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Is your time worth as much as you think?

Time is MoneyKJ: Have you ever sat down to actually figure out what your time is worth? Time is one of the scarcest resources, and it’s one that you can never get back. Knowing the trade-offs of what you are missing out on (often called an “opportunity cost”) can go a long way in understanding how you bring balance to your life and evaluate a purchase (whether significant or not). Let’s start with a simple calculation:

What is your yearly take-home (or family’s take-home)?
This should be relatively easy. For those of you that are salaried, the number is pretty easy to calculate – just add up your income from this last year.

For people with irregular incomes and uncertain bonuses, don’t put a whole lot of weight to those lumpy income payments. Instead, try to take a 6-18 month average (depending on just how variable your income can be) leaving out some of the larger bonuses/commissions/irregular income payments as applicable.

The 2,000 hour rule of thumb
Under both of these methods, simply divide the income number by 2,000 (the approximate number of hours worked by someone who is full-time at 40 hours per week). So, if you made $20,000 last year, your hourly rate is about $10 per hour. If you made $50,000 last year, your hourly equivalent is closer to $25.

Back out taxes
Now it’s time for the not-so-fun part. Take your number from above (sounds nice, doesn’t it?), and subtract out your taxes – boo! If you’re in the 15% tax bracket, then simply take the number from above and multiply by 85%. So, if you made $25/hr then your after-tax would be $21.25. If you’re in the 25% tax bracket, multiply by 75% ($18.75 if we continue our example). Don’t forget the impact of Social Security, Medicare, and state taxes (if that applies!) which could all take another 10%+ off your take-home pay! What you thought was your real take-home pay per hour could be significantly lower.

DIY or hire-it-out
Now that you have a quick rule-of-thumb of what your typical hourly-equivalent rate is, it might help you think about purchases in a different light – or hiring out that project instead of DIY. While I’m all for doing as much as you can yourself, there are definitely times when your time may be better spent hiring out a professional who will (1) have a better idea what to actually do, (2) has experience in doing it error-free (or as near error-free as you can get), and (3) who can do it far more quickly than you could accomplish it.

Even if the project is quite basic, maybe you would spend $400 worth of your time when you could have hired it out for $300. If instead the numbers were flipped, and it would have taken $200 worth of your time, yet you would have had to hire it out for $300 then maybe the hire-it-out option doesn’t make as much sense.

Money you have is different than money you could have
Clearly not all decisions are based on the fact that you could be working and generating income while the person you hired is completing the task. You may need to factor in some non-monetary considerations as well like needing a break – there are only 24 hours in a day!

Particularly if you live in the salaried world where extra work doesn’t quite relate directly to your take-home, the decision might not be quite as easy. It could boil down to whether you could be building your marketable skills for future (unknown) income opportunities – i.e. investing in your human capital – to be able to increase your hourly-equivalent rate in the future. Surely that’s worth something!

Use this to calculate any purchase
If the purchase of [insert product name here] is going to set you back $200, and you’re hourly equivalent after taxes is $20, then it would cost you 10 hours of work to pay for said item. It’s a good way to ask “was my hard-earned time for 10 hours really worth this purchase?” That’s about 25% of your entire week’s work…framed that way, your answer might differ.

This can be an exceptional way to really balance your wants and your needs for that good old budget of yours.

    Have you thought about how many hours it would take you to pay off something?
    Did it sway you into making the purchase or did you realize the purchase wasn’t worth it?

Image courtesy of hin255 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Is your time worth as much as you think? is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Is it more stressful to not have an emergency fund or to spend one you already have?

Locked Piggy BankKJ: If you don’t have an emergency fund, the answer to you may seem simple, but once you’ve built up that emergency fund, then when it comes time to actually dipping into it for an emergency – yes, that’s right, an emergency – you may find that your answer to the question isn’t so simple!

Before we go any further, if you don’t have an emergency fund (or don’t have an adequate one yet), then read our prior post on why you need an emergency fund, so you can get on track sooner rather than later. That’s priority numero uno.

If you do have an emergency fund – go ahead and pat yourself on the back whether you’ve made it all the way to build it up or you’re still working on it! – then the chances are you have been faced with this question before. A tree falls on your house, your car breaks down on the side of the road, or you have a sudden medical complication that has your head running in a tailspin as you try and calculate all the numbers and expenses that are coming your way.

Spending your hard-earned savings can be stressful
It can be quite difficult to psychologically part with any of the money you’ve built up. You spent your hard earned time building it up, so when it comes time to deal with the actual emergency itself, you may find yourself cutting your expenses further for the month rather than wanting to dip into your savings. I mean, if you can still make it work and not really cause your budget to be completely turned upside down, then why not? The sense of accomplishment of making it work within your month is quite rewarding to know that you were able to take the challenge head-on.

Once you spend it, you have to work to build it back up
An obvious issue, but part of the reason why it can be so difficult to spend that hard-earned cash. Hopefully if you’ve been good about your emergency fund, once it’s built up, you just redirect the savings to additional retirement savings or to other longer-term investment savings. So, if you have to build back up the emergency fund again, then you may just need to revisit your priorities on whether other savings amounts will need to be adjusted.

It’s always a moving target
Hopefully over your career you are increasing your income as you build up your skill-set in making yourself marketable to employers. If you simultaneously increase your expenses while your income soars, then you’ll find that your emergency fund needs will soar to new heights as well! All the more reason to just keep your expenses low and to ratchet up your savings, not your lifestyle.

You get accustomed to your new normal
You get used to watching your emergency fund as a nice little addition to your net worth. Whether that’s $5k, $10k, or $20k+, parting with any portion of it means your net worth takes a hit. And who likes to see their net worth decline? You get used to seeing it build over time that you hate to have a period of time where it dips some. Sometimes though it can be the push you need to try and find creative ways to make money the weird way like we did this last month. I mean, everyone needs a little inspiration here and there to innovate, don’t we?

    Have you had to dip into your emergency fund before?
    Did you have to fully-fund the expense from the account or did you cover some of it from your budget?
    Was it difficult to build up the emergency fund again?

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Is it more stressful to not have an emergency fund or to spend one you already have? is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

The misconception of UTMA and UGMA accounts: what you need to know

KJ: A bit shocking of a headline I imagine for anyone who has setup an UTMA or UGMA account for their son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandchild, cousin, whomever. In theory, I like the concept of an UTMA and UGMA account, but in reality, I think they are highly over utilized for what their intended purpose is.

Short for Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA) or Uniform Gift to Minors (UGMA), it even says it in the name that it’s a gift or transfer TO the minor.

So, what is the misconception? With an UTMA or UGMA account, any money you gift to the account is considered an irrevocable gift to the beneficiary. That’s right, it is a gift of money (or investments) that you have given to a minor, and it’s up to a designated ‘custodian’ (i.e. generally the parent) who oversees the account on behalf of the minor until they are of age.

Sure, it’s a great way to potentially help set aside some designated funds for a minor, but once the minor reaches the age of majority (depends on the state, but it is either 18 or 21), then they legally have full control of the account to do whatever they may want to do with the account. Woah. Anything? Yep!

One nice feature is that you can use the funds for the benefit of the minor at any age (can be junior high, high school, college, etc.) for living expenses unlike a 529 plan that must be used for qualified higher education expenses. See also our post on into to funding education where we also talk about other higher education funding accounts and their pros/cons.

Figure Sitting And Reading Book With Idea Bulb Stock Image

An UTMA/UGMA becomes the child’s account
While traditionally common to help set aside some funds for education for a child, many parents don’t often realize that the account is legally the child’s to use however they would want once they reach a certain age. Plus, if the parent wants to recapture some of the funds (say it wasn’t all used for education or other support for the child), then it is up to the minor to actually gift the money back to the parents! Sure, a saving grace is often that the child probably has no idea how to access the funds unless the parent discusses it with them, but still. They might begin to wonder why they have a 1099 for an account in their name!

Taxation implications
There really aren’t too many positive income tax implications for an UTMA/UGMA. The first $1,000 of gains/income each year (for 2014) is tax-free, and the second $1,000 is taxed at the child’s tax rates (typically very, very low), but any gains above that are taxed at the parent’s income tax rates. It prevents parents from being able to shift a lot of assets to their child to avoid a higher income tax bracket.

Know the restrictions
While I’m not 100% anti-UTMA and UGMA accounts – in fact, we have one setup for my nieces – the person setting them up often doesn’t quite realize the implications for how the account can be used. For us, Angela and I wanted it to be used for whatever K&G may want when they get to a certain age – be it school, help with a car down payment, help with a house down payment, etc. We knew the implications of setting up the account and how it may ultimately be used beforehand.

Consider other options
Sure, these account types CAN be appropriate from time-to-time to help fund education for a child, and they can be appropriate for a parent truly wanting to gift some funds to their child to use however they want.

However, for those parents hoping to exclusively use it for higher education costs and to potentially “recapture” whatever may be left, there are much better uses of the funds. Maybe a 529 plan would be more suitable (where the donor continues to control the account after the beneficiary is of the age of majority), and if you wanted to gift the account back to yourself at the end of the time period, you generally can find a way to do so much easier (noting there could be some gift tax and income tax implications for earnings in the 529 plan account not used for higher education).

With a 529 plan, you can also reassign the beneficiary to another child, relative, etc. if the first child either doesn’t go to college or attends a less expensive college than you planned (woohoo for your budget!). Something you don’t have the ability to do with an UTMA/UGMA.

UTMA/UGMA accounts may impact financial aid options
One factor impacting your out-of-pocket education costs is eligibility for financial aid. A downside to the UTMA/UGMA accounts is that the value of an UTMA/UGMA account may reduce the child’s ability to receive financial assistance in college. In fact, it isn’t uncommon to see financial aid reduced by 20%+ of the value that is owned in an UTMA/UGMA.

    Do you have an UTMA or UGMA setup for anyone?
    What made you decide to open that account type?
    If you chose a 529 plan, why?

Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

The misconception of UTMA and UGMA accounts: what you need to know is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

Ten financial commandments to live by in your 20′s

Old Antique Book
KJ: If you were to create Ten Commandments that would apply to your financial life in your 20′s, what would be on the list? Fortunately, MSN money recently wrote an article on 10 financial commandments for your 20′s that outlined their list of ten items that all Gen Y’ers should abide by. Do any of these resonate with you? Whether you’re in your twenties now (or were at some point), what words of wisdom would you impart on the younger generation of the shoulda-woulda-coulda?

No. 1: Develop a marketable skill
Check! – I would like to say that we have developed some pretty marketable skills. I’m a whiz-kid when it comes to spreadsheets, and Angela is at the forefront when it comes to interpersonal relationships and knowing how to sell [insert product or initiative] just about anything.

No. 2: Establish a budget
Check! – I would say we’re pretty on-board with this one. While the last few months have been a bit of a stretch with some extra items that have come up with our house, we always come back to “how can we pay for this without keeping anything on the credit card”? Sometimes expenses – and income – ebbs and flows, and this past quarter we decided to take the plunge and finally get around to some of the things around the house we had been holding off on for a while (read, finally painted our deck and got some patio furniture!).

Check out our tips on budget basics and building your first budget.

No. 3: Get insured
Check! – I would say we have this one down stat. I’m covered through my work, and Angela has coverage through her work for health insurance. Plus, we’ve got our ducks in a row for homeowner’s, car, life insurance, etc.

No. 4: Make a debt-repayment plan
Check! – None needed on this one. ‘Nuff said. Other than the house, we’re debt free!

No. 5: Build an emergency fund
Check! – Reached our goal for the emergency fund, but we continue to pad it for the next car purchase or big purchase down the line.

No. 6: Start saving for retirement
Check! – Between 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and HSAs (that we intend to use as supplemental retirement by letting it grow over time instead of spending it today), we’re working toward that goal!

No. 7: Build up your credit history
Check! – With our process of putting all our expenses on a credit card to rack up some nice rewards and then paying it in full each month, coupled with our home loan, we’re on the track we need to be to establish some good long-term credit.

No. 8: Quit the Bank of Mom and Dad
Check! – Fortunately, once we got out of college, we were immediately on our own dime and learned to take care of ourself. We still thoroughly enjoy the “chef de Mom y Dad” when we get to spend time with family for meals, but no loans that we owe to our parents! This was a very high priority and goal for Angela and I as we started our adult lives together. We don’t want to owe anyone anything!

No. 9: Clean up your online presence
Check! – What happens on the internet, stays on the internet. Learn to keep a classy profile and think twice before you post something seemingly benign!

No. 10: Get your key financial documents in order
Check(ish)! We have most of our financial affairs and documents in order. One of our goals for this next quarter is to [finally] get our estate plan and wills in order. Being that I work in the industry, you’d think I would have this down, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. Otherwise, between downloading our monthly statements from all accounts, reviewing Mint.com regularly, and discussing our quarterly presentation together, I would say the rest of our financial documents are in about as good order as they could be.

    What financial commandments do you live by?
    What would you tell your 20-something self?
    Share with us the rules that guide your life!

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Ten financial commandments to live by in your 20s is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

How does the Affordable Care Act affect me? You may be impacted even if you have employer health insurance.

KJ: With this year bringing a lot of healthcare changes we wanted to dedicate a post to some of the changes that have occurred and what you may be going through (or will go through).

We stumbled across a nice little decision site where Mint.com partnered with TurboTax to help you understand your options when it comes to healthcare coverage this year. Check out the site at: TurboTax and Mint.com health care considerations.

Heap Of Dollars With Stethoscope

So, what has changed? Well the most obvious change is that (generally speaking) you are now required to get health insurance, otherwise you could face some stiff penalties. See the below excerpt directly from the healthcare.gov website:

    The penalty in 2014 is calculated one of 2 ways. If you or your dependents don’t have insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage you’ll pay whichever of these amounts is higher:

      1% of your yearly household income. (Only the amount of income above the tax filing threshold, $10,150 for an individual, is used to calculate the penalty.) The maximum penalty is the national average premium for a bronze plan.
      $95 per person for the year ($47.50 per child under 18). The maximum penalty per family using this method is $285.

    The way the penalty is calculated, a single adult with household income below $19,650 would pay the $95 flat rate. A single adult with household income above $19,650 would pay an amount based on the 1% rate. (If income is below $10,150, no penalty is owed.)

    The penalty increases every year. In 2015 it’s 2% of income or $325 per person. In 2016 and later years it’s 2.5% of income or $695 per person. After that it’s adjusted for inflation.

    If you’re uninsured for just part of the year, 1/12 of the yearly penalty applies to each month you’re uninsured. If you’re uninsured for less than 3 months, you don’t have to make a payment.

    You’ll pay the fee on your 2014 federal income tax return. Most people will file this return in 2015.

Current coverage can still mean changes coming
However, just because you have coverage through your employer doesn’t mean you won’t be experiencing any changes! I didn’t see a whole lot of changes with my employment (other than more behind-the-scenes changes to deductibles, calculation of out of pocket maximums, premium costs to the employer, etc.), but it really means there was an increased cost for the employer. And, we should all know what that means – a cost that would ultimately impact the employees over time.

Expanded options in many cases
More options are always better, right? Well, it can be. But it seems like sometimes we have decision overload with so many options. Think of the last time you went to the grocery store and were selecting cereal. There are literally hundreds of options, so sometimes the choice is a no-brainer while at other times you are balancing budget/taste/craving/amount-before-it-expires/health.

For Angela’s changes at work, she had quite a drastic change in her health insurance options that were available. They took the approach of how the public health insurance exchanges work. The end result – SIGNIFICANTLY more options for coverage. Not only did we have to decide about the particular insurance type to analyze (bronze, silver, and gold level plans), but we then had to select the individual carrier too within that framework! Some insurance providers were a clear winner (or loser) while others were very close. How then did we decide how to proceed?

As with everything else that applies to personal finances, you have to run the numbers and calculate the differences. It required quite a bit more work in terms of analyzing what the potential out-of-pocket costs would run under a normal year, taking into account how it would be different if there were a catastrophe or significant medical costs. The key with this calculation is to also evaluate what the monthly premium costs are too that come out of your paycheck. If you know you have certain prescription costs, regular doctors visits, or an upcoming surgery, be sure to include those as well. So, it should look like:

    Monthly Premiums
    + Estimated Doctors Visits Costs (noting generally preventive and annual visits would be excluded)
    + Surgery Costs
    + Copays
    + Prescription costs
    = Total Estimated Out of Pocket for the Year

In some cases, you may notice a significant rise in costs over the prior year depending on your situation, but you may also be able to identify ways to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Be sure to balance the impact to your bottom-line
Whichever option you chose, take into consideration your cash flow needs and emergency fund available. If you select the lower out-of-pocket health insurance costs that is coupled with a higher deductible, be sure you have the cash and emergency fund to handle that increase! If not, work to make it your goal for this year to build that up even greater, so you can take advantage of the lower premium options in future years.

It’s all a balancing act, and one you can only truly know with 20/20 hindsight, but that doesn’t mean you should just keep everything the same year-after-year. Take a look at what the numbers would end up being. It isn’t going to be perfect, but the more you project, the more you learn how to project, so use each projection as a learning experience of how you can improve your analyses!

    Have you had any changes to your health insurance coverage?
    How did you decide which option to select?
    Hopefully the TurboTax tool will help you with your decisions!

Image courtesy of Baitong333 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

How does the Affordable Care Act affect me? You may be impacted even if you have employer health insurance. is copyrighted by TheSimpleMoneyBlog.com without consent to republish.

Some of the links in the post above may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. We feel strongly about only recommending products or services we use personally and/or believe will add value to you, our readers. Read more about our commitment to providing quality product recommendations.

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