We’ve already mentioned this quickly when talking about warranties, but one of the worst things is to have your finances all in order and then not being able to find important financial documents when you need them, such as insurance policies, warranties or bank statements or income stubs for your tax return. Come to think of it, is it even possible to become financially organized without having your home administration organized? Hmmm maybe not.
Having a proper, up-to-date and easy to understand filing system, doesn’t just guarantee less stress and time lost when you are looking for things. It also ensures you don’t waste money on a new product if your old one still had a guarantee on it, allows you to quickly check you still have the right insurance, stops you forgetting to pay outstanding bills and makes is easy to check your credit card statements are all correct.
Wow okay, I know, tax planning might sound even more boring or complicated than our previous “introduction to taxes”. But what’s the point knowing about taxes if you don’t use that information to your advantage? And if you think that tax planning is again for the rich and famous only, you’re wrong … Most legislations are designed is such a way to even give the ordinary man and woman some tax relief in certain areas. You should use those as that is what they are for.
Now let’s start with the single most important first requirement for this step: never, ever, not in a million years avoid paying taxes or try to mislead the tax authorities. Don’t ever even think of it. The tax authorities are smarter than you and you’ll end up in jail and that is NOT worth the extra money you might be getting or think you might be getting. Besides that, it’s morally wrong. Just don’t do it.
Good, now that is sorted, let’s have a look at some very basic tax planning principles you might be able to apply to your own life, that might help you save some bucks. Just keep an eye on that fine line between tax planning and tax evasion though as if you get carried away with it too much, you might end up on the wrong side of that line. Continue reading “Step 64: Tax Planning”→
When you make a big purchase such as a new car or appliance for your house, the selling company often provides a warranty on the product. The warranty is a guarantee for a set period of time during which the manufacturer promises a correct functioning of the product and to replace or repair the product if the product is faulty.
Warranties are very important to understand and keep as they can save you a lot of money and worries if you ever need them. This step will look at warranties and extra warranties in detail, so you can assess any current warranties you have and to allow you to compare and evaluate warranties on any future purchases.
What a warranty typically includes
Normally a warranty will specify and /or include the following:
How long it is valid for. For some products this might be no more than 6 months, other products might be covered for several years.
What circumstances might void the warranty. The manufacturer often includes reasons why a warranty might cease to be valid, such as not having done regular maintenance check ups and servicing or using the product incorrectly.
Services included: what happens if the product is faulty? Will it be replaced, repaired or will your money be refunded?
Services excluded: this might not actually be stated in the warranty, but make sure you find out what is not included if your product fails. Think of costs to do with transporting the product to the shop or factory, labor charges etc.
Does it include costs you might have as a consequence of the product being faulty? For example if your washing machine floods your house, will the damage to other objects and furniture be covered, or if the fridge-freezer breaks will you be reimbursed for any of the contents gone off?
A disability insurance provides you with financial compensation in the event of a disability that stops you from going back to work. It covers your future wage by paying a certain percentage of your wage, often around 60-70%, either until you are able to go back to work again or for as long as the policy contracted states that you are entitled to the compensation.
There could be several reasons for somebody being unable to work, including illness, medical conditions or after an accident. The difference with a medical insurance is that the latter only covers your medical bills, not the fact that you no longer have an income to support you financially. In some cases and countries social security might offer a disability coverage, but conditions vary greatly and it might not kick in until after a certain time, sometimes not even til after a year.
Do you need disability insurance?
The chances of becoming disabled before retirement age can be 2 – 3 times higher than the odds of dying before retirement age so there is a relatively big chance you might become disabled at some point. Due to this high chance, disability insurance tends to be fairly expensive. There are several situations in which you might not need disability insurance, including: Continue reading “Step 61: Disability Insurance”→
If you own a home, you really can’t do without having a home insurance or homeowner insurance. Apart from the financial protection of probably your greatest asset, it is often also a requirement for getting a mortgage. If you don’t own a home but rent, getting a renter’s insurance is often worth considering as it includes the liability as well as the belongings protection in the same way as a home insurance does. In that case the insurance of the property would be the responsibility of the home owner however, not the renter.
Why Home Insurance
Home Insurance covers you against such things as theft or damage, so that if anything happened, you get financial compensation in order to replace or repair what is needed.
What is included?
What is and isn’t included in your home insurance obviously depends on the company and your specific policy, but usually three main things are generally included in a homeowners insurance:
Damage to your house, such as the structure of your house as well as the functioning of or damage to parts of your house or equipment.
Theft of your belongings, both inside the house as well as outside of the house such as when you are on holiday or if something was taken from your car. Bear in mind that for off-site loss of or damage to your belongings the payment might be substantially lower however.
Liability – many policies include liability insurance which is any damage you or other family members might inflict on others or on their property or house.
What isn’t included
In general the following items or situations are often not included, although many can be added to your insurance as an extra against a higher premium:
Damage to your house or belongings due to poor or deferred home maintenance, i.e. issues you have neglected.
Certain natural disasters such as earthquakes and land flooding are often not included, though many policies do include hurricanes and storms.
Normally the liability insurance includes all members of your household, and this means that even your pets might be insured. Not all dog breeds are insured however when it comes to dog bites as some are considered to be very aggressive and are therefore excluded from the standard policy.
Some of your valuables such as jewelry, silverware and electronics might have a limit in terms of what is covered, meaning that the insurance will only pay out up to a fixed amount if any of it gets stolen or damaged.
Types of cover
You can often chose from the following types of cover:
Cash value coverage – this is the cheapest option and stipulates that you will be covered for the current value of your property or your belongings, instead of what you originally paid. This takes into consideration that your belongings experience a certain degree of depreciation, i.e. value loss with time.
Replacement cost coverage – more expensive than the cash value coverage option, this coverage pays the original price you paid for your belongings or property without deducting depreciation. It covers you up to the original price you paid as long as that is within the policy limits so you can replace it completely for the same price as you paid.
Guaranteed or extended replacement cost coverage – the most expensive option of them all, this coverage gives you even more protection so you can replace your belongings or rebuilt your home even if it goes above the policy limit, although this will be capped at a certain percentage, usually at around 25% above the limit. This means that you are protected against inflation as well an any increases in your property value for example.
Step 59 – Home Insurance – in detail
Pull out your insurance policy with its details and payments.
If you are a renter and haven’t got a renter’s insurance request policies from various insurance companies to compare.
If you are a home owner and have a home insurance, or if you haven’t got one anymore because you have paid off your mortgage, you are also going to request policies to compare them and see if a change in insurance or insurance provider is worth considering.
Compare the quotes you receive on the following:
Inclusion of cover of belongings, both in your house and outside of the premises (e.g. on holiday).
Whether there is a deductible (i.e. amount you need to pay first before your insurance comes in) and how high this is. Note this might be different for different belongings.
How much the limit of coverage is for belongings (check the various categories) as well as for your house.
What circumstances are excluded from your insurance (earthquakes, sewage problems etc).
Whether you dog is covered.
Check how much extra you would need to pay in order to get extra coverage for items or situations you deem essential.
Customer satisfaction with the insurance company and / or specific policy.
Once you’ve decided on the insurance to take out or change to, do so as soon as possible.
Make an inventory of your possessions, keep receipts of valuable possessions and consider taking photos or a video with your camera or phone of your different rooms, so you have an overview of your possessions. This will be required for a claim, so doing this at the same time as contracting, changing or simply checking your insurance makes sense!
As with any insurance, one hopes never to need to use their home insurance as damage can not only be expensive, it is also a hassle to deal with. Yet not having a home insurance for your house, your belongings, as well as the liability coverage might mean that your financial planning turns completely useless and irrelevant if you can’t pay to replace or rebuilt your home or belongings or if you are faced with a bill for damage you have inflicted on others. So be sensible and sort out your home or renter’s insurance now!
An insurance is essentially a financial protection against the risks of a possible loss that you contract with an insurance company. You might never need some of these (hopefully you won’t in most cases!) but without an insurance you or others around you might not be able to deal with the financial consequences when confronted with certain situations.
Choosing which types of insurance you need, which ones you don’t and making sure that the ones you have are still up-to-date and applicable to your current situation can be a bit of challenge, so in the next few steps we’ll go through the most common types of insurance you might need.We’ll be starting this mini-series with life insurance.
Why Life Insurance
A life insurance covers anybody who might financially rely on you for the financial consequences if you were to pass away. In essence you are not insuring yourself here, but other people around you who would suffer financially if you died. There are different situations in which people might depend on you financially: Continue reading “Step 57: Life Insurance”→
Maybe not the nicest step of the 100 we’re covering to think about, but estate planning should be high up your priority list of financial planning. Not only will you feel more at peace knowing that you have made the necessary arrangements for when the time comes, your family will be grateful being able to mourn and deal with the emotional side of your demise, instead of worrying over legalities and finances.
In this step we’ll look at the key parts you should arrange as part of your estate planning, which include:
A will or trust
A health care proxy / health care power of attorney
A power of attorney
Letter of intent
A will or trust
A will is a legal document that details what should happen to each of your assets upon your death, providing this is in compliance with local and national legislation. Trusts can furthermore be advantageous in terms of certain tax or legal issues. Continue reading “Step 56: Estate Planning”→
Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times before, by no means am I an expert on investing (yet..), but there are a few concepts that I have picked up along the way and that I’d like to share at this stage. These are to do with the practicalities when it comes to investing on a day-to-day (or year-to-year) basis.
As I have said before, I – and with me many others on their way to financial independence -, see index investing as the safest, easiest and surest way to invest. It is boring, but most likely to get decent results. Of course not everybody agrees, there are many who prefer other ways to invest, (or of course to not invest at all), so make sure you choose what is good for you. With that said, I am mainly referring to index investing in this step, so not everything might be applicable to the other ways of investing.
Bull & Bear Markets
Let’s first start with two definitions in the investing world: bull and bear markets. During a bull market, the general market does well: prices are on the rise, investors feel confident, every day more people want to buy shares which pushes the prices further up as demand exceeds supply, people see their portfolio grow and demand increases even further.. Continue reading “Step 54: Bull & Bear Markets”→
The big question is of course whether you should or shouldn’t start investing. Ask anybody and you are likely to get very different answers, some saying they can recommend putting in some money monthly, others saying only the really wealthy or dumb invest in the market, whilst still others see it as their main way to (early) retirement.
The truth is, whether or not to invest depends entirely on you, your personal (and financial) situation, and the reasons you might want to invest in the first place. In this step I’ll try to give you some pointers to think about to help you determine whether or not you should invest, but the ultimate decision is yours and you have to feel comfortable and happy with that decision.
My boyfriend at the time (he’s my husband now), suggested we’d start investing in 2009 when the market was at a low. Now I wish we had, as we would have been able to buy lots of really cheap shares, but at the time I didn’t know anything about money and didn’t feel comfortable putting money into something that I didn’t understand. Of course I regret not having bought those cheap shares now, but I don’t regret not putting in money without knowing what I was doing and whether I really wanted to invest. Continue reading “Step 53: To invest or not to invest”→
In the previous step we looked at the advantages and challenges of choosing the shares and bonds to invest in yourself. In this new step we look at an alternative which is designed to help you if you don’t want to choose your own investments, but rather rely on the opinion and experience of somebody else: Investing through collective or mutual funds.
As we’ll see, this type of investing has its own major positives and drawbacks so let’s get started with the details.
Mutual funds – an overview
In the case of collective or mutual funds, the money of small investors in pooled together in order to raise the total amount available to invest. A fund manager is appointed to manage these funds and he or she decides which shares and bonds to add to the portfolio, trying to make as much money as possible. This often means they buy and sell continuously, following the market, aiming to buy shares at a low price, sell them at a high price and rush selling if they see a fall in the market coming, to avoid their clients losing a lot of money. Sounds like a good tactic? On paper yes, but in reality there are two main problems with this type of investing. Continue reading “Step 51: Investing through Mutual Funds”→