New Year’s Resolutions: Tips for Saving More in 2018!

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Everyone wants to save more money, but many people don’t know where to start. Infinity Financial Services, leaders in financial planning near Oakland, provides its clients with the necessary tools to get moving and never look back. In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, here are some tips for saving more in 2018.

Make a Budget

Easiest tip first, right? Not so fast. A large percentage of Americans have a hard time creating a budget, let alone maintaining one week to week and month to month. But trust us when we say that in order to get started on saving near Oakland, a budget is a must. Start by determining your monthly expenses and recording them in a spreadsheet. Then add in expenses that don’t occur every month, like a dental checkup or car maintenance. In a separate column, list your monthly income. This type of basic budget goes a long way towards helping you plan your monthly spending and minimize overspending.

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How to Create an Estate Planning Checklist

planning checklist

Estate planning is an important “life step” that provides a clear, comprehensive blueprint for how your family is cared for in the event of your death or disability. The best estate plans follow an estate planning checklist that ensures nothing is overlooked and that all important topics are considered. The following checklist from Infinity Financial Services in Oakland is a useful tool as you engage the estate-planning process

Start with the Basics

The basics of any sound estate plan are:

  • Designating beneficiaries
  • Defining ownership of assets (who gets what)
  • Medical treatment planning
  • Guardianship of any minors
  • Completion of one or more estate planning forms
  • Exploration of estate-tax reductions
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Year-End Tax Tips for College Savers

college saving tips

Though another year draws to a close, Infinity Financial Services still has a few tax tips for our clients. Many of you are saving for your kids’ college, and with college costs far exceeding what they were 20 and 30 years ago, the following advice should prove helpful.

Pre-investment Advice

Before you invest, there are a few important things to do:

  • Confirm whether your home state (or your beneficiary’s home state) offers any state tax benefits/other benefits that are exclusive to that state. This is essential because any benefits related to a 529 plan (more information below) are only applicable to residents of the state sponsoring the plan.
  • A 529 plan’s value will fluctuate over time, meaning your final value may be more or less than what your originally contributed

Research state income taxes to see whether any withdrawals will be taxed. Also, bear in mind that early/non-qualified withdrawals are assessed a 10 percent penalty.

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3 Financial Planning Steps

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Organization, efficiency and discipline are the three primary steps of financial planning. Organization is knowing where your money comes and goes. An efficient portfolio means a better chance of profits, and discipline keeps you on the right track.

Statistics tell us that the average credit card debt per person - including all people who pay off their cards each month - is over $5,500. Folks don’t have a handle on the big picture of their personal financial world. If you are one of these folks, you should understand three important steps of financial planning and get started today, either on your own, using resources on the Internet, or by hiring a financial planner.

1. Organization

The first and most important step of financial planning is organization. You can be a lot closer to your financial goals in life by organizing your finances and understanding money flows, both inflows (like your paycheck) and outflows (bills).

If your financial life isn’t terribly complicated, an Excel spreadsheet may suit your needs perfectly. However, using something a little more sophisticated, such as Mint, Quicken or other online budgeting tools may become necessary, as you and your financial life continue to evolve.

There are a million ways to approach organization, but the “how?” is nowhere near as important as “when?” Of course, the answer to when to start organizing is now.

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Retirement Financial Planning - Your New Job and 401(k)


Pay attention to the details

Land a great new job? Awesome. Now is the perfect time to think about your 401(k) and retirement plan, whether you had one before or not. Saving for retirement is important at all ages, so don’t let this opportunity fall to the bottom of your list.

Here are tips to consider when starting a new job and a new 401(k).

Make more contributions if you have a bigger paycheck. When you get a raise, it is a good idea to increase the amount you contribute to your 401(k). You didn’t have this money in your pocket, so you won’t miss it when you put it straight into your 401(k).The contribution limit for 2017 is $18,000. If you already meet the limit, let’s talk about whether you should consider contributing to an individual retirement account (IRA) for even more retirement savings.Don’t pass up the new employer’s match. Sometimes, employers provide a 401(k) match as part of their employee benefits package. They may match your contribution dollar for dollar or a percentage of it up to a set amount.Your company match is free money. Don’t let it slip through your fingers. If I offered you a bundle of cash – say, a few thousand dollars, perhaps – would you turn it down? Find out the limit and at the bare minimum, contribute that amount.Name your beneficiaries for your new 401(k) plan. Keep your beneficiaries consistent across all retirement accounts and according to your estate plan. So be sure to update your new plan to reflect changes in your beneficiaries.Are you now a parent or do you have a new spouse? Updates allow your 401(k) account to pass directly to the person of your choice should you pass away.Above all, don’t forget to enroll in your new plan. While this may seem obvious, it’s easy to forget signing up for your new company’s 401(k) plan, because many employers require a short waiting period before new employees are eligible to join. If you have to wait, put a reminder in place – circle the enrollment date on your calendar and set an alarm on your smartphone. Just don’t forget.Your “Old” 401(k)

Wondering what you should do with your old 401(k) accounts? You may prefer to roll your old 401(k) over to an IRA, as it gives you the ability to invest your account in a variety of mutual funds, stocks or bonds beyond what your employer may offer. This helps you to build a well-diversified investment allocation. Choosing low-cost mutual funds or ETFs in an IRA can save you money in the long-term over generally more expensive 401(k) investment fees.

For easier management, some may consider consolidating an old 401(k) account with a new one. First, you need to research what investment options your new plan offers. It is common that employer-offered 401(k)s have a smaller number of investment options than an IRA. For example, emerging markets equity funds and small-capitalization value funds are rarely offered.

Then you should compare the underlying fees and expenses in your plan with those in an IRA. The operating expense ratios of the available options can often be higher. Finally, talk to your new 401(k) plan administrator to guide you through the steps for a rollover.

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Questions to Ask a Prospective Financial Advisor


What to look for and what’s not important

If you are shopping for a financial advisor, you need a good checklist of questions to ask. What you are looking for is someone who handles clients like you – and who is financially wise. 

As you assess an advisor who manages your assets, for instance, do yourself a favor: Don’t rely on his or her investment record. Clients have differing needs. A money manager whose investment performance touched the stars last year may falter this year. 

More important nowadays is how skillful an advisor is at preserving your assets. That may range beyond market forecasts into such realms as insurance. Losing the ability to work and generate income, because of a sudden disability, can be more ruinous to your financial well-being than a slide in the stock market. This list of questions to a prospective advisor will help you decide whether the person is the right fit for you: 

What Don’t You Do?

Some advisors are strictly asset managers. They run your portfolio and do no planning. Others are wealth managers and theirmandate is broader: They plan the risk in your life. Within these categories are specialists in such areas as insurance and estate planning. You may hire an advisor to draw up an investment plan aimed at gathering enough assets to see you through retirement. But the advisor may know zilch about creating a trust to pass along wealth to your grandkids. So, you will need another expert for that. 

Who Is Your Typical Client?

Let’s say you are starting out and have a net worth of $50,000. It may not make sense for you to hire an advisor who typically handles multi-millionaires. 

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How to Pay the Bills Now and Pay for Retirement Later


No matter where you are in your working life, retirement savings probably comes in low on your list of financial priorities. After all, you’re busy building your life and career. You have to cover the basics like mortgage, cars, utilities, insurance, and healthcare; then meet the demands that life brings like kids, college, unexpected accidents, and rising costs of just about everything. How are you supposed to focus on long-term goals when short-term responsibilities get in the way?

Most people can relate to that challenge. Did you know that 85% of working age people in a worldwide retirement survey1 said that retirement is not their main savings priority? So what can you do now to save consistently for the future? These tips may seem obvious, but they’re tried and true ways to develop a serious savings habit:

Make saving automatic.

With so many things to manage in life, apps and devices have become an essential tool to ease our everyday burdens. It only makes sense to use digital automation when it comes to retirement savings. Sign up for payroll deduction to effortlessly contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or other plan. If you have a Traditional or Roth IRA, set up an automatic sweep or periodic deposit that ensures you make the annual contribution limit.  Don’t have a retirement account? Arrange for automatic transfers into your savings account through online banking. 

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Let Insight Guide Your Retirement Decisions...Not Hindsight


Everyone knows you can’t expect to live comfortably in retirement without thoughtful planning, right?  Not quite. A recent global retirement survey by HSBC found that nearly two-thirds of retirees didn’t know they were financially unprepared until after they retired.*  That’s a lot of people worldwide who didn’t realize the consequences of poor planning until hindsight provided an unsettling view.  

We all tend to put up our own roadblocks when it comes to preparing for retirement. But, meaningful insight from an experienced financial advisor can help change the way you think about long-term planning. Consider your reasons for putting off saving for retirement, and see how professional guidance can change your perspective:

You think you’re too young to start planning.

Retirement seems light years away when your adult life and career are just taking off. But, the earlier you get started, the easier it is to save over time. Putting away even small amounts consistently, taking advantage of employer retirement plans, and sticking to a budget greatly increase your chances of saving enough. Get to know an advisor who can help you make sense of your finances early on.

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