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Elle Martinez

Do You Need to Be a Millionaire to Retire Comfortably?

how much money to retire

I had a lot of fun yesterday being on the panel for the #retireeNextDoor Tweetcast. Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents and Money Tips did a fantastic job hosting it and some wonderful advice was shared.

Like I mentioned the other week, we tend to put off preparing for retirement for a few reasons. I think one huge factor is the unknown. We hear all these huge numbers about what we need that it can be discouraging. I don’t think we have to be afraid of it.

Planning for retirement is a bit like saving up for a baby – you will never be able to prepare for every event, but you’re better off having something saved up rather than nothing.You can get an idea of where to start if the two of you can sit down and find what works for you.

Define Your Retirement

Make it a dinner date and talk about what you’d like to do when you’re retired.  Ignore the numbers for just a moment and just focus on what you want. Retirement is a kind of a catch all phrase that doesn’t really help you plan as everyone has different ideas on how they’d spend it.

Joe Saul-Sehy from Stacking Benjamins had a wonderful remark about retirement yesterday. He said retirement isn’t an event, it’s a 40+ year span of life for many. It may be easier to think of it in phases. What do you want to do when you’re in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond?

After talking about it, you two may want to do a hybrid or stepping stone retirement. Perhaps you set a goal to build an income stream that will allow one or both of you to explore a new business or to start investing in real estate. You’re not officially retiring, but rather you’re now able to quit your day job and give full time attention to building the income stream and boosting net worth for when you do stop working for money.

Every couple will come up with their own plan, but you can make progress until it’s discussed.

Finding Your Retirement Number

Now that you have a picture of what you want, the two of you can work backwards and see about much money you need to retire. You may discover that your retirement doesn’t have to require a million dollars in the bank to achieve. Or you may see that it will take a boatload of money.

If you’re in the latter category and you are freaking out about not having enough when it’s time, take a few days and break your goals down further to extract the absolute essentials. What do you truly want? What are the non-negotiable? Start with those and get a baseline number and build from there.

No matter what your goal is, the best thing you can do as a couple is to start now. If you haven’t already, start this week. Pick some amount you can afford, automate your contributions, and increase it with every raise/bump in pay. Time is one of your biggest allies, so use it.

Should You Include Social Security?

Personally we don’t include Social Security in our retirement plans. I have no idea how exactly it play out, but I’m pretty sure that it will be stripped down by the time we qualify to take it. I’d rather be pleasantly surprised at the extra income than be disappointed because it wasn’t what I had planned for.

Unless you will be retiring soon, I think you’re better off not making it a pillar of your retirement plan. (Completely my personal opinion)

Thoughts on Retirement and What It Means to You

I hope the two of you have a chance this week to discuss your retirement plan. I’d love to hear what you come up with and what your overall strategy is to get there.

Photo Credit: epSos.de

What are the Most Common Mistakes People Make When Planning for Retirement?

how to invest for your retirement and future

Even though most of us know that retirement planning is something we should be doing, real life tends to get in the way of us actually getting it done. Retirement is so far away in your timeline, it’s tempting to put it off for a bit.

What’s worse, we can be our worst enemies and make some huge mistakes when it comes to planning for retirement. I’m going to share some of the biggest mistakes and how you can begin to fix them.

Waiting Until You Have More Money

One of the biggest mistakes couples and really individuals make is waiting for the next raise to happen before they invest. They feel like their small contributions now will have little or no effect so why not just give a year (or two….or more) and when they get enough then they’ll invest.

I have some great news – you don’t need a lot of money to start investing and time is one of your biggest allies when it comes to your portfolio’s growth.

I actually wrote about how you can start investing with $1,000 or less because when I graduated for college, I knew I wanted to set aside money for retirement, but I didn’t have much money.

Investing Without a Goal

I think the big question people have when trying to figure out their retirement number is how much they will need as a couple to retire. Of course that completely depends on your own family’s circumstances.

So just how do you come up with the right amount?

While the traditional rule of the says that you should plan for around 75% of your current income, Todd Tresidder, author of several financial books including How Much Do I Need to Retire? and early retiree himself, shows that it’s more practical to look at your expenses and make a reasonable ballpark figure as to what you will need. He cites from various studies that most of your budget categories see significant decrease with the exception of health insurance.

If you want to get an approximate idea of what your family would need, pick up Todd”s book or use resources like Vanguard to help you out. If you’re thinking about retiring early, find out how much you need to save.

Not Automating Your Contributions

The last hurdle for couples when it comes to retirement is not automating their contributions. How many times have you thought about investing, but by the end of the month, there’s hardly any money to give? Protect yourself now (and later when you need to retire) by setting up automatic contributions.

If you haven’t already, check with your employer and see if they offer a 401(k) with a matching contribution plan. That’s basically free money that boost your returns. Having it automatically deducted means you’d hardly miss it as you simly budget from your take home pay.

Depending on your employer, you’ll have different funds to invest in. If available, consider putting your contributions towards low cost index funds.

My advice is to increase the amount as you receive raises and promotions through work. It doesn’t have to be significant, just take it up a notch every increase. Besides allowing you to invest more, you’re also lowering your taxable income, a double bonus.

Build a Better Retirement Today

None of these mistakes are made intentional, as if someone wants to sabotage their retirement, but they are all too common and they will hurt your chances at your goals. So if you haven’t already, now is the time to start planning, get your contributions calculated, and automate them. Your future self will thank you.

Find out how to increase your odds of retiring successfully by joining MoneyTips.com’s #RetireeNextDoor (LIVE!) virtual event on November 18th, 11 am – noon PT. Register now to get answers to your retirement questions from more than two dozen of the top voices in personal finance, including yours truly.

Photo Credit:  Chris Potter

Why Do We Fight About Money?

avoid money fights

No matter how your marriage started out, at some point the honeymoon is over and the two of you are dealing with the realities of the day to day. Many times that eye opener is disagreements about money.

And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

How We Picked Up Our Money Habits

Laurie Puhn, a couples meditator, commented that having arguments about finances can be expected with married couples. The truth is most of the time, it’s not necessarily the numbers, but it’s what we bring to the marriage that cause us to bicker and nitpick.

Our previous experiences with money have a huge impact on how we view it and how we act towards it.

Maybe we picked up unproductive habits because of our role models. If money was a tense topic growing up or you’ve seen the big issues side stepped to completely avoid fights than you may feel unprepared on how to best talk about it.

Differences in culture can be another source of tension. One of you may have family who expects you to take care of them when they older while the other was raise with the idea that each generation is self-sufficient.

Don’t forget we also have unique personalities. I can tell you that some of the traits that made me fall in love with my husband can also be some of the more frustrating ones to deal with when we have a disagreement.

His thoughtful and deliberate discussions become dragging his feet with decisions. (Or at least that’s how I feel in the moment :) )

This isn’t about making excuses, but about understanding where your spouse is coming from. Once you both see why your partner coming from a certain perspective, it can make it easier to work with them.

How Can We Talk About Money Better?

Having differences of opinions doesn’t mean that your marriage is doomed ; how you communicate with one another can though. Misunderstandings can quickly snowball into arguments and shouting matches, depending on your personalities.

So just how you talk about money?

  • Write it down. Before you two get together to talk about your finances, make some time to jot down your thoughts and feelings about it. It can serve you in two ways – help you identify your end goal and release some of your emotions.
  • Choose to meet at a time and place that is relaxing for the both of you. Make the situation as comfortable as you can so they two of you are in a better mood to listen. You also might want to have a set time to start and finish so you don’t feel like this will go on forever.
  • Both sides need to talk. Let each of you have some uninterrupted time to express your thoughts and feelings about the situation. While the other one is talking, make sure you’re paying attention to what they are saying. Take notes if you have to. If you’re worried one about going over the limit, set a timer.
  • Find common ground. Once you both spoke about it, try to see if you can come to an agreement on something and work from there.
  • Break it down. If you’re still having trouble coming up with an overall plan for your goal, see if you can back it up a bit and agree on the first step.

Building a Better Marriage with Conversations

I think one way to overcome bad communication habits is by having positive models we can build from. One of my favorite podcasts to catch is Better Conversations on Money and Marriage. You get to hear Derek and Carrie discuss their individual and joint views on budgets, staying together during their own money crisis, and becoming parents.

The latest episode of the Couple Money Podcast goes into more detail if you’re interested.

I’d love to hear from you about how both of you handle financial disagreements. What has worked for you and what hasn’t?

Photo Credit: Karsten Bitter

Want a Happier Marriage? Combine Bank Accounts

saving as a couple

There are strong feelings on the pros and cons of sharing checking and savings as a couple. The latest episode of the Couple Money Podcast shares some tips on how you can go about on combining your finances and how to start your first budget as a couple (you can listen to it below).

For now, though, I want to pitch to you how they can boost your marriage and your finances.

  •  Catch the podcast on iTunes: Simply click on this link and you’ll be taken to Couple Money’s page.
  • Listen on Stitcher: Please click here so you can catch all episodes.

Less Hassle with Bills

By combining our money into one pot, we can simply schedule our bills from a central location. Mortgage, utilities, and savings are scheduled and we only check on the accounts just to verify everything has been paid. Using an online bank like Capital One 360 has made it even simpler to stay on top of our finances.

More Transparency

Having joint checking and savings is handy for us because we both can see where we can improve on with our finances. It’s a safety net to protect both of us – two heads are better than one so we can catch any crazy double charges that may pop up from a bill. We can also bounce ideas off of each other on how to better optimize our system and save some money.

Makes You Face Issues Upfront

When you two share bank accounts, it also makes you more aware of the big issues in your marriage (money and otherwise). I know for some couples, that possibility alone seems to push them to separate accounts, but believe it or not, this can be a wonderful opportunity for your marriage. Having the money talk can be a turning point for the both of you.

Derek Olsen from Better Conversations on Money and Marriage made an insightful remark about  how joint accounts can help the two of you with your marriage:

Combining money within a marriage does not cause problems, it might uncover a few and dealing with them now is a good thing. Most problems are already there, not created. There is no sense in avoiding what is already there.

With financial problems being a huge factor with martial stress and divorces, its crucial to try and get things sorted out sooner rather than later.

Are Separate Accounts Bad?

Does that mean that individual accounts are toxic to your marriage? Should you close all of your individual checking and savings? My answer is – it depends on the two of you and your personal situation.

Personally we have checking accounts that we use for personal expenses like gifts, lunches out during the week, and small purchases here and there that make us happy. For my husband, it’s coffee visits and for me it’s usually books or something to read. That said, we do have access to one another’s account if we need to get to it and when we review our finances we have a clear picture of the totals in the accounts.

Thoughts on Joint Bank Accounts

Enough about us, I’d like to hear from you. How do you manage your finances? Do you combine most of your money? Why or why not?

Photo Credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simoes

How to Talk About Money Without Starting a Fight

couple money talk

One of the most helpful things the two of you can do to strengthen your marriage and finances is sit down and be open with one another about your joint and individual finances. Unfortunately many couples allow their fears about how wrong it could go stop them from doing this.

This lack of communication can cause huge problems so if you haven’t already, make some time this week to discuss this with your husband or wife.

How do you get started? What should you discuss with the first talk? Here are ideas that I believe can help both of you be productive and reduce money arguments.

Be Upfront with Each Other with the Numbers

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to finances in a marriage. That means sharing all the relevant numbers and information with one another. Financial infidelity can be emotionally devastating to a marriage.

Though not the most pleasant of activities, both of you will need to review the debts you have on a regular basis. From college loans to car loans, credit cards and any other debt you have, it’s important that both of you know how much you owe.

This helps you create a realistic budget that will get you out of debt rather than having you two spin your financial wheels.

Create Goals Together

Okay so you know where you’re starting out from, but where are you two heading towards? When creating financial goals, start off with dreams. After all, money is simply a tool. You can use it to achieve your dreams or you can waste it. What do you two want?

You can start off by creating a list of goals you two wish to achieve in 1, 5, and 10 years. You two really need to think about what you value as individuals and as a couple.

  • Do you want to eventually own a house in the country or do you want a condo in the city?
  • Do you want to not lay roots and travel?
  • Do you like to have some gadgets or do you want to save to go have unique experiences?
  • Do either one of you want to start a business?
  • Do you guys want kids down the road?

Asking these questions can allow you to build something together instead of making it up as you go. You also learn about each of your money personalities. Use this opportunity as a way to talk about the differences up front.

Play to Your Financial Strengths

There are many aspects to managing your money: spending, investing, debt reduction, savings, budgeting, and more. Mostly you and your spouse will excel in a couple of those areas.

As a couple, determine what those areas are, assign roles and responsibilities, and encourage your spouse in his or her respective duties. My husband is great at finding the best deals on electronics. He does the research and stays alert for when the price is lower than expected. After we discuss the monthly budget, I take care of the execution of it. We review everything on a monthly basis.

Thoughts on Talking About Money

When did the two of you first start talking about money? How did it go? Any advice for the rest of us?

Photo Credit: David Armsler