Step 69: Teach your Children about Finances

Step 69 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Teach your Children about Finances
Step 69: Teach your Children about Finances

In the previous step we looked at how setting aside even small amounts of money can give your (grand)child(ren) a very nice mini-fortune by the time they turn 18 if invested well. Of course you (or they) might be unlucky and the market might just hit a bad year when they turn 18 (or 21 or 25) but who’s to stop you from waiting another year or 2 until the market has recovered again before you hand over the investment account?

But then what’s to stop them from spending all of the money – the money that you set aside deligently for years, making the most of that compounding interest – in one weekend, on one holiday or on a (in your view) stupid purchase?

Of course the problem with this is that you might be skimping and saving to get this money together, but once you give it to your child, remember it is their money. Whether they splurge on a luxury vacation, use it to fund their college or as a first downpayment for their house is ultimately their own choice..

That said, as a parent or grandparent you have a responsibility in educating your children about finances. Funnily enough we are totally cool and understanding of having to teach our children social skills in order to make friends and to respect others, help them with any maths or French homework and teach them basic personal care skills like cooking and the importance of having showers, but the financial education is often neglected. Whether people don’t want to bother innocent children with grown up matters, think that school will teach them this stuff or just generally feel uncomfortable about discussing money with their children I don’t know, but teaching children about money is an important role any parent has. And if you do your job well and teach them the real value of money, your children might be less likely to spend all of that money you gift them when they turn 18 in one go.

So let’s look at some ideas on how to teach children the real value of money from an early age on:

  • On a day out, or weekend away or even a holiday, give children a mini budget for themselves or tell them that as a family you have a total budget of say $40 that together you need to decide on how to spend. They get to vote (or decide) whether to have a simple sandwich and some money for an ice cream and a small souvenir or whether to go for that slightly fancier meal but not have any extra money for an ice cream nor souvenir. This helps them develop skills in budgetting.
  • Make them aware of bills that need to be paid, such as utilities and get them to play their part in turning off lights, closing doors and not letting the tap run when brushing their teeth.
  • Turn grocery shopping into a competition by finding offers, 3-for-2 deals etc.
  • Give them a small amount of pocket money from an early age on to get them to save up for a bigger purchase they want. It teaches them the value of saving, planning and prioritizing.
  • Open a savings account and get your child to deposit money in it, even if it is small amounts. Explain interest and compound interest to them and get them to see their money grow.
  • When your child is a little older, explain the concept of the stock market and investing and mention the investing account that you have opened in their name so they can also see how their investments are growing. Show them to sit tight when the market falls and the importance of patience on the long run.
  • Teach children about debt and how this is expensive in the long run. The best way for them to learn this is by giving them a small loan and charging interest on it. A tough lesson to learn but it will be a very valuable lesson. Even if they end up paying $5 on a loan of $10, those $5 will teach them a life long lesson on how interest and compounding interest on a loan will ultimately be a killer to their personal finances.
  • Go through credit card statements together with children or spend your weekly administration and filing system together with your “personal assistant” to teach them the importance of checking financial statements regularly for errors and to stay up to date on how (un)healthy your finances are.
  • Consider some type of “savings match” or interest you give children for every dollar they save if they haven’t yet got a savings account. This could be done monthly by showing you how much they have saved and after you count it together you give them a certain amount of interest or match their monthly contribution.
  • Explain to children how we are constantly tempted to spend money by adds and peer pressure. Teach them how these adds work and get them to evaluate whether they really need that new gadget or toy and whether it will add new value to their life.
  • Get children involved in sharing their wealth through donating to charities or fund raising for charities so they get to appreciate that there are many others who are far less lucky than they are and that that they can make a difference to the world by giving some of their money away or by getting involved in deciding which charity you should donate to.

Step 69 – Involve your Children – in detail:

  • Discuss with your partner the importance of teaching your children about the value of money and agree on a basic approach to this. It is important to discuss this and be aware of each other’s involvement and ideas so that you don’t clash over this.
  • Consider a set time a week, maybe at the weekend, which is dedicated to finances. This could be 30 minutes in which you discuss something new, go through a new target for the week or count savings and update financial statements. Depending on your child’s age these activities might evolve into more complex activities and the 30 minutes might become longer.
  • Find a balance between teaching your children the value of money, saving and investing without taking away from the fun. Make sure not to turn ALL of your fun family days into skimping or budgeting days – kids should also be able to enjoy these days! Don’t overload your children with information but see it as a step-by-step progression that takes time, skills and awareness to develop (a bit like compounding interest come to think of it!).

If done well, these finance lessons can become a great headstart for your children in life as it gives them so many skills that others might take years to discover by themselves when they are in their 20s and 30s. Just make sure to make it appropriate to your child’s age and awareness. Happy teaching!

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.

Step 68: Set aside Money for your Children

Step 68 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Set aside Money for your Children
Step 68: Set aside Money for your Children

Children cost money of course, even just their day-to-day expenses seem endless: clothes, food, extra activities and birthday parties to name just a few. But I take it for granted that if you have children, grandchildren or nieces / nephews (even if they are “adopted” and your friends’ children), that these expenses are covered in your budget, either in your regular categories, or under ‘presents’ if they aren’t your own children. If you haven’t yet got children, but are planning to have children, I again assume that by now you are financially savvy enough to have set up a savings account in order to pay for the initial “start up costs” for children: baby room decoration, push chair, car seats, clothes and all other assecories you’ll need.

But what about “later”? This might sound like a long time away still, but those children will at some point reach their 18th birthday and will go and try their luck in the real world, whether that is at college, travelling or trying a “real” job, there will come a time when they no longer depend on you (at least not officially – they might still come back home from time to time to ask for some extra money).

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to give them something more than just a $50 bill when they leave the house, to get them set up? Or what about giving them something when they get married, buy their first house or have their first child.. Whatever it is that you decide, think about what you can do now to help them later. And remember that if you start on time you have the advantage to look ahead and use that best friend of ours: compounding interest to create a small fortune for your (grand)child(ren).

What and how to save

Let’s just calculate through some different scenarios to give you an idea on how to get started. For all of these we assume that you start contributing to these saving plans from the moment the baby is born (or let’s be realistic and say you do it as soon as your (grand)child is a month old).

  • Scenario 1: Open a savings account and set aside $10 a month. Assume an average return of 5% (which unfortunatley is not likely at the moment though!), an inflation rate of 2% and that you keep contributing $10 a month until you give the child the full amount. Your (grand)child would then receive the following amount: (numbers in 3rd and 4th column rounded to $50).

Years

Total paid in Nominal value at end

Adjusted for inflation

18

$2160

$3550

$2450

21

$2520 $4500

$2900

25 $3000 $6000

$3600

  • Not at all bad if you could give your (grand) child some $3550 when they turn 18 or even $6000 when they are 25.
  • Scenario 2: What about instead of opening a savings account (which is unlikely to give you anything close to 5% for a while), you put that money in an investment accout, assuming a 7% return and 2% inflation rate? That works out as follows:

    Years

    Total paid Nominal value Adjusted for inflation

    18

    $2160 $4350

    $3050

    21

    $2520 $5750

    $3750

    25 $3000 $8100

    $4900

  • As you can see, by just putting away $10 a month, even if you held it only til they were 18, you’d be able to give them more than $4300 or the equivalent of $3000 in today’s money.
  • Scenario 3: Of course, you might be able to set aside more than $10 a month. Let’s assume you’re lucky enough to live in a country that has a child benefit scheme in which you get some financial support from the government to help with the expenses for raising children. Imagine you were able to set all that money aside and invest it for your child? Child benefit varies greatly per country but let’s take the average of about $75 per month. Let’s assume we’ve still got an average of 7% return and 2% inflation rate. This is how much you’d have if you keep investing that child support:

Years

Total paid Nominal value Adjusted for inflation

18

$16,200 $32,500

$22,750

21 $18,900 $43,200

$28,250

25 $22,500 $60,900

$36,750

  • By their 18th birthday you’d be able to give your child $32,500 (with a current value of $22,000)! That’s a small fortune to me and it for sure would be to most 18 year olds!
  • That said, child support is generally likely to adjust for inflation, meaning that you get $75 this year, but $76 next year and $77.50 the year after. As long as you keep adjusting your investments along with this, remember that you would then end up close to the nominal value anyway. In that case your child would receive around $32.500 on their 18th birthday.

Of course the above are just some examples of have careful financial planning might give your child a nice head start when they turn 18 or 21 or whatever age you decide. Maybe you can’t survive without the extra child benefit that you are receiviving and therefore can’t invest all of that money. But what about half of it? Or even just $25 a month? $10? Go back to the budgetting steps to read more about how to budget and to build in priorities to decide whether you really can’t or whether you decide to prioritize other goals for your money. Even just the $10 will still give your child a nice pot of money to start their adult life that not everybody gets.

Step 68 – Set aside Money for Children – in detail:

  • Let’s start with how many children, grandchildren, nieces / nephews or other children in your life you (might) have and who you’d like to help financially when they come of age.
  • Investigate and decide how much you can invest either monthly or yearly. Remember that if you have several children (or might have several children) or grandchildren, you probably want to set it up equally, so that you don’t invest $100 per month for child one and only $20 for child two. Plan ahead and try and keep it equal!
  • Open an investing account for each child but carefully check how to do the legal side: make sure you can open it in their name (in some cases only parents can do this). If you are a grandparent and you can’t open it in your grandchild’s name, consider opening it in your name, but stipulate the child as the beneficiary and make sure to include conditions in your will that the money is to go to the child when they turn 18 and not to your heirs.
  • Set up automatic payments into this investing account.
  • Remember that the earlier your start, the more time the interest can compound, but even if your (grand)child is a little or a lot older, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still open it.
  • Decide when you want to give the money or the original investing account to your child. Instead of giving them the money, consider that your child could just continue to grow the money. Tell you child beforehand so they can start planning on what to do with the money, as otherwise they might be tempted to take it all out and spend it in just one crazy weekend.
  • Remember to open a new account for any additional children

Saving / investing and seeing your money grow can be really rewarding, but there’s an extra sense of satisfaction you can get from setting money aside for somebody else, and seeing their fortune grow even before they are aware of it.

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.

Step 66: Organize your Paperwork

Step 66 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Organize your Paperwork
Step 66: Organize your Paperwork

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.

In this step you are going to set up a home administration to make sure you’ll never end up in a situation where you can’t find your important financial statements.  Continue reading

Step 64: Tax Planning

Step 64 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Tax Planning
Step 64 of the 100 steps: Tax Planning

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 61: Disability Insurance

Step 61 of the 100 Steps to Financial Independence: Disability Insurance
Step 61 of the 100 Steps: Disability Insurance

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 59: Home & Renter’s Insurance

Step 59 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Home & Renter's Insurance
Step 59: Home & Renter’s 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:
    • Annual premium
    • 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!

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.

Step 58: Health Insurance

Step 58 of the 100 steps to financial independence: Health Insurance
Step 58: Health Insurance

As we continue our mission to financial independence, we also continue our journey along the different types of insurance, which is an essential part of our financial planning. Step 58 focusses on health insurance and what to think about when contracting a health insurance policy.

Why Health Insurance

Depending on where you live, health care can be very if not extremely expensive, and whilst in some countries having a health insurance is a legal requirement, in other countries this isn’t compulsory, meaning that if you haven’t got medical insurance, you might not be able to pay for even basic or emergency treatment without getting yourself into great debt. A health insurance ensures you have access to the medical care you and your family need without afterwards being presented with high bills to pay.

Types of health insurance 

The types of health insurance you have access to can vary tremendously from one country to the next, but there are three common routes to health insurance:

  • State healthcare – if you live and work in a country that offers state healthcare, you likely pay social security contributions of which part will be assigned to health care provisions. This means you usually have access to the public healthcare system, which is usually free although medication might not be provided free of charge or at a reduced fee. Not all treatments might be offered by the public healthcare system, so you might still need to “go private” if the type of treatment you need isn’t included.
  • Health Insurance through your employer – your company might offer a health insurance that you can register for. In some cases this type of insurance offers a healthcare savings account to which you might be able to contribute to with pre-tax money. Like with pensions your employer might match or add a certain percentage to your health insurance if you have contracted the insurance through them.
  • Private Insurance – Insurance contracted for you and / or your family through an insurance company that you organize yourself. In this case you will be able to choose more specifically which insurance company to go for and what to get to insured for, as many companies offer different types of policies against different premiums.

Characteristics of health insurance

What should you think about when comparing health insurance options? Different insurance companies and policies include different types of treatment and health care. Below some points to look out for:

  • High deductible vs low deductible plan. If you have a low deductible plan your health care costs will be covered completely or you might be responsible for a very low first initial contribution. These plans are generally very expensive, as opposed to a high deductible plan, in which you have a relatively high amount of any medical bill that you pay first before your insurance takes over and pays the rest.
  • What is the maximum and minimum yearly contribution that you have as a deductible?
  • How is the deductible counted? Is it one big deductible, can you total all of your family members on it, do certain expenses not count towards it?
  • Is there a family plan to get cheaper rates for your partner and / or children?
  • Is there a certain percentage of doctor visits that will be covered and do you pay any extra visits yourself?
  • What types of illnesses, treatments and surgery are included in the insurance. Think about:
    • Basic emergency and non-emergency treatment
    • Surgery
    • Mental healthcare
    • Dentist
    • Physiotherapy
    • Emergency treatment abroad
    • Alternative medical treatment
    • Opticians costs
  • Are you able to choose your doctor or hospital or does the insurance only have contracts with some medical care providers?
  • Are medications included? Are there any types that aren’t included or are only partially included?
  • What about treatments that aren’t medically necessary? (Think about plastical surgery, eye laser treatment).
  • What about maternity services, both pre- and post-natal?

Step 58 – Health Insurance – in detail:

Now let’s apply all of the above points to your medical insurance whether you already have one or are ready to contract one:

  • If you already have a health insurance, find your actual policy with a list of all the services that are and the ones that aren’t included, find the yearly fees as well as the cancellation policy.
  • Shop around and find or request quotes for different insurance policies from different companies. Even if you already have a health insurance, it is worth not only checking whether it is all still up to date, but also whether you might be able to get the same coverage somewhere cheaper or with a better service.
  • Go through the checklist above, marking which are absolutely essential for you to have in your health insurance. Check the various quotes for whether these services are included and what the fine print is or how much extra it would be on top of the yearly fee to include the treatment in the policy.
  • Check customer satisfaction via the website or on specific customer feedback websites. When it comes to your health insurance, you want to be with a company that deals with claims and questions quickly, efficiently and satisfactory.
  • When you’re ready to contract or change a current insurance you have, make sure to do so this week. Don’t leave this one pending to you as you can only come to regret it.
  • Add a reminded to your calendar to check your insurance again in a year’s time to ensure it is still up to date.

Having a decent health insurance is tremendously important to make sure that you’ll be able to get the necessary treatment when needed and making sure that you can actually afford it. It is worth checking your policy at least once a year, to confirm that you are still adequately insured and to readjust in case your situation has changed.

Read more about my 100 steps mission to financial independence or simply decide to take control today and join us on our step-by-step quest on how to make your finances work for you, starting with step 1.