Financial Planners Share Their Top 5 Money Tips and Tricks
I was talking to a dear friend over President’s Day weekend, and she said something interesting. It brought a point to light that I’d been thinking about from time to time but hadn’t solidified in my mind: Those outside of our chosen fields are often aren’t aware of some of our “hidden secrets” — aka the “whys” behind why we do what we do and how beneficial they can be.
You likely recognize it in your own profession. You’re an expert who stays on the cutting edge of your industry’s knowledge. But with such a robust understanding of your own profession, you might not have time to take such a deep dive into someone else’s. Maybe you’ve been in a similar conversation with a pro in another industry and have had a similar lightbulb moment. Learning about an intricacy of their work, you think, “Aha! That’s why they do it!” or “Huh, so that’s how it works!” This can even be true for the hobbies you’re most passionate about. There’s just not enough time in the day!
So today, I wanted to “lift the curtain” into the financial planning profession and share some tips as well as a couple of tricks that the Certified Financial Planner™ pros here at our firm have learned and use their own lives.
Money Tip #1: Enhance your tax-advantaged savings.
We all know that saving is generally a good thing. But what should you do when your savings account starts to grow beyond what you need for your emergency reserve? With the average savings rate hovering around 0.5%, what’s the best way to ensure that money is working hard for you — instead of just sitting there earning half a percent or so?
One simple way is to follow this order of contributions. By putting as much as possible into tax-advantaged and tax-free accounts, you can bypass paying taxes or allow your money to grow tax-free. And an employer match in your 401(k) or similar retirement plan can sweeten the deal.
Money Tip #2: Legally pay as little in taxes as possible, aka tax avoidance.
We all want to keep a few more dollars in our pockets — or to use financial jargon, our own net worths — than hand it over to the government. Of course, paying taxes is a civic duty and one that many of us benefit from, even though paying a tax bill doesn’t always feel so great. And what’s worse? Paying a tax penalty.
One way to legally pay less in taxes is through tax planning. Of course, we all want to avoid paying those penalties to the IRS come tax time. But what about taking it one step further by prepping in advance and using tax incentives to legally pay less?
Let me be clear: Tax avoidance is not tax evasion. Tax evasion can lead to penalties and even jail time if it’s serious enough. But tax avoidance using those tax code incentives, when used correctly, can help you legally reduce your tax bill and avoid penalties while allowing you to benefit from tax perks.
Money Tip #3: Automate and stick to the plan.
While the previous money tips might sound great, like planning, they don’t work unless you put them into action. One easy way to do this is one that we’ve brought up many times before: Automation!
Whether it’s pulling cash from your savings account on a regular basis to go to your Roth IRA, having funds taken out of your paycheck via 401(k) contributions before you even see those dollars in your bank account, or turning autopay on for your credit cards so you’re never stuck with interest charges or late fees, there are so many ways to automate!
And automation plays perfectly into one of our financial planning mantras: Control what you can control. Some have hit it big since the pandemic started with “stay-at-home” stocks, major company stocks that have thrived, and, more recently, GameStop Mania. However, part of automation means setting it up — and sticking to it.
That autopilot mentality can also add simplicity to your financial life. But it’s not truly “set it and forget it.” Check out Money Tip #5 below for more!
Money Tip #4: Analyze and validate your bills.
Dan Andrews, CFP®, our Director of Estate and Financial Planning, shared a personal finance tip that he takes home — literally!
“Whenever I get a medical bill, I make it a habit to analyze my health insurance and correct any errors to ensure I actually have to pay this bill — especially when I know that the service was a covered preventive visit,” Dan said. “Yes, this is an annoying to-do for sometimes little payoff, but most of these calls to my insurance provider and/or the medical office fix the issue so I don’t have to pay anything. And when I do have to pay, I’m then validated that my health insurance is working properly.”
And while Dan’s methodology has to do with health insurance, it’s applicable to other areas of life, like …
Reviewing your pay stub and investment statements for errors
Checking your receipts when you leave stores or finish shopping online to be sure you were charged correctly
Validating your credit card statements to ensure you weren’t overbilled
Preparing for future loans by reviewing your free annual credit report to correct any errors
This insider trick may sound simple, but it’s super applicable. And it could even save you a pretty penny — and hopefully some nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars too!
Money Tip #5: Complete family finance check-ins.
Tax season is in full swing, and our in-house tax expert, Jason Speciner, CFP® and Director of Investment and Tax Planning shared a tax-planning trick he incorporates into his money life.
“December and April are the two months I’m in the habit to overview my family’s finances. I do the same for clients while preparing and planning taxes, which then motivates me to double-check my own contributions to my health savings account, retirement accounts, and other savings vehicles,” Jason says. “It’s nice to make this habit a semi-annual routine.”
That routine helps Jason control what he can control (there’s that mantra again!). And checking in on a regular basis helps him ensure his finances are in check at meaningful intervals — without wasting time on too-frequent check-ins. And that quick check with as-needed adjustments is all it takes to keep them on track, so Jason can avoid being overwhelmed with his own personal finances while taking care of his family.
If you’re looking for more information on or have a question about a personal finance topic we didn’t cover here, we invite you to schedule your next meeting. We encourage you to make use of your unlimited meeting and consultation time — so feel free to reach out. You might just learn a money tip or trick that you can use in your financial life!
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