22 Jan

Retirement Planning: A How to Guide

retirement planning

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to retirement planning. Many people think it’s too difficult to comprehend or that they are too old to start saving now and will have to play catch up. We’re here to debunk some of these common misconceptions and simplify the way you see retirement planning with a 2-step how to guide.

Step 1: Determine How Much You Will Need

The first step in planning for retirement is determining how much money you will need to do live the post-retirement life you desire. When you retire, you will no longer have the consistent income you have been used to for the past few decades, so having a “nest egg” is very important, as that is where your main funds will stem from.

So how much will you need? This varies from person to person and completely depends on what you see your lifestyle looking like. For example, if you are passionate about traveling, you will need to keep in mind the costs associated with this lifestyle and plan accordingly. Another aspect to keep in mind is your health. While it is impossible to predict your future health, you can still plan for what may come. It is always better to be on the safe side and keep some extra funds aside, in the unfortunate case that something arises.

A good rule of thumb to follow when planning what retirement funds you will need, is to expect to require about 70% of your annual pre-retirement income, depending upon what your expected lifestyle will be like. If you want to live more lavishly, planning for more than 70% is probably the way to go. There is no need to decide now, but it’s best to keep this idea in the back of your mind.

Step 2: Determine Where and How You Will Invest

Now that you have an idea of how much you will need, how are you going to go about funding it? This is where IRAs and 401(k)s come in. Currently, you can contribute up to $5,500 to a traditional or Roth IRA each year and up to $18,000 to a 401(k). You can contribute to both every year, but many people tend to choose one or the other. The main difference between the options is that 401(k) and traditional IRA contributions go in tax-free but then get taxed as income once used during retirement, whereas Roth IRA contributions are taxed before you put them in and withdrawals are not taxed later on. Decide which option is right for you and try to put as many funds as you can afford into them as soon as you can. The sooner you get funds into retirement accounts, the longer they have to accrue interest – which means more money for you down the road.

If we’re being honest, the hardest part about saving for retirement is committing to putting away the funds and not being able to use them today. We promise, it will all be worth it in the long run when you can rest easy and relax after all is said and done. Need more convincing? Talk to one of our certified financial planners and start planning for your future!

28 Nov

How to Create a Budget

Have you ever felt like you consistently spend more than you earn in income each month? If so, a budget is a great solution. By creating a plan for your money and allocating spending limits, you can start having more control over where your income goes and how much of it you allow yourself to spend. Coming up with a plan is not always easy though, and that’s why RMLEFCU is here to show you how to create a budget, no matter what your income is.

Step 1: Determine Income

Determining income may be easier for some people than others. If you are on a salaried pay scale or get consistently similar paychecks, you can easily calculate your monthly income. For those who work hourly jobs where income is unpredictable or sporadic, this may be a bit more difficult. In this case, it is best to determine your average monthly income by calculating the average of the last 6 to 12 months of recurring income. This will give you the best estimate of what you earn, on average, per month and allow you to budget accordingly.

Step 2: Establish Wants vs. Needs

Establishing the difference between expenses that are a want and a need is a very important step. In total, these expenses should add up to about 80% of your monthly paycheck – 50% going toward essential costs, and 30% to “fun” costs.

A needed expense usually falls into one of four main categories: housing, utilities, groceries, and transportation. If you find yourself spending more that 50% of your monthly income here, then it might be time to scale back in one or more of the categories. For example, not buying all organic produce from Whole Foods every week, or trading in your luxury apartment for something a bit more affordable.

The “wants”, or fun expenses, include everything from eating out to buying concert tickets. These are the costs that can be easily reduced if you feel you’re cutting it too close to going over your budget near the end of the month and can ultimately help you realize what you truly can and cannot afford. For example, if you go completely over the allocated 30% of your income one month and realize you saw 4 movies in the theaters, that might be a good place to look at cutting costs for the future.

Step 3: Save Some Money

While it might be tempting to spend all of your excess money on entertainment, that is not how you set yourself up for future success. If you’re not sure how much you should be saving, a general rule of thumb is to allocate 20% of your monthly income to savings. This will give you an extra financial cushion should an emergency occur, or simply be a place for you to stash your money away for a much needed vacation. We know it can be difficult to transfer funds from your checking directly to a savings account, so to make it easier, we offer an automatic transfer system that will automatically deduct a certain amount from your direct paycheck deposits and put it right into your savings account. If you don’t see the money in the first place, you won’t even miss it!

Step 4: Make Adjustments and Track Your Progress

After tracking your spending for a few months, you’ll be able to easily see how much of your money goes where. If any areas seem to be off, it might be time to reevaluate your spending and see if you can cut some costs in order to save more. Priorities, income, and expenses will all change over time, and budgets have the flexibility to accommodate any and all of these changes. It is ultimately up to you to determine what you think you can reasonably afford and what is out of your means for the time being.

In the beginning, making a budget might seem like a difficult task, but in the end, it will not only make you more aware of your spending habits, but also help you understand the importance of saving. You can’t use the “not knowing how to create a budget” excuse anymore, so what are you waiting for? Visit our website and get started with a savings account today and utilize our online banking budgeting tool.

18 Oct

Planning for Retirement Now

Planning for Retirement Now

No matter what age you are, the time to start planning for retirement is now. If you have no idea where to start, or just want to review your current plan, we’re here to help. By following these few pieces of advice, you can take your retirement savings plan up a notch and start seeing the real difference that saving early can make.

Contribute to Your 401(k)

Contributing to your 401(k) is the simplest way to start planning for your retirement. Even if it seems impossible when you’re struggling to pay off student debt, pay rent, and just afford to eat, focusing on setting aside a small amount every paycheck and contributing it to your 401(k) can make a huge difference in the long run.

Another benefit, is that most employers offer contribution matches to your 401(k). Meaning the amount that you put in, they will match up to a certain percentage, usually 3%. This is essentially free retirement money, so take full advantage and contribute at least the maximum amount that they will match. You should start contributing to your 401(k) as soon as possible.

Open an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA)

There are two types of IRAs, traditional and Roth – both with advantages depending on when you would like your contributions to be taxed. A traditional IRA allows you to contribute up to $5,500 per year and grows, tax-deferred, until retirement. With a Roth IRA, you can contribute the same amount per year, but the money is taxed now instead of when you remove it at retirement. RMLEFCU offers both types of IRAs, so you can pick the account that best suits your retirement savings needs. Learn more about our IRA options here.

Be Wise with Your Investments

The younger you are, the more aggressive you can be with your investments as you can handle the ups and downs of the long-term market. The older you get though, you likely want to start choosing more conservative investment options with less risk. If you know little to nothing about investing, instead of trying to decipher the world of stocks and mutual funds by yourself, it’s wise to enlist the help of a professional. Here at RMLEFCU, we have a great financial planning department that is ready to help you plan for retirement and long-term success.

Plan an Emergency Fund

Now that you’re contributing funds toward your retirement, you may think that you don’t need to save anything else. In the case of an emergency though, you’ll want to have a separate account set up with a decent amount of money that can be used for unexpected expenses instead of putting large expenses on a credit card or, even worse, using retirement savings. By setting up a separate savings account with an ideal amount of about 3 months living expenses saved up, you can maintain peace of mind that you will be able to handle any unfortunate emergency that might come up. Sometimes cars break down and dogs need to visit the vet. RMLEFCU offers both regular and custom savings accounts to help you with your specific savings goals. Check them out and see which is the better option for you.

Give yourself peace of mind by looking at the big picture and planning for retirement sooner rather than later. You’ll thank yourself in the long run and probably not even miss the simple expenses you might have to cut back on today. If you need help getting started planning for retirement and would like to speak with one of our financial advisors, give us a call at (303) 458-6660 or visit our website for more information.

 

 

12 Oct

Tips for Paying Off Debt

Tips for Paying Off Debt

Debt has become a dirty four-letter word of sorts. People don’t want to talk about it, and yet it consumes and frustrates so many of us. Fear not though! RMLEFCU is here to give you a few tips for paying off debt and help you along the way.

Plan and Budget

Even though it may be intimidating and seem impossible to dig yourself out of the debt hole, if you learn how to take control of your finances and come up with a game plan, it can be a lot simpler than you think. A simple way to start, is by gathering the balances and interest rates from your various credit cards and loans. Once you have a good idea of how much you owe in total, then you can begin to come up with a budget and plan of attack.

To create a budget, start out by making a spreadsheet that includes your monthly income and expenses. Then, go through the expenses and see what costs are truly non-negotiable and which you can live without – at least until you are debt free. This will loosen up some extra cash that you can put directly towards paying off your debt, getting you one step closer to financial freedom. Check out the new budgeting tool in the RMLEFCU online banking portal. This handy feature integrates with your spending to help you plan a budget and stay on track.

Tackle the Most Expensive Debt First

Now that you have decided how much you owe in total, it’s time to take a closer look at the different interest rates on various loans and cards. Sort them from highest to lowest interest rate and focus on paying off the higher ones first, by putting more than the minimum payment down on them each month. By doing this while continuing to pay at least the minimum on all others, you will lower the amount of interest costing you the most money every month.

Another option is to consolidate your high interest debt into a lower interest option. If you have credit card debt, consider transferring the balances on your higher interest credit cards to a lower interest RMLEFCU credit card for no additional fee. If you have high interest loans such as student loans or an auto loan, talk with a loan advisor about paying them off with a lower interest RMLEFCU option such as a HELOC, personal loan, or by refinancing.

Pay More Than the Minimum

The minimum monthly payments on credit cards and loans are usually 2-3% of your total outstanding balance. In order to make a dent in your debt, you must pay more than just the minimums. Otherwise you are just dragging out the repayment period causing yourself more stress and costing yourself more money. The longer it takes you to repay charges, the more interest banks charge you. Don’t fall into this vicious cycle. Instead, try paying the minimum payment every other week or pay double the monthly minimum. For example, if your minimum payment due is $100, try paying $200 or more whether it’s all at once or sporadically throughout the month. This will allow you to avoid interest charges and improve your credit score. Win-win!

Increase your Assets

If you’re following all of the above steps and still don’t feel like you’re getting un-buried as fast as you would like, it might be time to consider other options to increase your cash flow. This can be anything from selling unnecessary items you may have accumulated over the years, or even getting a second job. Depending on how much money you need and how much time you are willing to invest, each of these options has its pros and cons that should be taken into consideration with your unique situation.

Paying off debt doesn’t have to be intimidating and frustrating. If you develop a solid plan and stick to it, becoming debt free is completely possible for anyone. If you want more tips for paying off debt or would like to speak with one of our expert representatives, give us a call at (303) 458-6660 or visit our website.

09 Aug

Banking for Students

Banking for Students

As a student, your schedule can vary widely from day to day, along with your financial needs. It’s important that your credit union be flexible and grow with you as your needs change. RMLEFCU offers a number of convenient features for students, such as mobile banking, person-2-person transfers, and shared branching. Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union also has a first time Visa credit card for students without any credit history. Banking for students is not just limited to whatever institution has an ATM near campus – use RMLEFCU when you are away at school for both its convenience and unbeatably low rates.

Convenience

With RMLEFCU you can do most banking transactions from your phone or online, which is perfect for students that don’t have the time or transportation to get to a branch. This includes depositing checks, transferring money, checking your balance, and more.

If you are not near an RMLEFCU branch and do need to visit in person, RMLEFCU makes that possible by partnering with over 5,000 credit unions across the United States. Wherever you are going to school, RMLEFCU will go with you. Visit any partner credit union to perform your in-branch transactions.

Take advantage of free overdraft protection and courtesy pay for those students that are a little tight on cash. Your card will not be declined for insufficient funds and you do not need to worry about ATM fees either. With a Kasasa checking account, up to $25 in ATM fees are refundable each month.

Person-2-Person Transfers

As a student, there is a lot of splitting costs for meals and bills with roommates. RMLEFCU offers person-2-person transfers for those unpredictable times that you need to give someone money but don’t have (or want to pull out) any cash. Using either online banking or your mobile phone app, you can transfer funds from your bank account directly to someone else. Who carries cash these days anyways?

Build Credit Early

Most students don’t have much credit yet, but the time to build it is now. RMLEFCU can help you get your first credit card and establish length of account history with a checking account. RMLEFCU has reasonable interest rates for credit cards, even for first time card holders. By working on establishing credit as a student, after graduation you will be able to get great rates on everything from a car to your first house.

Pay for School

Another popular feature for students is using a HELOC to pay for schooling/living expenses. Having your parents take out a Home Equity Line of Credit, or a HELOC, to pay for schooling will help keep your interest rates low – saving both students and parents a lot of money. It can be drawn on when needed and paid back as you are able to.

RMLEFCU – Banking for Students

With shared branching, online banking, and mobile banking, you can get everything you need as a member of Rocky Mountain Law Enforcement Federal Credit Union even when you are away at school. Take advantage of our low rates for first time card holders and build credit now so you are in a good place after college to start making those large purchases.

27 Jun

Giving a Child a Credit Card: Why It’s Not as Crazy an Idea as It Sounds

Giving a Child a Credit Card

Do you remember when it first started to really sink in that you were going to have to repay all of those purchases you racked up on your credit card, plus interest? Many of us learn this lesson in early adulthood when we first become financially independent, but there is a way to help your children to this epiphany before it has to happen the hard way. By giving a child a credit card at an age as young as 12, you can keep the training wheels on while still helping them build credit and learn valuable financial lessons.

Builds Accountability

Skills like budgeting and money management come with practice, so why not start early?

Giving a cash allowance to a child is one step in building accountability, but giving them the capability to make credit purchases will take that budgeting training to the next level. Learning about delayed consequences for your spending decisions is something many adults have not even mastered yet. Start instilling the idea that choices you make today will always have consequences tomorrow while your children are still young.

Learn About How and When to Use Credit Cards

There is no harm in responsible use of credit cards. Using credit cards regularly will help lenders see that you are reliable to pay off debts, and when you are confident that you can afford to repay what you have borrowed, credit cards can be used to earn reward points and budget large purchases.

Giving a child practice making decisions of when to use credit versus cash will give them valuable financial practice for their adult life, and hopefully, avoid later falling into debt.

Online shopping is still growing and credit cards tend to be safer than debit for online purchases. By giving your child their own, they can make online purchases with their own money and not need to borrow a parent’s credit card.

Establish Credit Early

Many people begin building credit once they are adults. By allowing a child as young as 12 to have a credit card in their name, you can help them to build valuable credit gradually and be better prepared for larger purchases as young adults such as college loans, vehicles, and eventually their first home.

Parents Are Still in Control

With credit cards for children under 18, a parent or guardian can still be the responsible party and can track their child’s spending. These cards tend to have low, manageable limits and can be linked to a debt account for easy payments. You can kill two birds with one stone by giving a child a credit card; learn how to responsibly use a credit card while establishing a credit history.

Giving a Child a Credit Card

Open a credit card for your child in their name to help them learn valuable financial lessons early on in life. You will still retain control and the ability to track their spending, but with them being the primary holder, you can more closely give them the accountability a credit card of their own will one day require.