Financial Solutions that Click
As a freelance Web developer, Jenna, 35, spends hundreds of hours glued to her computer without batting an eye. She spends just a fraction of that time, however, checking investments online, and reviewing her finances – probably less than an hour per year, she estimates.
When her son entered kindergarten this year, Jenna started pondering his future (and her responsibilities as a single parent). Jenna knew it was time to start planning for his future and for hers, but she didn’t know where to start. She asked her friends via Facebook if they had any bright ideas, and someone suggested meeting with a financial advisor.
With the help of an expert, Jenna identified the following financial priorities:
Build emergency savings. Jenna is the sole provider for her family, and her freelance income is unpredictable. Solution: Financial experts recommend saving enough to cover three to six months of living expenses for emergencies. Considering her fluctuating income, Jenna decided six months' worth would be best. Her savings are parked in a money market account where she can quickly access the funds.
Save more for retirement. Jenna contributes to her individual retirement account (IRA) once in a blue moon when she has a surplus in her checking account. It’s a good start, but her account balance is small. Solution: She plans to save regularly, at least $5,000 a year.
Review retirement portfolio. Jenna's investment portfolio was haphazard at best, and consequently, it was out of whack with her timeline, goals and risk tolerance. Solution: Jenna met with an advisor to map out an appropriate strategy. She set up automatic rebalancing to help maintain the appropriate investment mix.
Consolidate retirement accounts. Jenna had two 401(k) accounts from past jobs, but hadn't looked at the statements for years. She didn’t know much about the account fees – or whether the investments were appropriate for her. Solution: Jenna rolled over the balances from her old employer-sponsored plans directly into her IRA. Consolidating accounts simplified her retirement savings picture and provided greater investment flexibility.
Start saving for college. Jenna’s parents want to help her build a college fund for her son. They plan to contribute $1,000 a year until he turns 18. Jenna wants to match the grandparents’ contribution with $1,000 of her own each year. Solution: She can invest the money in a Coverdell education savings account or 529 college savings plan. These accounts offer tax-advantaged ways to save for qualified education expenses.
Planning Pays Off
Jenna still has her share of financial challenges – managing a mortgage, student loans, and health insurance premiums – but she is headed in the right direction. Now when she builds Web sites for clients, Jenna feels confident that she is building her own financial security at the same time.