What It Costs
Here, you will find beyond-the-basics info on managing your money. And you’re
ready to get started, we have helpful tools to help you save more and spent less
1 . A will
This is where you name a guardian for your children and direct how your assets should
be distributed when you die. If you don’t have a will, state law decides who gets your
estate, and it can often take years for it all to wind its way through the legal system.
This can create problems for your survivors. In many states, for example, your surviving
husband or wife would get only one-third to one-half of the assets that were in your
name alone. Your children would get the rest. But if they’re minors, their share is
administered by a court-appointed attorney until they turn 18 or 21, depending on when
your state’s law says they’re adults.
If you don’t want to hire a lawyer to write your will, Quicken Willlvlaker can help you
create the legal documents you need to protect your family and assets.
2. An emergency savings account
This is money you’ll need if you’re laid off from work or confronted with unexpected
home repair or medical bills. Your priority for this money is safety! It belongs in a bank
account or a money market fund, not in the stock market. Your emergency account
should be big enough to cover at least six months of living expenses.
3. An employer-sponsored retirement account
If you have access to an employer-sponsored retirement account, it should be your ï¬?rst
choice for your savings. Your company may also match your contributionâ€”or part of it.
The most common plans are the 401(k), the 403(b), which is used by nonprofit
organizations like churches, schools and hospitals, and the 457, used by governments
You owe no taxes on your contributions or on their earnings until you withdraw them.
Every plan has its own rules on what percentage of your salary you’re allowed to save
each year. Federal law limits the dollar amount of your contributions. In 2010, this limit is
$16,500 ($22,000 if you’re age 50 or older.)
4. An Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
The maximum 2010 contribution you can make to either one (or to both together) is
$5,000; $6,000 if you’re age 50 or older. Your traditional IRA contributions may be tax-
deductible, depending on your income and on whether you (or your spouse) are
covered by a retirement plan at work.
Roth IRA contributions are never tax-deductible, but your withdrawals will be tax-free
after you’re age 59-1/2 and have owned the Roth IRA for at least five years. You’ll find
more information on both types of IRAs here.
5. Homeowners or renter’s insurance
If you’re a home owner, your policy should cover the cost of rebuilding your house if it
burns down. That’s its replacement value, which isn’t the same as its market value.
If you’re a renter, your policy should cover your possessions for their replacement value,
not their “actual cash value.” The two sound alike, but their meaning is very different.
For example, if you sold your living room couch, you’d get its actual cash value. But
that’s probably a small fraction of what it would cost you to replace it with a new couch.
Whether you own or rent, make sure your policy includes adequate “loss of use”
coverage. This reimburses you for your hotel and restaurant bills and other living
expenses if you’re forced out of your home by an uninsured event, such as a fire.
6. Health insurance
Group coverage is less costly than an individual policy. So if you’re not covered at work,
your ï¬?rst step should be to ï¬?nd out if you’re eligible for a group plan through a trade or
Until recently, the cost and availability of individual coverage has depended on where
you live. In some states, you can’t be turned down for health insurance. In others, you
may be uninsurable if you have serious health problems. But with the enactment of
federal health care reform on March 23, 2010, this is a rapidly changing landscape.
Within six months, insurers will no longer be able to exclude children from coverage due
to pre-existing conditions and dependent children will be able to stay on their parentsâ€™
policy until age 26. (Under state laws, children had usually been eligible for coverage as
dependents only until age 18 or 21.)
The new law won’t require insurers to accept adults with pre-existing conditions until
2014. But between now and then, it requires the establishment of temporary â€˜high risk
poolsâ€™ to insure people with pre-existing conditions who can’t ï¬?nd coverage elsewhere.
These ‘high risk’ pools won’t be permitted to charge more than standard insurance
rates. You’ll ï¬?nd more information about the health care changes that will be phased in
over the next four years at newyorktimes.com, ehealthinsurance.com and insure.com.
7. Life insurance
If you have dependents, this is a must. For the biggest policy at the smallest cost, buy
term insurance. It’s pure coverage, with no investment component.
How much life insurance do you need? A commonly used rule of thumb is that your
policy should be ï¬?ve to ten times your annual income. More precisely, it should be big
enough to generate sufficient income for your survivors when they invest the proceeds.
If you assume they can earn 4% a year after taxes, a $500,000 policy, for example,
generates $20,000 a year. (Remember, your insurance need is reduced by any sources
of income your family will have from your savings, investments, spouse’s salary and
Social Security survivorsâ€™ beneï¬?ts.)
If you’ve taken care of everything on this list, congratulations! Your ï¬?nancial house is in
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