Author Archives: Claire Harrison

Claire Harrison
Claire Harrison is a Campaign Manager at blooom. A high-fiver, thinker, and coffee drinker, Claire loves the Oxford comma and clean design. She’s werkin’ hard to help people learn about their retirement savings and how easy blooom is to use.

5 Ways to Save for Retirement When You Have Student Loan Debt

Graduation caps have landed, tassels have been switched to the other side, and mom has all the pictures she could ever want. Graduation day is one of the most memorable occasions in a person’s lifetime, but as seventy percent of new grads know, it also starts the countdown to one of life’s most-dreaded evils: paying back student loans. Recent research suggests millennials are now spending one fifth of their annual salaries on student loans alone, and now expect to be making payments well into their forties. At the same time, most millennials know they need to start saving for retirement in their twenties – from their first day at their first job if possible – but when Sallie Mae comes knocking it can seem impossible to both pay back debt and save for retirement on an entry level salary.

 

So how can you manage your student loan debt and also make sure you have enough to retire comfortably?

 

Here are a few tips to get started:

1. Create a budget

Your first step should be to come up with a plan outlining your long-term financial priorities, including everything from paying off student loans and contributing to retirement to having immediate funds for an emergency. You can’t focus on realizing long term goals when you’re trapped lurching from one immediate crisis to the next. Take some time to breathe and focus on the future.

 

2. Manage your payment plans

While getting out of debt can seem like a more urgent priority, make sure you are on track to meet your retirement goals before accelerating your student loan debt payoff date. According to a Morningstar report, every dollar of student loan debt creates a 35 cent decrease in retirement savings. Try to put at least 10-20 percent of your income throughout your working years aside for retirement. This enables you to take advantage of compounding interest and the time value of money, so you’ll actually end up with more money by the time you retire. Automation makes managing this process easier, so you don’t need to think twice about it!

 

3. Take advantage of employer matching policies

Does your employer match contributions or participate in a pre-tax retirement saving plan? You could be earning a higher rate of return by making sure you’re participating in and capitalizing on those policies. New company, new plan? No problem! Look into rolling over your 401(k) to maximize your benefits. Sometimes money does grow on trees.

 

4. Refinance your existing debt

If you have good to excellent credit and a steady cash flow you’re a prime candidate for loan refinancing. Look for a new loan with a lower interest rate, and make sure you use all the money from the new loan to pay off the old one. Some banks and loan providers also offer loyalty and automation discounts, so you should also make sure you’re familiar with all the options available to you before you sign on the dotted line.

 

5. Keep an eye on pesky fees

Three in four Americans have no idea what they’re paying in 401(k) fees, and nearly 40 percent believe they’re not paying any fees at all. When’s the last time you checked what you’re paying in fees? It’s not enough to just save money if you end up losing thousands of dollars in fees you don’t even know you’re paying. Signing up for Blooom’s 401(k) robo-advisor to manage your 401(k) and minimize those pesky fees costs a flat fee of $10 per month, no matter how much you have saved. No small print, no tricks.

 

Still feel like you’re drowning in debt? Check out blooom’s free 401(k) checkup tool to see how you’re doing with your retirement savings plan.

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Keep Calm and Invest On

Remember when “breaking news” was actually worthy of the term? It’s thrown around so much by networks these days, it feels like everything leading off the news is cause for mass hysteria. Maybe there’s an asteroid heading right for us, or maybe the Sun is supposed to randomly burn out in the next few months.

If that’s the case, your investments aren’t going to do you any good anyway. But in the far-off chance that those things DON’T happen any time soon, it might be good for us to cover something EVERY long-term investor must understand. Just like any set of stairs you encounter, markets go up AND down. It happens ALL the time … so often that at some point investors saving for retirement owe it to themselves to stop paying so much attention to [insert major news network].

We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen something similar to these following headlines over the years:

“Expert: Crash is Coming, Time to Sell”

“2008 All Over Again?: Analysts Think So”

“Dow Sheds 300: Pros Say Get Out!”

And the very next day…

“Dow Rebounds 350 Points: Bull Market Marches On”

“Analysts: This Year Could Be the Best Year in Decades for Stocks”

“Risk On: Never a Better Time to Buy!”

You get the point. In a world where we now have a 24-hour news cycle, the very existence of any news outlet is highly dependent upon one thing: RATINGS. There is simply nothing better for ratings than fear and panic, which is why those first three headlines will catch more attention than the last three. It’s why negative news will always net more ratings.

Why is this? Well, unfortunately negative events have a greater impact on our psychology than neutral or positive events. This is often referred to as negativity bias and it’s just another annoying and unavoidable part of our human nature. It’s why we tend to pay more attention to a celebrity’s life spiraling out of control than the daily acts of heroism displayed by any of our local fire departments. In the world of finance, it’s why we’re inclined to tune in on the down days and ignore the up days. The media knows this. They thrive on it. It’s also the reason that very simple facts that would likely relieve that fear for the average long-term investor are often left out of the story.

For example, how about the fact that, according to data from the Capital Group, in the last 115 years we’ve seen a decline in stocks of 10% or more on average once every single year? Or the fact that in that same span, we’ve averaged three declines of 5% or more every single year? What about the most comforting fact of all – that there has NEVER been a single time in U.S. history where the stock market has dropped and not recovered. Does that guarantee it will never happen? Absolutely not, but we would have far bigger concerns than our 401k accounts if we saw the first ever permanent crash. When the stock market is falling, viewers are more likely to stay tuned (can you say RATINGS BONANZA?) Do they usually balance it out with historical context and comforting facts? Not so much.

No one knows for sure what the rest of 2018 will bring to investing. Financial news will continue to keep us informed and sometimes on edge, but its role has little to do with the average investor saving for a far-off goal like retirement. Unless you’re a professional trader trying to interpret market data every second of your day, any news related to the day-to-day movements in the stock market should be irrelevant to you. Investing for your retirement is about retirement. If anything, most investors should embrace the volatility, since the market is really just going on sale. It’s not about today, tomorrow, or even five years from now. And if you ARE that close to retirement, you shouldn’t be heavily invested in stocks anyway.

So relax. Be patient. Chill. Sure, it’s a challenge to any investor, but it may also be what ultimately saves you from making enemies with future you.

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Don’t Sit: How to Rollover Your 401k

Congrats! You’ve landed a new job (never a doubt) and didn’t even have to list us as a reference (Oh, the accolades we would’ve thrown your way). While you’re busy getting acclimated to your new work digs, if you have a 401k with your previous employer, don’t forget to bring it with you, along with your trusty stapler. Here are a couple options on how to roll it over:    

Direct rollover to new company plan

If you plan on performing a direct rollover of your old account, first check to make sure your new employer’s retirement plan will accept 401k rollovers. If so, contact the 401k administrator at your new company for a new account address [Example: ABC 401k Plan FBO (for the benefit of) YOUR NAME]. Once you fill out all required paperwork, your 401k funds will either be transferred directly from your old plan to the new plan, or mailed to you as a check made out to the new account address. Just make sure to turn it over to your new company’s 401k administrator.

Rollover to an IRA

You can also roll over your 401k to a traditional IRA, either by transferring the funds to your existing traditional IRA, or by opening a new IRA to receive the funds. No dollar limit is required for either one. You can also roll over – or convert – your non-Roth 401k money to a Roth IRA. The taxable portion of your distribution from the 401k plan will be included in your income at the time of the rollover.

Leave it where it is.

Sometimes the best move you can make with your 401k is to not make any move at all. At least for the time being. For instance, If you’re happy with the investment alternatives your former job offers, or if you need some more time deciding your next move, or if your new company requires a certain amount of time before you can participate in their 401k plan, you may be able to simply leave your 401k where it is.  

Cash out.

Please advise, we only recommend this as a “last resort” option. After you leave your previous employer, you can choose to withdraw your 401k funds in a lump sum after leaving your previous employer. To do this, request that your 401k plan administrator cut you a check. While the check amount will look great in your hands, remember that cashing out could put a dent in your retirement savings, plus you may be faced with significant taxes and penalties in the short term, too.

Of course, not all 401k plans are created equal. So before you make a final decision, we’ll help you choose the best fit for your retirement goals. Hey, it’s what we’re here for, so let’s chat.  

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Before Booking Your Summer Getaway …

These Money Moves Can Keep You From Sweating the Details on Vacation 

In the heat of summer, it’s hard not to daydream about lounging on sandy beaches and sipping on your favorite frozen concoction. But is taking a summer vacation realistic for you? Before you start planning your escape, consider these vital financial moves first before spending on your next getaway. 

Pad that emergency fund.

Did you know four out of every ten Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Board? Before you hit the road on that summer trip, make sure you’re saving cash to cover any unexpected injuries, illnesses or life-threatening home repairs. Once you have at least $1,000 saved, congratulations! You’re doing better than most. From there, commit to saving at least three to six months of living expenses to ensure you’re protected against any future emergencies.

Don’t be tardy paying down student debt.

Student loans are becoming more and more of a necessary evil for many Americans seeking higher education. The average student loan debt for a graduate in 2017 was $39,400, according to Student Loan Hero. Ensure you have a plan to pay back your debt that works within your budget before you start looking at vacation destinations.

Stay focused on future you.

We all know we should be saving as much as we can for retirement. But if you’re looking for a hard number, 10% to 15% of your income is a good rule of thumb. Once you’ve established the habit of saving for retirement, it’s important to save the right way – by investing in a mix of stocks and bonds in line with your age and risk tolerance. This is where blooom helps.

Save for vacay before spending on vacay.  

Taking a summer vacation is more of a luxury than a cultural norm, according to a recent survey from Bankrate. Forty-nine percent of Americans don’t plan to take a vacation this summer, and one in four survey respondents are not taking a summer vacation because they can’t afford it. Only 36% of respondents who get paid vacation days plan to use all of them this year. So how can you get that well-deserved R&R?

If you think you might have to stay home until next summer, consider changing your destination and/or accommodations to something more practical first. Check out the New York Times’ recent article about the 11 Ways to Save Money When Booking Travel for valuable tips and tricks to maximize your vacation budget.

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Pig playing soccer goalkeeper

Kick in More Now for Retirement: That’s the GOOOOOAAAALLLLL

Right now, in the thick of the FIFA World Cup, teams from across the globe are vying for the coveted gold trophy with the World Cup Final match taking place on July 15th. While these world-class soccer players aren’t likely focused on making any (ahem) BIG saves for retirement right now, they should be. According to the Telegraph, the average soccer career lasts only eight years with a standard retirement age of 35.

A More Offensive Game Plan

Considering the average World Cup player right now is in their mid-to-late 20s, according to Statista, these professional athletes need to be kicking in as much savings as they can to set themselves up for a successful financial life and a sustainable retirement. There’s only one Ronaldo, one Messi, one Beckham, so establishing the financial security needed to retire after a less-than-a-decade career can feel too far out of reach for most others.

Off the pitch, the savings a typical 35 year old should’ve netted at this point has received a lot of attention lately. A study published from Fidelity recommended having twice your annual salary saved for retirement by age 35. Considering the weight of student debt and the outsized cost of housing plaguing millennials, this number feels very out of reach for most of the population in or nearing their 30s.

While the amount you save is vital, what isn’t gameplanned enough is how you’re saving. You can argue that you can save all you want, but if you’re simply holding your savings in cash, it won’t be in the position to grow enough to enable you to retire. After you establish the habit of saving, you must maximize your ability to grow your investments.

More Coaching Required

Two big determinants of investment growth are derived from minimizing fees and maximizing returns, and Americans need help with both. Data from the Census Bureau suggests that 79 percent of Americans work for an employer that sponsors a 401k-style retirement plan, but only 27 percent know how much they’re paying in fees on their 401k accounts, according to a study by TD Ameritrade.

Fortunately, by hiring blooom as your trusted advisor, you can rest assured that we’re working on your behalf to reduce investment fees wherever we can. We make managing your 401k simple, smart and affordable by leveraging the right funds for your goals with lower fees to optimize your retirement savings, no matter what age you are. That’s our GOOOOAAAALLLLL.

Not a blooom member? Here’s your best shot … join now.

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