In December 2015, the Federal Reserve raised the federal funds target rate to a range of 0.25% to 0.50%, the first rate increase from the near-zero range where it had lingered for seven years. Many economists viewed this action as a positive sign that the Fed had finally deemed the U.S. economy healthy enough to withstand slightly higher interest rates. It remains to be seen how rate increases will play out for the remainder of 2016. In the meantime, try taking this short quiz to test your interest rate knowledge.

 

Quiz

 

1. Bond prices tend to rise when interest rates rise.
a. True
b. False

 

2. Which of the following interest rates is directly controlled by the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee?
a. Prime rate
b. Mortgage rates
c. Federal funds rate
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

 

3. The Federal Reserve typically raises interest rates to control inflation and lowers rates to help accelerate economic growth.
a. True
b. False

 

4. Rising interest rates could result in lower yields for investors who have money in cash alternatives.
a. True
b. False

 

5. Stock market investors tend to look unfavorably on increases in interest rates.
a. True
b. False

 

Answers

 

1. b. False. Bond prices tend to fall when interest rates rise. However, longer-term bonds may feel a greater impact than those with shorter maturities. That’s because when interest rates are rising, bond investors may be reluctant to tie up their money for longer periods if they anticipate higher yields in the future; and the longer a bond’s term, the greater the risk that its yield may eventually be superceded by that of newer bonds. (The principal value of bonds may fluctuate with market conditions. Bonds redeemed prior to maturity may be worth more or less than their original cost.)

 

2. c. Federal funds rate. This is the interest rate at which banks lend funds to each other (typically overnight) within the Federal Reserve System. Though the federal funds rate affects other interest rates, the Fed does not have direct control of consumer interest rates such as mortgage rates.

 

3. a. True. Raising rates theoretically slows economic activity. As a result, the Federal Reserve has historically raised interest rates to help dampen inflation. Conversely, the Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates to help stimulate a sluggish economy.

 

4. b. False. Rising interest rates could actually benefit investors who have money in cash alternatives. Savings accounts, CDs, and money market vehicles are all likely to provide somewhat higher income when interest rates increase. The downside, though, is that if higher interest rates are accompanied by inflation, cash alternatives may not be able to keep pace with rising prices.

 

5. a. True. Higher borrowing costs can reduce corporate profits and reduce the amount of income that consumers have available for spending. However, even with higher rates, an improving economy can be good for investors over the long term.

Here are 10 things to consider as you weigh potential tax moves between now and the end of the year.

 

1. Set aside time to plan
Effective planning requires that you have a good understanding of your current tax situation, as well as a reasonable estimate of how your circumstances might change next year. There’s a real opportunity for tax savings if you’ll be paying taxes at a lower rate in one year than in the other. However, the window for most tax-saving moves closes on December 31, so don’t procrastinate.

 

2. Defer income to next year
Consider opportunities to defer income to 2017,particularly if you think you may be in a lower tax bracket then. For example, you may be able to defer a year-end bonus or delay the collection of business debts, rents, and payments for services. Doing so may enable you to postpone payment of tax on the income until next year.

 

3. Accelerate deductions
You might also look for opportunities to accelerate deductions into the current tax year.If you itemize deductions, making payments for deductible expenses such as medical expenses, qualifying interest, and state taxes before the end of the year, instead of paying them in early 2017, could make a difference on your 2016 return.

 

4. Factor in the AMT
If you’re subject to the alternative minimum tax(AMT), traditional year-end maneuvers such as deferring income and accelerating deduction scan have a negative effect. Essentially a separate federal income tax system with its own rates and rules, the AMT effectively disallows a number of itemized deductions. For example, if you’re subject to the AMT in 2016,prepaying 2017 state and local taxes probably won’t help your 2016 tax situation, but could hurt your 2017 bottom line. Taking the time to determine whether you may be subject to the AMT before you make any year-end moves could help save you from making a costly mistake.

 

5. Bump up withholding to cover a tax shortfall
If it looks as though you’re going to owe federal income tax for the year, especially if you think you may be subject to an estimated tax penalty,consider asking your employer (via Form W-4)to increase your withholding for the remainder of the year to cover the shortfall. The biggest advantage in doing so is that withholding is considered as having been paid evenly through the year instead of when the dollars are actually taken from your paycheck. This strategy can also be used to make up for low or missing quarterly estimated tax payments.

 

6. Maximize retirement savings
Deductible contributions to a traditional IRA and pretax contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan such as a 401(k) can reduce your 2016 taxable income. If you haven’t already contributed up to the maximum amount allowed, consider doing so by year-end.

 

7. Take any required distributions
Once you reach age 70½, you generally must start taking required minimum distributions(RMDs) from traditional IRAs and employer-sponsored retirement plans (an exception may apply if you’re still working and participating in an employer-sponsored plan).Take any distributions by the date required–the end of the year for most individuals. The penalty for failing to do so is substantial: 50% of any amount that you failed to distribute as required.

 

8. Weigh year-end investment moves
You shouldn’t let tax considerations drive your investment decisions. However, it’s worth considering the tax implications of any year-end investment moves that you make. For example,if you have realized net capital gains from selling securities at a profit, you might avoid being taxed on some or all of those gains by selling losing positions. Any losses over and above the amount of your gains can be used to offset up to $3,000 of ordinary income ($1,500 if your filing status is married filing separately)or carried forward to reduce your taxes in future years.

 

9. Beware the net investment income tax
Don’t forget to account for the 3.8% net investment income tax. This additional tax may apply to some or all of your net investment income if your modified AGI exceeds $200,000($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately, $200,000 if head of household).

 

10. Get help if you need it

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to tax planning. That’s why it often makes sense to talk to a tax professional who is able to evaluate your situation and help you determine if any year-end moves make sense for you.

Many differences exist among baby boomers, Generation Xers, and millennials. But one thing that brings all three generations together is a concern about their financial situations.

According to an April 2016 employee financial wellness survey, 38% of boomers, 46% of GenXers, and 51% of millennials said that financial matters are the top cause of stress in their lives. In fact, baby boomers (50%), Gen Xers(56%), and millennials (60%) share the same top financial concern about not having enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses. Following are additional financial concerns foreach group and some tips on how to address them.

 

Baby boomers
Baby boomers cite retirement as a top concern,with 45% of the group saying they worry about not being able to retire when they want to. Although 79% of the baby boomers said they are currently saving for retirement, 52% of the same group believe they will have to delay retirement. Health issues (30%) and health-care costs (38%) are some of the biggest retirement concerns cited by baby boomers. As a result, many baby boomers(23%) are delaying retirement in order to retain their current health-care benefits.

Other reasons reported by baby boomers for delaying retirement include not having enough money saved to retire (48%), not wanting to retire (27%), and having too much debt (23%).
Generation X
While baby boomers are concerned about retiring when they want to, Gen Xers are more specifically worried about running out of money in retirement, with 50% of the surveyed group citing this as a top concern. More Gen Xers(26%) than baby boomers (25%) or millennials(21%) have already withdrawn money held in their retirement plans to pay for expenses other than retirement.

Besides worrying about retirement, 25% of GenXers are concerned about meeting monthly expenses. Forty-four percent find it difficult to meet household expenses on time each month,and 53% consistently carry balances on their credit cards.

Being laid off from work is another financial worry among Gen Xers, cited by 22% of those surveyed–more than cited by baby boomers or millennials.

Gen Xers (26%) report that better job security would help them achieve future financial goals, which may help explain their worry about both future (retirement) and current (living) expenses.

 

 

Millennials
Unlike baby boomers and Gen Xers who worry about future financial needs, millennials seem to be more concerned about meeting current expenses. This concern has grown substantially for millennials, from 23% in the same survey conducted in 2015 to 35% in2016. Millennials are also finding it increasingly difficult to pay their household expenses on time each month, with the number jumping from 35% in 2015 to 46% in 2016.

Considering the amount of debt that millennials owe, it’s probably not surprising that they worry about making ends meet. Specifically, 42% of the millennials surveyed have a student loan(s),with 79% saying their student loans have a moderate or significant impact on their ability to meet other financial goals.

In an attempt to make ends meet, 30% of millennials say they use credit cards to pay for monthly necessities because they can’t afford them otherwise. But 40% of those who consistently carry balances find it difficult to make their minimum credit-card payments on time each month.

 

 

How each generation can address their concerns
Focusing on some basics may help babyboomers, Gen Xers, and millennials address their financial concerns. Creating and sticking to a budget can make it easier to understand exactly how much money is needed for fixed/discretionary expenses as well as help keep track of debt. A budget may also be a useful tool for learning how to prioritize and save for financial goals, including adding to an emergency savings account and retirement.

At any age, trying to meet the competing demands of both short- and long-term financial goals can be frustrating. Fortunately, there is still time for all three generations to develop healthy money management habits and improve their finances

If you’re eligible for an early-retirement package from your employer, determine whether post-retirement medical coverage is included.These packages sometimes provide medical coverage until you reach age 65 and become eligible for Medicare. Given the high cost of medical care, you might find it hard to turn down an early-retirement package that includes such coverage.

If your package doesn’t include post-retirement medical coverage, or you’re not eligible for an early-retirement package at all, you’ll need to look into alternative sources of health insurance, such as COBRA continuation coverage or an individual health insurance policy, to carry you through to Medicare eligibility.

Under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), most employer-provided health plans (typically employers with 20 or more employees) must offer temporary continuation coverage for employees (and their dependents) upon termination of employment. Coverage can last for up to 18 months, or 36 months in some cases. You’ll generally have to pay the full cost of coverage–employers aren’t required to continue their contribution toward coverage,and most do not. Employers can also charge an additional 2% administrative fee.

Individual health insurance is available directly from various insurance carriers or, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, through state-based or federal health insurance marketplaces. One advantage of purchasing coverage through a marketplace plan is that you may be entitled to a premium tax credit if your post-retirement income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (additional income-based subsidies may also be available).

Some factors to consider when comparing various health options are (1) the total cost of coverage, taking into account premiums,deductibles, co payments, out-of-pocket maximums, and (for marketplace plans) tax credits and subsidies; (2) the ability to continue using your existing health-care providers (and whether those providers will be in-network or out-of-network); and (3) the benefits provided under each option and whether you’re likely to need and use those benefits.

The right answer for you will depend on your situation. First of all, don’t underestimate the psychological impact of early retirement. The adjustment from full-time work to a more leisurely pace may be difficult. So consider whether you’re ready to retire yet. Next, look at what you’re being offered. Most early-retirement offers share certain basic features that need to be evaluated. To determine whether your employer’s offer is worth taking, you’ll want to break it down.

 

Does the offer include a severance package? If so, how does the package compare with your projected job earnings (including future salary increases and bonuses) if you remain employed? Can you live on that amount (and for how long) without tapping into your retirement savings? If not, is your retirement fund large enough that you can start drawing it down early? Will you be penalized for withdrawing from your retirement savings?

 

Does the offer include post-retirement medical insurance? If so, make sure it’s affordable and provides adequate coverage. Also, since Medicare doesn’t start until you’re 65, make sure your employer’s coverage lasts until you
reach that age. If your employer’s offer doesn’t include medical insurance , you may have to look into COBRA or a private individual policy.

 

How will accepting the offer affect your retirement plan benefits? If your employer has a traditional pension plan, leaving the company before normal retirement age (usually 65) may greatly reduce the final payout you receive from
the plan. If you participate in a 401(k) plan, what price will you pay for retiring early? You could end up forfeiting employer contributions if you’re not fully vested. You’ll also be missing out on the opportunity to make additional
contributions to the plan.

 

Finally, will you need to start Social Security benefits early if you accept the offer? For example, at age 62 each monthly benefit check will be 25% to 30% less than it would be at full retirement age (66 to 67 , depending on your
year of birth). Conversely, you receive a higher payout by delaying the start of benefits past your full retirement age–your benefit would increase by about 8% for each year you delay benefits, up to age 70.

Many members of the “sandwich generation”–a group loosely defined as people in their 40s to 60s who are “sandwiched” between caring for their own children and aging parents–find themselves in the position of raising a family and looking after the needs of aging parents. If the time has come when you and your parents think that it may be in their best interest to live with you, you should discuss the implications and how it will impact your entire family.

 

Your first topic should be to have all your family members share their expectations for living together. No doubt your parents will want to feel part of your household. However, you’ll want to know how much they want to participate in day-to-day activities in your home. For example, if able, would they be willing to take on some responsibilities, such as babysitting and transporting kids to school or other activities? Will they participate in other family activities, such as meals and social events?

 

Next, consider whether your home can properly accommodate your parents. Do you have adequate privacy/space for your parents, or will you need to remodel or renovate an existing area of your home? Will your parents be able to move around your home easily, or do you need to install appropriate safety devices? Common modifications and repairs for aging family members may include grab bars in bathrooms, an automatic chair lift for stairs, and a ramp for wheelchair access.

 

You will also need to explore the financial impact. Will your parents contribute to household expenses, or will you cover their portion? Do they have enough money to help support themselves during their retirement? If not, will you be able to support them financially?

 

While having multiple generations living together in the same home can be a rewarding experience, it can also be challenging at times. As a result, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open between you, your spouse, your children, and your parents. Doing so can help ensure a happy and healthy home environment for your entire multigenerational family.

 

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It’s been around since 2013, but many are still struggling to come to grips with the net investment income tax. The 3.8% tax, which is sometimes referred to as the Medicare surtax on net investment income, affected approximately 3.1 million federal income tax returns for 2013 (the only year for which data is available) to the tune of almost $11.7 billion.1 Here’s what you need to know.

 

What is it?

 

The net investment income tax is a 3.8% “extra” tax that applies to certain investment income in addition to any other income tax due. Whether you’re subject to the tax depends on two general factors: the amount of your modified adjusted gross income for the year, and how much net investment income you have.

 

Note: Nonresident aliens are not subject to the net investment income tax.

 

What income thresholds apply?

 

Modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is basically adjusted gross income–the amount that shows up on line 37 of your IRS Form 1040–with certain amounts excluded from income added back in.

 

The net investment income tax applies only if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds the following thresholds:

filing-magi

 

What is net investment income?

 

Investment income generally includes interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, income from nonqualified annuities, and income from passive business activities and businesses engaged in the trade of financial instruments or commodities. Investment income does not include wages, unemployment compensation, Social Security benefits, tax-exempt interest, self-employment income, or distributions from most qualified retirement plans and IRAs.

 

Note: Even though items like wages and retirement plan distributions aren’t included in net investment income, they are obviously a factor in calculating MAGI. So higher levels of non-investment income can still make a difference in whether the net investment income tax applies.

 

Gain from the sale of a personal residence would generally be included in determining investment income. However, investment income does not include any amount of gain that is excluded from gross income for regular income tax purposes. Qualifying individuals are generally able to exclude the first $250,000–or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly–of gain on the sale of a principal residence; any of the gain that’s excluded for regular income tax purposes would not be included in determining investment income.

 

To calculate net investment income, you reduce your gross investment income by any deductible expenses that can be allocated to the income. So, for example, associated investment interest expense, investment and brokerage fees, expenses associated with rental and royalty income, and state and local income taxes can all be factored in.

 

How is the tax calculated?

 

You know your modified adjusted gross income. You know your net investment income. To calculate the net investment income tax, first subtract the threshold figure (shown above) for your filing status from your MAGI. Then compare the result with your net investment income. Multiply the lower of the two figures by 3.8%.

 

For example, assume you and your spouse file a joint federal income tax return and have $270,000 in MAGI and $50,000 in net investment income. Your MAGI is $20,000 over the $250,000 threshold for married couples filing jointly. You would owe $760 (3.8% multiplied by $20,000), because the tax is based on the lesser of net investment income or MAGI exceeding the threshold.

 

How is it reported?

 

If you’re subject to the net investment income tax, you must complete IRS Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax–Individuals, Estates, and Trusts, and attach it to your federal income tax return (you must file IRS Form 1040). The instructions for IRS Form 8960 provide an overview of the rules that apply and can be a good source of additional information. If you think you may be affected by the net investment income tax, though, it’s a good idea to consider discussing your individual situation with a tax professional.

 

  1.  IRS Statistics of Income Bulletin, Spring 2015

In an ideal world, your retirement would be timed perfectly. You would be ready to leave the workforce, your debt would be paid off, and your nest egg would be large enough to provide a comfortable retirement–with some left over to leave a legacy for your heirs.

 

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world, and events can take you by surprise. In a survey conducted by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, only 44% of current retirees said they retired when they had planned; 46% retired earlier, many for reasons beyond their control.1 But even if you retire on schedule and have other pieces of the retirement puzzle in place, you cannot predict the stock market. What if you retire during a market downturn?

 

Sequencing risk

 

The risk of experiencing poor investment performance at the wrong time is called sequencing risk or sequence of returns risk. All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal–and you can expect the market to rise and fall throughout your retirement. However, market losses on the front end of your retirement could have an outsized effect on the income you might receive from your portfolio.

 

If the market drops sharply before your planned retirement date, you may have to decide between retiring with a smaller portfolio or working longer to rebuild your assets. If a big drop comes early in retirement, you may have to sell investments during the downswing, depleting assets more quickly than if you had waited and reducing your portfolio’s potential to benefit when the market turns upward.

 

Dividing your portfolio

 

One strategy that may help address sequencing risk is to allocate your portfolio into three different buckets that reflect the needs, risk level, and growth potential of three retirement phases.

 

Short-term (first 2 to 3 years): Assets such as cash and cash alternatives that you could draw on regardless of market conditions.

Mid-term (3 to 10 years in the future): Mostly fixed-income securities that may have moderate growth potential with low or moderate volatility. You might also have some equities in this bucket.

Long-term (more than 10 years in the future): Primarily growth-oriented investments such as stocks that might be more volatile but have higher growth potential over the long term.

 

Throughout your retirement, you can periodically move assets from the long-term bucket to the other two buckets so you continue to have short-term and mid-term funds available. This enables you to take a more strategic approach in choosing appropriate times to buy or sell assets. Although you will always need assets in the short-term bucket, you can monitor performance in your mid-term and long-term buckets and shift assets based on changing circumstances and longer-term market cycles.

 

If this strategy appeals to you, consider restructuring your portfolio before you retire so you can choose appropriate times to adjust your investments.

 

Determining withdrawals

 

The three-part allocation strategy may help mitigate the effects of a down market by spreading risk over a longer period of time, but it does not help determine how much to withdraw from your savings each year. The amount you withdraw will directly affect how long your savings might last under any market conditions, but it is especially critical in volatile markets.

 

One common rule of thumb is the so-called 4% rule. According to this strategy, you initially withdraw 4% of your portfolio, increasing the amount annually to account for inflation. Some experts consider this approach to be too aggressive–you might withdraw less depending on your personal situation and market performance, or more if you receive large market gains.

 

Another strategy, sometimes called the endowment method, automatically adjusts for market performance. Like the 4% rule, the endowment method begins with an initial withdrawal of a fixed percentage, typically 3% to 5%. In subsequent years, the same fixed percentage is applied to the remaining assets, so the actual withdrawal amount may go up or down depending on previous withdrawals and market performance.

 

A modified endowment method applies a ceiling and/or a floor to the change in your withdrawal amount. You still base your withdrawals on a fixed percentage of the remaining assets, but you limit any increase or decrease from the prior year’s withdrawal amount. This could help prevent you from withdrawing too much after a good market year, while maintaining a relatively steady income after a down market year.

 

Note: Asset allocation is a method used to help manage investment risk; it does not guarantee a profit or protect against investment loss.

 

  1. Employee Benefit Research Institute, “2016 Retirement Confidence Survey”

 

In 1981, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller published a groundbreaking study that contradicted a prevailing theory that markets are always efficient. If they were, stock prices would generally mirror the growth in earnings and dividends. Shiller’s research showed that stock prices fluctuate more often than changes in companies’ intrinsic valuations (such as dividend yield) would suggest.1

 

Shiller concluded that asset prices sometimes move erratically in the short term simply because investor behavior can be influenced by emotions such as greed and fear. Many investors would agree that it’s sometimes difficult to stay calm and act rationally, especially when unexpected events upset the financial markets.

 

Researchers in the field of behavioral finance have studied how cognitive biases in human thinking can affect investor behavior. Understanding the influence of human nature might help you overcome these common psychological traps.

 

Herd mentality

 

Individuals may be convinced by their peers to follow trends, even if it’s not in their own best interests. Shiller proposed that human psychology is the reason that “bubbles” form in asset markets. Investor enthusiasm (“irrational exuberance”) and a herd mentality can create excessive demand for “hot” investments. Investors often chase returns and drive up prices until they become very expensive relative to long-term values.

 

Past performance, however, does not guarantee future results, and bubbles eventually burst. Investors who follow the crowd guarantee future results, and bubbles eventually burst. Investors who follow the crowd can harm long-term portfolio returns by fleeing the stock market after it falls and/or waiting too long (until prices have already risen) to reinvest.

 

Availability bias

 

This mental shortcut leads people to base judgments on examples that immediately come to mind, rather than examining alternatives. It may cause you to misperceive the likelihood or frequency of events, in the same way that watching a movie about sharks can make it seem more dangerous to swim in the ocean.

 

Confirmation bias

 

People also have a tendency to search out and remember information that confirms, rather than challenges, their current beliefs. If you have a good feeling about a certain investment, you may be likely to ignore critical facts and focus on data that supports your opinion.

 

Overconfidence Individuals

 

often overestimate their skills, knowledge, and ability to predict probable outcomes. When it comes to investing, overconfidence may cause you to trade excessively and/or downplay potential risks.

 

Loss aversion

 

Research shows that investors tend to dislike losses much more than they enjoy gains, so it can actually be painful to deal with financial losses.2 Consequently, you might avoid selling an investment that would realize a loss even though the sale may be an appropriate course of action. The intense fear of losing money may even be paralyzing.

 

It’s important to slow down the process and try to consider all relevant factors and possible outcomes when making financial decisions. Having a long-term perspective and sticking with a thoughtfully crafted investing strategy may also help you avoid expensive, emotion-driven mistakes.

 

Note: All investments are subject to market fluctuation, risk, and loss of principal. When sold, investments may be worth more or less than their original cost.
1. The Economist, “What’s Wrong with Finance?” May 1, 2015
2. The Wall Street Journal, “Why an Economist Plays Powerball,” January 12, 2016

In the financial world, there are a lot of rules about what you should be doing. In theory, they sound reasonable. But in practice, it may not be easy, or even possible, to follow them. Let’s look at some common financial maxims and why it can be hard to implement them.

 

Build an emergency fund worth three to six months of living expenses

 

Wisdom: Set aside at least three to six months worth of living expenses in an emergency savings account so your overall financial health doesn’t take a hit when an unexpected need arises.

 

Problem: While you’re trying to save, other needs–both emergencies and non-emergencies–come up that may prevent you from adding to your emergency fund and even cause you to dip into it, resulting in an even greater shortfall. Getting back on track might require many months or years of dedicated contributions, leading you to decrease or possibly stop your contributions to other important goals such as college, retirement, or a down payment on a house.

 

One solution: Don’t put your overall financial life completely on hold trying to hit the high end of the three to six months target. By all means create an emergency fund, but if after a year or two of diligent saving you’ve amassed only two or three months of reserves, consider that a good base and contribute to your long-term financial health instead, adding small amounts to your emergency fund when possible. Of course, it depends on your own situation. For example, if you’re a business owner in a volatile industry, you may need as much as a year’s worth of savings to carry you through uncertain times.

 

Start saving for retirement in your 20’s

 

Wisdom: Start saving for retirement when you’re young because time is one of the best advantages when it comes to amassing a nest egg. This is the result of compounding, which is when your retirement contributions earn investment returns, and then those returns produce earnings themselves. Over time, the process can snowball.

 

Problem: How many 20-somethings have the financial wherewithal to save earnestly for retirement? Student debt is at record levels, and young adults typically need to budget for rent, food, transportation, monthly utilities, and cell phone bills, all while trying to contribute to an emergency fund and a down payment fund.

 

One solution: Track your monthly income and expenses on a regular basis to see where your money is going. Establish a budget and try to live within your means, or better yet below your means. Then focus on putting money aside in your workplace retirement plan. Start by contributing a small percentage of your pay, say 3%, to get into the retirement savings habit. Once you’ve adjusted to a lower take-home amount in your paycheck (you may not even notice the difference!), consider upping your contribution little by little, such as once a year or whenever you get a raise.

 

Start saving for college as soon as your child is born

 

Wisdom: Benjamin Franklin famously said there is nothing certain in life except death and taxes. To this, parents might add college costs that increase every year without fail, no matter what the overall economy is doing. As a result, new parents are often advised to start saving for college right away.

 

Problem: New parents often face many other financial burdens that come with having a baby; for example, increased medical expenses, baby-related costs, day-care costs, and a reduction in household income as a result of one parent possibly cutting back on work or leaving the workforce altogether.

 

One solution: Open a savings account and set up automatic monthly contributions in a small, manageable amount–for example, $25 or $50 per month–and add to it when you can. When grandparents and extended family ask what they can give your child for birthdays and holidays, you’ll have a suggestion.

 

Subtract your age from 100 to determine your stock percentage

 

Wisdom: Subtract your age from 100 to determine the percentage of your portfolio that should be in stocks. For example, a 45-year-old would have 55% of his or her portfolio in stocks, with the remainder in bonds and cash.

 

Problem: A one-size-fits-all rule may not be appropriate for everyone. On the one hand, today’s longer life expectancies make a case for holding even more stocks in your portfolio for their growth potential, and subtracting your age from, say, 120. On the other hand, considering the risks associated with stocks, some investors may not feel comfortable subtracting their age even from 80 to determine the percentage of stocks.

 

One solution: Focus on your own tolerance for risk while also being mindful of inflation. Consider looking at the historical performance of different asset classes. Can you sleep at night with the investments you’ve chosen? Your own peace of mind trumps any financial rule.

 

It might not always be possible to follow some common financial wisdom.

 

Note: All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal, and there can be no assurance that any investment strategy will be successful.