How to throw away a fortune—in seven easy steps. Ready to waste money? Here are some surefire strategies:
Suppose you work for 40 years, save $250 a month, your investments earn a 5% pretax annual return and you lose 25% a year to income taxes.
If you start saving as soon as you enter the workforce, you will have roughly $279,000 at retirement. But if you delay by just 10 years, you’ll amass $167,000, or 40% less.
2. Shun retirement accounts.
OK, maybe it’s worth saving for 40 years. But is it really worth locking up money in retirement accounts, with a 10% tax penalty to discourage withdrawals before age 59½?
Let’s use the assumptions above. But suppose you skip the taxable account and instead fund a Roth individual retirement account, which can deliver tax-free growth. After 40 years, you’d have $383,000, with no taxes owed.
What if, instead, you had opted for a tax-deductible IRA? You might lose 25% to taxes when you cash out your IRA in retirement. But if you’d invested the tax savings from the initial tax deduction, you could sock away $333 every month, rather than $250. Result: After taxes, the tax-deductible IRA should give you $383,000, just like the Roth.
3. Forfeit the employer match.
Roughly 20% of eligible employees don’t salt away money in 401(k) plans, including plans with matching employer contributions, according to a survey by Chicago’s Plan Sponsor Council of America.
Are you among those who don’t contribute—or don’t contribute enough to get the full match? You could be missing out on a heap of dough.
Let’s assume your employer matches 401(k) contributions at a rate of 50 cents for every $1 you contribute. If you saved $333 a month for 40 years and collected the match, you’d have $575,000 at retirement, even after paying all taxes. Reallocate properly, monitoring any market downturn and when not performing well, and you are allowed to reallocate some portion to a qualified plan such as an index or variable annuity with good performance, reallocate to save taxes.
And when you are close to 59.5yrs, reallocate towards a tax free plan.
4. Buy active mutual funds.
We’ve been assuming a 5% annual investment return. But what if you buy actively managed mutual funds, rather than market-tracking index funds? Sure, you might enjoy the occasional market-beating year—but it is highly unlikely you would earn market-beating returns over 40 years.
A more likely scenario: You lag behind the market, perhaps by one percentage point a year, so you earn just 4%. Suppose you funded the 401(k) with the match for 40 years. At 4%, you’d have $445,000 after taxes, or 23% less than with the 5% return we assumed above.
5. Carry a credit-card balance.
In 2014’s second quarter, the average credit-card debt per borrower was $5,234, according to TransUnion, the Chicago-based credit bureau. Imagine you kept your card balance at that level, but incurred 20% in total annual interest costs. That would be almost $42,000 in interest over 40 years.
What if you hadn’t paid that interest, and instead stashed the money in a Roth IRA, where it earned 5% a year? After 40 years, you would have another $133,000 for retirement.
6. Get a new car every three years.
Let’s say you bought a $30,000 car. You might recoup 56% of the car’s cost if you sold it after three years, which means you’d need to pony up another $13,200 to buy a new $30,000 car.
By contrast, if you kept the car for six years, you might recoup just 34%, so you would need to come up with $19,800 to buy a new $30,000 car. But because you’re buying a new car less frequently, you’d spend $6,600 less every six years.
The potential cost savings are even greater if you drove the car for more than six years or, alternatively, bought a used car. True, you might incur somewhat higher repair bills by driving an older vehicle. But you would also save on insurance, which should be cheaper for a less valuable car.
7. Remodel your home.
Think that new kitchen will be a great investment? Check out Remodeling magazine’s survey at CostvsValue.com. According to the 2014 survey, a major kitchen remodeling might cost $54,909, but add just $40,732 to a home’s resale value. The survey found that other home-improvement projects were also money losers. Moreover, the longer you wait to sell, the shabbier your renovations will look and the less you’ll likely recoup.
I have nothing against home improvements. But you should undertake them because they will give you a lot of pleasure—and not because you think they’re a good investment.
Contact Connie Dello Buon for tax advantaged retirement plan, 408-854-1883 firstname.lastname@example.org CA Life Lic 0G60621 in 50 US states.