest pair of sneakers, and that you might not need that cable television package you pay for each month. It teaches you that a huge car payment isn’t worth it, and that any “friend” who judges your car probably isn’t a good one. 

Learning about FIRE makes you ask yourself all of these questions, and sometimes, that’s all it takes to realize how good you have it.

Garth Brooks once said that “you aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy.” 

And perhaps that’s the greatest benefit of pursuing FIRE. You learn that happiness and true contentment comes from within. And that, my friends, is priceless.

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Will You Ever Be Able to Save Enough for Retirement?

retirement election year

With the stock market still in roller coaster mode and more and more companies reducing or eliminating retirement benefits, many people—from Boomers and Generation Xers to savvy Millennials—are facing the fact that they need to seize control of their retirement financial plan. And they need to do it sooner rather than later.

Boomers in particular are quickly realizing that the landscape for long-term savings has changed dramatically since they signed up for their 401(k)s in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s.

Planning wasn’t as crucial back then, said David Krasnow, 44, President/CEO of Pension Advisors in Cleveland. ”Between pension plans, 401(k)s, and home equity, it was assumed that the continual growth of investments and home value together with Social Security would provide plenty of money when employees stopped working,” he said. With a formula that basic, professional planners didn’t need deep investment expertise to deliver solid results.

“There were few certifications or fee disclosure requirements,” Krasnow pointed out. “The same person who sold you health insurance might sell you an investment program.”

That laissez-faire approach might have worked for people who worked, uninterrupted, until 65 (not facing protracted periods of unemployment) and not as contractors and/or part-timers or small-business owners.  It worked when the stock market produced steady 8% gains per year, not tumultuous volatility. It worked when companies offered generous 401(k) matches—and stayed out of bankruptcy to actually fund pensions. And it worked when home property values were growing—or at least stable.

But it doesn’t work now, and this is why:

  • We can’t assume continual growth of investments or home equity. Nor can we count on Social Security to be solvent 30-40 years from now.  That’s the new economic normal.
  • We’re anticipating living longer, staying active longer (which influences spending and other financial considerations), and with advancing age, facing the likelihood of considerable medical-related expenses.
  • Our parents are living longer.  Boomers looking to retire may want to help fund their parents’ later years as well as their own. And, of course, there’s the question of children and grandchildren, and whether (and how much) to spend on them when you don’t have a full income.
  • Traditional pensions or other employee-sponsored retirement plans may not be sufficient sources of retirement funds.
  • Investment products are more plentiful and more complex (read: confusing) than ever.
  • Retirees often continue working long past their 60s, which affects traditional assumptions about how much savings is needed when they do stop working.

So what does all of this mean for anyone intent on building a solid retirement financial plan?

1. Recognize the Need for a Professional Adviser

“In a constantly improving market I used to be able to manage my mutual fund investments on my own,” said Peter Doris, 66, a career and nonprofit expert from Philadelphia.  “Now I need a professional’s help. It isn’t just a question of putting money aside.  It’s a question of being really smart and current about each investment, and I simply don’t have the time or the background.”

2. Do Your Homework

“There is a minimum set of skills and knowledge base you must have, even if you use a professional,” said Jim McGrath, an Executive Vice President of Law and Administration, 67, in Orland Park, Ill. “Take seminars, do online research and read up so that you have solid financial literacy,” he suggests.  “You can’t make informed decisions without fully understanding your choices, their projected outcomes and their potential risks.”

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3. Be on the Same Page With Your Significant Other

If you’re married or in a relationship, make sure both spouses/partners are in agreement about life planning, investment objectives, reasonable returns and levels of acceptable risk. “My wife and I built our business together,” said Ted Vlamis, 78, an active CEO in Wichita. “She knows the numbers, so there are no surprises. We know that the chances are good that one partner will outlive the other, and any survivor shouldn’t be blindsided by financial problems they knew nothing about … or have to face, unprepared and grieving, the host of decisions that have to be made about a business or an investment portfolio.”

4. Own It

Dr. Deborah Ewing-Wilson, 58, a neurologist in a large Ohio medical system, advises people to “give the same due diligence to their personal and financial lives that they give to their work and businesses.”  It’s time-consuming and sometimes tedious, she admits, but then again so is taking care of one’s health.  “I’m here to help educate, recommend, and advise, but I can’t take responsibility for anyone else’s behavior or decisions,” she says. “It’s the same with a financial plan.”  In other words, it’s your money, your plan, your life.

5. Start Now

“Find a professional you trust, start saving as soon as you can, and stay on top of your plan, ready to make decisions as markets–and your life—evolve,” says Rich Iafellice, 57, vice president of an engineering services firm near Akron. He suggests working with an adviser who works on a fee basis, not on a percentage of growth of your portfolio.  “That way they’re focused solely on your needs and risk tolerance, not the potential for them to make big profits off of a portfolio that might be too ambitious for your comfort.”

Two last caveats: When shopping for an investment adviser, look for the designations CFP (certified financial planner), PFS (personal financial specialist) and CFA (chartered financial analyst). Anyone with these credentials has to have completed training from an accredited body, and passed rigorous exams demonstrating their competence. Certification is only one indicator of ability, however. The real test is whether an adviser has been successful for an extended period of time and is recommended by people you trust and respect.

More Money-Saving Reads:

  • What’s a Good Credit Score?
  • How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
  • What’s a Bad Credit Score?
  • How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life

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A Guide to Coinsurance and Copays

You often pay your copay when you check in for a visit.

Having health insurance makes it possible to receive medical care while only paying a fraction of that care’s true cost. Insurance doesn’t cover everything, however. Some of the cost of your care is still up to you to pay, and that cost comes in two primary forms: copays and coinsurance.

What Is a Copay?

A copay is a flat amount of money that you’re responsible for paying for a health care service. Copays typically apply for things like a doctor’s appointment, prescription drug or medical test. The amount of your copay is dependent on your specific health insurance plan.

You can typically expect to pay your copay when you check in for your service, be it an annual physical, dental cleaning or blood test. Copays are typically lower amounts ranging from $10 for something like a generic drug prescription to around $65 for a visit to a medical specialist.

Depending on your insurance plan, copays may not take effect until after you reach your deductible. Your deductible is the amount of money you must pay out-of-pocket before your insurance provider starts to pitch in. Deductibles reset at the beginning of every year.

When you are reviewing your plan information and you see the phrase “after deductible” or “deductible applies” in reference to your copays, that’s an indication that the copay is only in place once you meet your deductible. On the other hand, if you see “deductible waived,” that’s a sign that your copay is in place from the beginning. It may go without saying, but the latter situation is vastly preferable to you.

What Is Coinsurance?

Coinsurance is another method of splitting the cost of medical coverage with your insurance plan. A coinsurance is a percentage of the cost of services. You pay the percentage, and your insurance company foots the rest of the bill. So, if you have a $8,000 medical bill and a 20% coinsurance, you would be on the hook for $1,600.

Coinsurance typically only comes into play after you hit your deductible. Further, you may have differing coinsurance percentages for the same services depending on your provider network. If you have a preferred provider organization (PPO) plan, your coinsurance could be a higher percentage for providers outside your network than it is for providers in your network.

Similarly, your coinsurance may not apply to providers outside your network if you have a health maintenance organization (HMO) plan or an exclusive provider organization (EPO) plan. That’s because these plans typically don’t provide any out-of-network coverage.

Copay vs. Coinsurance

You likely pay a copay when you visit the doctor.

Copay and coinsurance are very similar terms. They both have to do with portions of the cost of your health care that’s under your responsibility. Because of that, and their similar names, it’s easy to confuse the two. There are a couple of important distinctions to keep in mind, however.

The most notable difference between copays and coinsurance is that copays are always a flat amount and coinsurance is always a percentage of the cost of the service. Another difference is that some copays can be in place before you hit your deductible, depending on the specifics of your plan. With coinsurance, you have to hit your deductible first.

Bottom Line

copays are fixed amounts, while coinsurance is a percentage.

If you’re choosing between health insurance plans, make sure to examine the provided copays and coinsurance for each option. While they may not be the most important factor to consider, a high copay can be quite a pain, especially over the course of years of appointments and procedures.

Tips for Staying on Top of Medical Expenses

  • One of the best ways to stay ahead of surprise medical expenses is to have an emergency fund in place for just such a situation. If you can manage it, have three to six months worth of expenses stashed away in a high-yield savings account. That way, if you’re dealing with medical bills or have to step away from work, you’ll have a bit of a cushion.
  • If you’re not sure how an unexpected medical expenses would fit into your finances, consider working with a financial advisor to develop a financial plan. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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