Saving money makes you happier – here’s proof

The argument over whether you should invest or pay off debt usually focuses on financial numbers, such as rates of return and interest charges. Maybe happiness should be part of the equation as well.

Studies in several countries, including the U.S., Norway, Ireland and Spain, have found high levels of financial satisfaction among elderly people. Happiness with our money situation tends to rise with age, even though our income peaks in midlife and then generally declines.

Why is that? Further studies show that what we own and what we owe make a difference. One study of 3,751 U.S. adults ages 30 to 80 found that increases in assets and decreases in debt over time “contribute substantially to the life course pattern of financial satisfaction.”

Fair enough. But then two Texas researchers looked into which of those two actions — paying down debt or building up investments — was the bigger contributor. In my latest for the Associated Press, find out which one makes you happier.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why you need a 401(k) in your 20s. Also in the news: How being lazy can help you save money, the new rules of credit card point etiquette, and how to spot financial infidelity.

Yes, You Need a 401(k) in Your 20s — Here’s Why
Paving the long road.

How Being Lazy Can Help You Save Money
Automatic banking can help.

New Rules of Credit Card Points Etiquette
When to use your points.

How to Spot Financial Infidelity
Noticing the signs.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Protecting your credit even as Equifax vows free lifelong credit lock. Also in the news: Sorting out an athlete’s tax bill, navigating car buying in a post-hurricane market, and the mobile game that helps you save money.

Protect Your Credit Even as Equifax Vows Free Lifelong Lock
Necessary steps.

Think Playing Quarterback Is Tough? Try Sorting Out an Athlete’s Tax Bill
Yikes.

Navigating Car Buying in a Post-Hurricane Market
Be careful you don’t get soaked.

One Part Personal Finance, One Part Mobile Gaming: Meet Long Game
Have fun while saving money.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: What to buy (and skip) in July. Also in the news: Conquering the fear of credit cards, 25 tips for first-time home buyers, and why Millennials can’t have nice things (or save any money.)

What to Buy (and Skip) in July
Timing is everything.

Conquer Fear of Credit Cards Now, Reap Benefits Later
Use them wisely.

25 Tips for First-Time Home Buyers
What to watch out for.

This is why millennials can’t have nice things (or save any money)
Curb the spending.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to manage money in your 30’s. Also in the news: Student loan holders catch a home buying break, why you should get to work building an unemployment fund, and the 10 best entry-level jobs for 2017.

How to Manage Money in Your 30s
Taking the longview.

Student Loan Holders Catch a Home-Buying Break
It’s about to become a little easier.

Get to Work on Building Your Unemployment Fund
Preparing for the worst.

The 10 Best Entry-Level Jobs For 2017
We all have to start somewhere.

Let’s be careful out there

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailIt’s going to be a zoo at the stores the next couple of days, the last full weekend before Christmas (next Sunday) and Hanukkah (which starts the night before). Plus, today is the last day for ground delivery from UPS and FedEx deliveries if you want your packages to arrive by Christmas.

If you feel like the shopping season is shorter this year, you’re not alone. The Wall Street Journal says the election kept people distracted and more retailers put off promotions until closer to Thanksgiving.

The crush of stressed, rushing people can lead to all kinds of financial fallout, from overspending inside the stores to fender-benders outside them. Some things to keep in mind if you’re venturing out:

Make that list before you go. So basic and so easy to forget. Specify who you’re buying for, and the budget. Put it on your phone, tattoo it on your forehead, whatever it takes.

Use a credit card (or two). Many credit cards offer protection if your purchases are stolen or damaged. Some double manufacturers’ warranties, and all can serve as a middleman if you have a dispute with a merchant. Just don’t use cards as an excuse to go wild–credit card balances should be paid in full. (One reader treats his credit cards as prepaid cards by sending an extra payment in advance to cover his holiday shopping.)

Maximize your rewards. Using the right card at the right venue can boost your rewards. If you have a card with changing bonus categories, know what those are before you leave home. Chase Freedom, for example, is offering 5 percent cash back on wholesale clubs (including Costco and Sam’s), department stores and drugstores. Discover It has a 5 percent cash bonus on department stores and Amazon. Many cards have ongoing bonuses for certain purchases, such as gas or dining out. NerdWallet has other tips on maximizing your rewards.

Go early. Getting there when the doors open may give you a few moments of less-crowded shopping.

Keep your phone handy. Check prices on the fly. Resist the urge to snap up extra “bargains” that might not be. But:

Watch out for fake shopping apps. Yup, they’re a thing, even in the supposedly-safer Apple App store. These apps can steal your credit card and personal information. Go to the retailer’s site and use the links there to download its mobile app.

Hide it, lock it, keep it. Don’t leave your purchases in plain sight in your car and try to avoid parking in dimly-lit or poorly trafficked areas.

Beware in-store pickup. It sounds great: shop online, pick it up in the store. Except when it doesn’t work, which can be often, since many stores’ inventory tracking isn’t all it could be and they may not have enough staff to get your stuff off the shelf. (Target stores in my area can’t seem to consistently fulfill in-store pickup orders even with normal traffic.) Have a plan B in case your order gets canceled or never fulfilled.

And speaking of Plan Bs:

There’s always Amazon. The online chain is offering one- and two-hour delivery all the way through midnight on Christmas Eve with its Prime Now service.

 

 

 

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

teen-creditToday’s top story: What it takes to succeed on a debt management plan. Also in the news: How to stash cash and still eat well in college, using price matching to save, and how to prepare your finances for a layoff.

What It Takes to Succeed on a Debt Management Plan
Staying on track.

5 Ways to Stash Cash and Still Eat Well in College
You don’t have to live on ramen.

Use Price Matching to Avoid Leaving Money on the Table
Getting the lowest price available.

Prepare Your Finances for a Layoff
Preparing for life without a paycheck.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

imagesToday’s top story: Simple ways to teach your kids about money. Also in the news: Investing tips for those in their 20s, the best things about buying a house in the fall, and why you should look at frugality as a method instead of a lifestyle.

Simple Ways to Teach Your Children About Money
It’s never too early to start.

5 Investing Tips for Your 20s
Taking the longview.

The 7 Best Things About Buying a House in the Fall
Timely tax deductions.

Think of frugality as a method, not a lifestyle, to avoid wasting your time
It’s not just about saving money.

Q&A: How to start saving

Dear Liz: I have credit card debt, federal student loans and a car loan. I’m trying to save for a house, but I also know I should save for retirement. How do I figure out what to tackle first?

Answer: If you have a 401(k) with a match at work, take advantage of it first. That’s free money that typically equals an instant 50% to 100% return on your contributions. Then pay off the credit card debt. You normally don’t need to be in a rush to pay off federal student loans. Your car loan is probably OK to pay off as scheduled too, assuming you got a decent interest rate.

After the credit card debt is vanquished, beef up your savings. Eventually you’ll want a separate emergency fund, but for the moment you can earmark the money for your down payment, knowing you can raid it in an emergency.

If you don’t have a 401(k) match or even a workplace plan — about half of workers don’t — you should still save something, but your priority will be to pay off the credit cards as fast as you can. Once that’s done, you can open a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. The traditional IRA will give you a tax break, but withdrawals will be taxed and may be penalized. If you contribute to a Roth, you don’t get to deduct your contribution but you can withdraw your contributions at any time without taxes or penalties. This makes a Roth a kind of emergency fund-slash-house fund. Ideally, you would leave the money alone until retirement, but it’s good to have a Plan B until you can build up your emergency and down payment funds elsewhere.

Is Saving Pointless?

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailRaise your hand if you’ve ever tried to build an emergency fund, then gave up after an unexpected expense drained away everything you managed to save.

If that’s you, then you’re likely part of the 47% of Americans who recently told the Federal Reserve that they wouldn’t be able to pay an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing or selling something. Some said they wouldn’t be able to come up with the money at all.

In my latest for NerdWallet, how your savings is what stands between you and the financial shocks that could send your life into a tailspin.