Since you won’t be able to change the bottom line when the new year rolls around, it’s wise to get everything in order today. A good place to start is by taking a long, hard look at your net worth. Make a two-columned list with your assets on one side and your liabilities on the other:
-Total value of your home and/or other real estate.
-Balances in savings and money market accounts.
-Value of all your investments combined (stocks, bonds, mutual funds).
-Amounts of all 401(k) and IRA accounts not included above.
-Value of an ownership interest in a business.
-Your outstanding mortgage.
-Total due on credit cards and loans.
-Total due for property settlements or other judgments/debts.
-Amount owed in alimony or child support.
Subtract your liabilities from your assets. What remains are the resources you have to begin building a strong financial foundation. Don’t worry if you aren’t satisfied with this number right off the bat. Most people aren’t. If you come up with a negative number, your first step is to implement a budget to pay off all non-mortgage debt: stop using your credit cards, begin saving monthly, and establish an emergency fund.
This brings you to the next step in the process: Come up with a plan to turn this foundation into a wealth-building opportunity through a combination of savings, investment and insurance vehicles. Consider these saving options:
-Certificates of Deposit (CDs) generally offer a higher rate of return, but tie up your money for months or years at a time.
-Money Market Accounts deliver a rate of return that’s similar to, but usually less than, a CD, combined with the ability to withdraw funds when needed.
-529 Educational Savings Plans are flexible, and allow you to save amounts (in excess of $250,000 per student) tax-deferred to cover educational expenses.
-Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). With traditional IRAs, you can contribute as much as $4,000 per year in 2007 ($5,000 if you’re 50 or older) and deduct your contribution from your tax return. These amounts increase in 2008 to $5,000 for those under 50 and $6,000 for those 50 and over.
-401 (k) Retirement plans are offered by many employers to encourage employees to save for retirement. Many companies match a certain percentage of employee contributions.
While the need to invest in the future through savings and retirement plans is a given, a financial area many people forget to consider is life insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, millions of Americans don’t carry any life insurance at all; millions more don’t have enough to provide sufficient financial security for their families.
This is changing, however. The Insurance Institute reports that, on average, premiums for individual life insurance have been falling about five percent a year since 2000 and are expected to drop an additional four percent in 2007. Premiums have gone down because people are living longer. Interested consumers should take advantage of the downward trend and tendencies of competitive markets. According to Mike Akker, Chief Investment Officer of SBLI USA Mutual Life Insurance Company, “There’s never been a better time to purchase life insurance to protect your family than right now.”
Options To Consider
-Whole life insurance, also called permanent life insurance, features coverage that lasts an entire lifetime and typically offers cash value that accumulates tax-deferred. This kind of insurance eliminates concern about qualifying for insurance later in life.
-Term life insurance, coverage that lasts a specific period of time, provides affordable security and is an attractive option for families purchasing life insurance for the first time.
-Annuities are contracts with the insurance company to provide guaranteed payments at a specific time, drawn from funds you have entrusted to that company. Your funds earn interest at a fixed or variable rate, depending on the option you choose.
With seasonal change in the air, now is the time to start thinking about your financial future. As you stow away your swimsuit and think about curling up by the fireplace, consider visiting www.sbliusa.com, where you’ll benefit from free access to financial planning resources, including interactive calculators, real life stories, informative articles, product guides and more.