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Despite Stock Market Gains, Workers Worry About Retirement

Filed under: Retirement, Retirement Living, Retirement Plans, 401K, SavingAlamy

The stock market has climbed back to a record high, but workers remain pessimistic about having enough money for retirement. The Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annu…

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The Last-Minute Tax Move That Could Be Worth $100,000

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Filing taxes online

The 2012 tax filing deadline is less than a month away and if you haven’t filed yet, don’t worry — you’re not alone. H&R Block (HRB) estimates that on average, Americans are about two weeks behind last year’s filing pace, with about 60 million yet to file as of the beginning of March.

A big part of the delay is driven by the last-minute tax law changes and new reporting requirements that were so complex that even the IRS was forced to delay its typical starting date for accepting returns.

If you’ve got all the paperwork and are just dreading the effort or the bill you might have to pay, here’s something that might motivate you to get moving: There’s a last-minute tax move you can make for 2012 that could potentially be worth over $100,000.

The move that can be worth so much? It’s simple: Fund your IRA for 2012.

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And exactly how do we come up with the tasty $100,000 carrot to get you to act? Like this: The money you contribute to an IRA (traditional or Roth) grows tax deferred. And if the IRA you fund is a Roth IRA, that growth may even end up being completely tax free.

People under age 50 can contribute up to $5,000 for 2012. If that $5,000 contribution compounds at 8 percent annually for the next 40 years, your savvy tax move you make in the next month winds up being worth $108,623.

That’s not a bad haul for a one-time investment, but you’ve got to get moving.

While the IRS will automatically let you extend the deadline to file your 2012 taxes , the window slams shut on 2012 IRA contributions after April 15. In short, filing extensions do not apply to IRA contributions.

What If You Don’t?

Of course, there’s nothing forcing you to contribute to your IRA. If you can’t come up with the cash or otherwise choose to not contribute, that’s fine. But understand what you miss out on:

  • Tax-deferred compounding: You can still invest money outside of your IRA, but you’ll likely owe taxes on dividends and capital gains on the returns that money makes, even years before you need to spend it.
  • Creditor protection: Many states shield some or all of your IRA assets from creditors, protecting that money from being seized to satisfy most common debts. Money in an ordinary brokerage account does not enjoy that kind of protection.
  • College financial aid: Money held in an IRA is not counted as an asset for calculating a family’s expected financial contribution when calculating federal financial aid for college. Investments in ordinary brokerage accounts reduce the amount of aid a student can receive, whether those investments are held by the student or that student’s parents.
  • Penalty enforced retirement focus: With few exceptions, tapping your IRA prior to retirement is a very expensive proposition. Most early withdrawals are subject to being taxed at your marginal income tax rate plus a 10 percent penalty for taking the money out early. If you’ve ever been tempted to spend a chunk of money just because it’s there, that penalty can help you avoid that temptation, giving your cash the opportunity to truly compound for decades on your behalf.

There’s Always Next Year (or Is There?)

If you don’t fund your 2012 IRA now, of course you can always “wait until next year.” Of course, then you’ll miss out on the benefits of starting the all-powerful compounding clock right now. Plus, unless you make the commitment to yourself to fund your plan, you may well wind up in the same situation next year, too.

If you wait long enough, the opportunity to invest a little now and let compounding turn it into a comfortable retirement will pass you by. And that would truly be a tragedy.

Making the right financial decisions today makes a world of difference in your golden years, but with most people chronically under-saving for retirement it’s clear not enough is being done. Don’t make the same mistakes as the masses. Learn about The Shocking Can’t-Miss Truth about Your Retirement in this free report.


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Not Saving Enough? Your Native Language May Be to Blame

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English Translator If you’re reading this without the help of Google Translate, chances are your saving habits stink, and you’re not as healthy as you could be either.

According to recent research by Yale University behavioral economist Keith Chen, the language you speak plays an important role in how you approach saving money. This might seem absurd, but his research has shown a strong correlation between language and future decision-making.

“Languages force you to pay attention to time,” Chen explains. Languages such as English, French, Italian and Tamil are what he calls “strong future-time reference languages” — languages that have a different tense for the future. “Weak future-time reference languages,” such as Mandarin and German, don’t make as much of a distinction between the present and the future; in German, for example, “Morgen regent es” translates as “it rains tomorrow.”

The greater the linguistic distinction between present and future, Chen says, the less likely you are to plan ahead. That may be why speakers of future-less languages are likely to have 39 percent more wealth than their future-speaking counterparts by the time they retire. They are also 31 percent more likely to have saved more.

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The study also found that future-language speakers tend to be unhealthier: They get less exercise, practice unsafe sex, and smoke more than their future-less language counterparts. According to Chen, they choose “current pleasure in exchange for future pain.” He realizes that the whole premise sounds far-fetched, but his research has yielded statistical evidence showing that future-less language speakers are 24 percent less likely to smoke, 29 percent more likely to exercise, and 13 percent less likely to be obese.

Critics of Chen’s work suggest that the differences observed are not related to language but rather to culture. But he responds that he controlled for that factor by testing in multilingual countries. In those nations, he notes, you can find families living next to each other with the exact same education and socioeconomic factors, but different languages, and different levels of saving. Sure enough, the families conversing in the future-less language were on average saving more.

Chen says that what his study essentially shows is “how we represent these problems to ourselves.” So instead of purchasing a copy of Rosetta Stone, you might want to consider changing your perception of time.

Photo Credit: Alamy


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Her Financial Goal: Get a Handle on Retirement Planning

Filed under: Retirement Plans, 401K, PlanningEveryone has things they want to improve about their financial lives — even those of us who are paid to write and think about money on a daily basis. To that end, the editors at DailyFinance and a few other…

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Roth 401(k)s: If Your Employer Offers One, Should You Switch?

Filed under: Taxes, Retirement Plans, 401K, Roth IRAMaking the most of your employee benefits is essential in this tough economy. With more employers than ever adding a new Roth 401(k) option to their retirement plan offerings, should you make the swit…

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