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How can a bank that offers no physical branches, no ATMs, and no checking account gain footing in the American banking market?

By offering low fees and some of the best rates on money market savings accounts.

That’s the recipe Barclays Bank, a British bank with a history stretching back into the 17th century, has employed to grow its business since expanding into the U.S. market.

And, if you want to save money for the long term without accessing your account regularly, Barclays may be a great fit for you. Check out our Barclays Bank ratings, and our Barclays Bank review for more reasons why Barclays Bank is a worthwhile option for your savings account.

Barclays Bank Review
  • Products & Services
  • Interest Rates
  • Fees & Charges
  • Website / App
  • Customer Service
4.3

Summary

Barclays Bank does one thing well – high interest online savings. You can link multiple accounts and deposit checks online through their web app. They have no account minimums and no monthly fees. Downsides: no checking account, and no ATM network. This account is best for those who only want or need a high interest online savings account.

Barclays: A Long History

Based in London, Barclays Bank offers financial services to almost 50 million people around the world. The bank traces its history to 1690.

The world was a much different place then. The United States didn’t yet exist. The Industrial Revolution hadn’t begun. Capitalism itself was in its infancy.

Barclays Bank has, of course, changed with the times. It first expanded beyond the shores of Great Britain in 1836, during the height of the British Empire.

Despite its long history in global finance, Barclays Bank arrived in America recently, in 2001. Barclays operates its United States banking division from Delaware, where it holds $21 billion in assets from American customers.

Financial ratings agencies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s currently give Barclay’s stable and positive reviews, and even though it is based in Britain, Americans’ deposits up to $250,000 are protected by the FDIC just like at any other member bank.

Barclay Bank Features
Barclays Bank Features
Banking Account Types Savings Accounts, CDs
Other Account Types Credit Cards, Personal Loans
Minimum Required Deposit to Open Account $1
Number of Branches Internet Only
ATM Network Size No ATM Network; Reduced ATM Fees with Bank of America
Remote Deposit Yes
App Availability iOS, Android, and Mobile Optimized Website
Customer Service Types Phone, Chat, Email
Customer Service Hours Phone: 7 Days a Week; 8 AM to 8 PM ET
Member FDIC FDIC Certificate #57203
Routing Number / ABA Number 031101321
Current Promotions Click to See Current Interest Rates;
See more Bank Promotions
Barclays – High-Yield Savings Rates

Although the bank offers diverse financial products in global markets, it offers only a simple approach to American customers: high-yield, online-only savings accounts with no fees.

At the time of this writing, Barclays’ current annual savings rate is about 21 times higher than the national average.

How can Barclays afford to pay such a high rate on savings accounts?

By offering a no-frills approach for its customers. You won’t find a Barclays Bank branch or ATM in your neighborhood, or anywhere else in the United States.

Instead, customers can access their savings online through electronic transfers between Barclays and other banks.

For example, let’s say you have $25,000 you want to deposit into a Barclays Bank savings account. You’d first need to deposit the money in another bank, then transfer from there into your Barclays Bank account.

Or, you can now take a picture of the check and deposit it directly into a Barclays account, which can be more convenient.

That may seem like a lot of extra trouble when you could just put the money in a savings account at your bank that has a branch down on the corner.

But if your local bank offers 0.01 percent annual interest on your $25,000, the extra steps will pay off.

In fact, at a rate of 0.01 percent, you’d earn $2.50 in a year compared to earning $375 a year at 1.5 percent.

Of course, the longer you leave the money in your account, the more money it will earn.

So if you planned to withdraw the $25,000 next week to pay for the trip to Europe you’d always wanted to take, opening a high-yield interest savings account through Barclays isn’t worth the extra trouble because you wouldn’t be giving it enough time to work for you.

But if you can leave the money alone for a few years, it’ll grow and grow, turning into a source of passive income that you can use any way you see fit.

CDs: An Even Higher Yield

Let’s say you’re in great shape financially. Your student loans are almost paid off. You have an affordable mortgage. You pay your credit card off every month.

Unless something catastrophic happens, like you lose your job, you won’t need to access your $25,000 in the near future.

Is there a way to earn an interest rate that’s even higher than Barclays’ interest rate on your $25,000? You can shop around for a higher savings rate, of course, and that’s always a good idea.

You may be able to find a slightly higher interest rate. (We’ll compare rates later.)

But here’s another approach that will yield a lot more than a fraction of a percentage point:

You could buy a certificate of deposit, or CD, from Barclays, whose American bank offers some of the highest rates out there for long-term certificates of deposit.

What is a CD?

A CD is money in the bank, just like a savings account, but you agree that you won’t withdraw from the funds for a specific period of time, usually ranging from three months up to five years.

If you withdraw your funds early, you’ll incur a penalty.

In exchange for leaving your money alone, the bank offers a higher interest rate.

At Barclays Bank, a five-year CD currently earns at an annual interest rate which is almost double the bank’s regular savings rate (which is already higher than most competitors).

For example, let’s say the five-year CD earns an annual rate of 2.75 percent. After five years, you can withdraw your deposit along with an extra $3,632 that you earned along the way.

Or, you can use that money to buy another CD which will yield even more money when it matures.

Some customers maintain an elaborate schedule of CD maturity dates so that every six months, or every year, they have a CD that matures, providing passive income or an opportunity to renew and set the clock rolling on another payout.

Barclays can help with this approach through its CD laddering program.

Generally, CDs earn a higher rate of return if they take longer to mature. A 3-month CD, for example, may earn only 0.35 percent interest while a 5-year CD may earn something like 2.75 percent. (These are sample rates – please visit the bank website for current CD interest rates).

It pays off if you can keep your hands off your money for a while.

Barclays Bank: An Apples-to-Apples Comparison

Of course, Barclays isn’t the only place to save money or to get a certificate of deposit to save even more by earning at higher rates.

As you’ve gathered, the bank’s U.S. strategy focuses on offering high-yield savings opportunities. But there are several similar products on the market.

How does Barclays Bank rate against the competition?

To answer that, let’s be sure we’re making a fair comparison.

Some banks offer high rates for savings accounts but also charge monthly fees or require account holders to maintain a sizeable balance.

Barclays requires neither a minimum balance nor a monthly fee. So let’s limit our comparisons, for now, to banks that also offer those features or at least require very little in that vein.

Barclays Bank vs. Ally Bank

Ally Bank offers similar interest rates on savings accounts while also offering an array of banking products such as auto loans, home loans, credit cards, checking accounts, CDs, and a brokerage account – Ally Invest.

When would you choose Ally Bank over Barclays Bank? If you wanted a full-service bank that offers loans, credit cards, and checking accounts, as well as a higher-yield savings rate.

Also, if you were buying a CD for a shorter term, such as 3 months, you’d earn more interest since Ally’s rates on such CDs are higher.

When would you choose Barclays Bank over Ally Bank? If you’re buying a five-year CD, for example, you’d earn a higher rate at Barclays.

In summary: If you want to earn passive income and do not plan to regularly access your funds, Barclays should pay off for you. If you want to move your money around more, consider Ally Bank instead.

Barclays Bank vs. Synchrony Bank

Synchrony Bank also offers a similar interest rate on its high-yield savings accounts, and like Barclays, Synchrony doesn’t offer a checking account.

However, with Synchrony Bank, you can access your savings via ATM machines with your Synchrony-issued ATM card.

While you will have to pay fees to use other banks’ ATMs, Synchrony offers up to $5 a month to reimburse this expense.

When would you choose Synchrony Bank over Barclays Bank? If you want a high-yield savings account but also want quick access to your money in case of an emergency, you would prefer Synchrony because of its ATM access.

  • Note: rules limit you to 6 withdrawals per month from a savings account, so you would most likely make most withdrawals from a checking account.

Keep in mind that Synchrony Bank’s money market savings accounts are currently slightly lower than the savings account interest rates. So be sure you’re going with the regular savings account.

When would you choose Barclays Bank over Synchrony Bank? If you don’t foresee needing to access your savings quickly and feel like having an ATM card might put your money at unnecessary risk — say, if your purse gets stolen — then you’ll be fine with a Barclays account.

In summary: There’s not a huge difference here. Both banks allow you to avoid monthly fees and both offer a nice savings rate. The main difference is ATM access.

Barclays Bank vs. American Express Personal Savings

You’ve probably seen American Express’ credit card commercials all your life.

The financial institution also offers high yield savings accounts and CDs that are similar to the products Barclays Bank offers.

American Express’s current rate is slightly higher on its high yield savings accounts, meaning you’d earn at a slightly faster rate if you opened an account there.

When would you choose American Express over Barclays Bank? American Express and Barclays offer just about the same services, with American Express currently having a slightly higher interest rate on savings accounts.

If you plan to save money long-term, that might make you lean more toward American Express, although the interest rates will change with the market.

If you plan to buy 5-year CDs and want to use the same bank that holds your savings accounts, go with Barclays since its 5-year CD rate is currently higher than those offered by American Express.

In summary: Sometimes it just comes down to personal preference. If you’re choosing between these two options, spend a little time on each bank’s Web site and read the fine print to see if any nuances matter in your individual situation.

Unlock Higher Savings Rates With Minimum Balance Accounts

If all the talk about passive income has you calculating interest in your head, you may have caught the fever of maximizing your money’s ability to work for you. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you want to unlock savings rates that are even higher than the interest rates offered by Barclays and its competitors, you may be ready for an account that requires a minimum balance.

Minimum balances range from $1 to $25,000.

CIT Bank, for example, requires only $100 as a minimum balance but offers a savings rate of 1.75 percent. EBSB Direct offers 1.8 percent but requires a $10,000 minimum.

If you know you’ll never fall below the minimum, there’s no reason to worry so much about these balances, and you may as well enjoy a higher interest rate.

If, however, there’s a chance that your account will fall below the minimum, you stand to lose money, as your bank will decrease your interest rate for dropping below the minimum balance.

If your account doesn’t meet the minimum balance, you will not earn any interest that month at most institutions, and you would have been much better off earning interest in an account without a minimum balance requirement.

Barclays Bank Advantages & Disadvantages Pros:
  • Among Highest Interest Rates in Nation
  • No Minimum Balance Requirements or Monthly Account Fees
  • Insufficient Funds Fee only $5; many banks charge $25 or more.
Cons:
  • Online Only
  • No Dedicated ATM Network
  • Savings and CD’s only; no checking account.
One Rule About Savings Accounts: Rates Will Change

Saving money is a great way to take control of your personal finances. Instead of paying high interest rates on credit accounts, you can be earning interest on your own capital.

But, as you already know, interest rates are not set in stone.

We’ve mentioned several interest rates above. Keep in mind those are examples and interest rates fluctuate with the market. Unless you lock in a rate with a CD, your savings account rate will be variable.

Still, a high-yield savings account such as Barclays’ online banking account should continue to offer a higher rate of return than a traditional savings account or local credit union.

Barclays is great at what it does. If you need a simple savings account or longer-term CD and not much else, go for it.

If you want ATM access and the ability to do all your banking in one place, then you may be better off using another savings account.

Learn More About Barclays Bank

You can visit the Barclays Bank website to learn more about their products and services, or to open an account.

You can compare Barclays Bank to other online savings accounts.

Barclays Bank Barclays Bank offers an excellent online savings account with high interest rates. Learn more at the Barclays Bank website. Visit Barclays Bank Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

The post Barclays Bank Review – A High-Powered Online Savings Account appeared first on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career.

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I’m a big proponent of tracking my money. Each month I document and review my spending, investments, and credit scores. Until about two years ago, I used Quicken, one of the most popular desktop money management software programs.

Quicken is powerful and has many excellent features. Unfortunately, I began having problems syncing all of my financial accounts, including my primary bank account. I could have continued making manual entries into my Quick app. But that is time intensive and can lead to tracking errors. Instead, I used this as an opportunity to reevaluate how I was using Quicken, and whether or not I could find an alternative to Quicken that would meet all my needs.

Deciding to Replace Quicken

After reviewing how I was using Quicken and what I needed to accomplish, I realized I didn’t need all the Quicken features, such as check printing and bill pay. My primary objective was to track my investments (primary) and my spending (secondary). I wanted something that was fast and easy to use, and automatically synced with my financial accounts.

I also realized there were several downsides to Quicken that hindered the way I wanted to use the app:

  • Desktop only. Quicken Online was shuttered years ago in favor or Mint.com (at the time Intuit owned both apps). So you are locked into using Quicken on one computer.
  • Different Mac and Windows versions. The Windows version is more powerful, however, I use a Mac.
  • Annual membership fee. This is new. Intuit, the former Quicken owner, supported the software for 3 years after it was released. The last version of Quicken I owned was Quicken 2015. Support for Quicken 2015 ended on April 30, 2018, meaning I would need to upgrade to the latest version to continue using many features. Unfortunately, Quicken was recently sold and the new ownership group now requires an annual membership fee.

So I decided to try some Quicken alternatives. I opened accounts with several different money management apps. I discovered there are many competent competitors to Quicken, and we’ll look at a few in this overview.

Criteria for Our Ratings

Below are our favorite Quicken alternatives. Several of these apps are free, while others may have a one-time purchase fee, or may have a subscription model, similar to Quicken. Price was a consideration in our ratings. Free, obviously, is a selling point. But price is not the only selling point. We also considered which features each of the apps included, such as ability to sync with financial institutions, whether or not the app supports investment accounts and budgeting, or if the app only offered one or the other.

Best Quicken Alternatives

1. Personal Capital – Best App for Tracking and Investments and Spending

Personal Capital is a free online investment management app. It’s easy to open an account and start tracking your money. Simply open an account with Personal Capital, link your financial accounts, and start digging in.

Personal Capital is my favorite Quicken alternative because it offers so many complimentary features, including the ability to view and track all of your investments in one place, as well as track and manage spending. Quicken has a few additional features, such as bill pay. But I use my bank to handle those needs.

My favorite feature at Personal Capital is being able to quickly and easily view my asset allocation across multiple investments accounts. This makes it incredibly easy to rebalance my asset allocation or decide which asset classes I need to purchase when I make my next 401k contributions.

Additional Personal Capital Features:

  • Online access, so it can be used on any computer (bank level security)
  • Manage investments
  • Track spending by expense category
  • Retirement planning tools
  • Analyze your investment fees
  • Free online account

Learn More or Sign up for a Free Account:

Personal Capital Price: FREE Personal Capital - Free money management and investing software. Open Free Personal Capital Account Full Disclosure: We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.


2. Mint – Best Free Budgeting App

Mint is our runner up. That doesn’t mean Mint isn’t a great product – it is. However, the target audience is geared more toward those who simply want to track budgeting and spending. It does not have the full-features to track investments like those offered by Personal Capital.

Mint also has a long legacy in the financial space. It was purchased in 2010 by Intuit, which is the company that brought Quicken to the world. Quicken Online was launched when it because apparent how popular online apps were becoming. However, Mint proved to be more popular than Quicken Online. Intuit read the writing on the wall, purchased Mint, and deprecated Quicken Online. They later sold Quicken to an investment capital company.

Like Personal Capital, Mint is free, and will easily sync with most financial accounts. You can also set up budgeting categories, spending alerts, and view your credit score. The primary downside is that Mint makes money by recommending financial products and services. So be prepared for some internal advertising. Other than that, and the lack of investment tracking, there are few downsides.

Comparing Personal Capital and Mint: My two favorite money management apps are Personal Capital and Mint. However, they each have different target audiences. In short, Personal Capital is an investing app that offers good budgeting tools. Mint is a budgeting app with very limited investment tools. If you have any investments, I recommend Personal Capital over Mint. We wrote this Personal Capital and Mint comparison to help you understand the benefits of each of these free money management apps.

3. Status Money – Full Featured & Free

Status Money is a new, full-featured money management app. It is free, which is a nice selling point. You can quickly and easily connect your banking and other financial accounts to your Status Money account and gain actionable insights into your finances.

Status Money also offers several features you won’t find elsewhere. The goal of Status Money is to give you actionable information you can use to improve your finances. This includes customized recommendations on ways to save you money. For example, alerting members that their credit card interest rate is higher than their peers – or if they’re spending more than their peers on restaurants. This informs members to reach-out to their credit card company to request a lower interest rate and to better manage their finances by reducing spending in specific categories.

Another way Status Money sets itself apart is by allowing you to anonymously compare your finances with other people. Status Money assigns you to a peer group based on your age range, income range, credit score range, location, and housing status (rent or own). However, you can create custom peer groups or compare yourself to everyone in the U.S.

Like most apps on this page, Status Money uses bank level encryption for your data. They also require Multi-Factor Authentication when logging in from a new device.

4. CountAbout – Best Paid Quicken Alternative

CountAbout was created specifically to be a Quicken alternative. It is also one of the few apps that allows users to import data directly from Quicken (it also allows users to import data from Mint).

CountAbout is only available online or via an iOS or Android app, so there is no software to download or install. This also makes it easy to manage your money on the go.

Users can connect multiple banking, credit cards, and investment accounts, and automatically download data when they log in. CountAbout also features Multi-factor login protection and excellent security.

Additional features:

  • Imports data from Quicken and Mint
  • Connect to thousands of financial institutions (over 12,500 financial institutions, including banking, investing, credit cards)
  • Budgeting – Customize spending categories, Customizable tags
  • Multiple reporting features / Graphs

CountAbout is not a free app, but it is very affordable. It offers two plans – Basic ($9.99/yr) and Premium ($39.99/yr). There is a 15 day free trial.

5. Moneyspire- Best App for Multiple Currencies

Moneyspire is a desktop app, available for both Windows and Mac computers. You can use the app on all the computers in your household and even share between Mac and Windows versions. Moneyspire features optional cloud support, so you can can upload your data to the cloud and work on the go if you desire.

Moneyspire also supports all world currencies, including transfers between accounts with different currencies. You can download current exchange rates for calculations or for your convenience.

Features:

  • Track financial accounts – including banking, credit cards, and investments
  • Budgeting and spending details with customizable categories and tags
  • Bill reminders
  • Detailed charts and other reporting
  • Ability to reconcile financial statements
  • Investment Account Support
  • Check Printing
  • Mobile iOS app
  • Import OFX, QFX, QIF and CSV file formats

Moneyspire offers two purchase options, a one-time purchase option with $34.99 purchase price, or a $44.99 annual subscription option. The difference between the plans includes length of customer support and the number of financial institutions you can sync with your software. While Moneyspire isn’t the least expensive option on this page, it comes with a many features that make it an attractive replacement for Quicken. So it’s worth looking into as a viable alternative.

6. You Need a Budget (YNAB) – Best Premium Budgeting App

YNAB is a great at doing one thing – setting up and tracking a zero-based budget (a budget in which every dollar is assigned a task, even if that means anything remaining at the end of the month goes into savings). You Need a Budget does not track investments.

You Need a Budget is not free; it costs $5 per month, or $50 per year. It also does not sync with your bank accounts. You must make manual entries. This forces you to pay attention to your transactions and account balances, which can give you more focus on your budget. Depending on your spending habits, this can be time-intensive. So keep that in mind if you want to use YBNAB.

There is a free 34 day trial, so you can test YNAB before purchasing.

7. QuickBooks Online – Best Business Money Management App

Many people still use Quicken Home and Business to manage their business finances. I tried this route several years ago, but I found a dedicated business accounting program preferable and more able to handle my business. I previously used the QuickBooks desktop app, which works for many small businesses. I later migrated to QuickBooks Online, which I prefer over the desktop app.

QuickBooks Online gives me the ability to allow other people access, such as a bookkeeper and accountant. I can also quickly and easily sync my accounts, send invoices directly from the app, and create business rules to automatically assign categories to income and spending. And I find the reporting features more than adequate for my needs.

There are many other small business accounting apps. QuickBooks, however, is very affordable and has an extensive community and online knowledge base. This makes it easy to get answers to technical questions or hire someone to help with your bookkeeping or business taxes.

8. Custom Spreadsheet – Best Low Tech Solution

I use Personal Capital to track my investments and spending patterns. Personal Capital is much more powerful than anything I can create in Excel or Google Sheets. And the automatic syncing features make updates a breeze.

But I also use a customized spreadsheet to track other aspects of my finances. My custom spreadsheet makes it easy to track my finances as I go and provides quick access to historical data.

You can create a spreadsheet to track just about any aspect of your finances, including budgeting, spending, investments, projected income or expenses, lists of accounts or insurance policies, and much more.

My spreadsheet has multiple tabs which I use to track:

  • My Net Worth (updated monthly)
  • Credit Scores from each credit bureau, updated monthly (I get free credit scores each month from Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and my bank).
  • Basic Investment Calculator (useful for making quick projections)
  • List of Credit Cards and Autopayments (used when updating expiration dates, or if the credit card number changes)
  • Contribution Ledger (used to track contributions throughout the year for IRAs, 401k, 529 plans, estimated taxes, Health Savings Accounts, etc.).
  • Tax information

My customized spreadsheet helps me stay organized throughout the year. Updating my spreadsheet each month also ensures that I frequently log into each account. This helps me review my finances, make sure there are no unauthorized changes, and help me stay up to date on the risk of identity theft.

I could probably do everything in a customized spreadsheet, but it would take a lot more work. So I view it as a supplement to Personal Capital, not a replacement.

That said, someone who enjoys tinkering with spreadsheets should be able to whip something together that will meet their needs. They may miss out on some of the features found in some of the above tools. But that just might be a good thing if you prefer to keep things as simple as possible.

Do you still use Quicken, or have you found a Quicken replacement?

The post Quicken Alternatives – 8 Apps to Help Manage Your Money appeared first on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career.

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As a self-professed personal finance junkie, I often run into a problem with opening too many bank accounts and other financial accounts. There are several reasons I do this. It’s partly because I like to optimize my accounts by decreasing fees, earning higher interest rates, or adding new features. And sometimes I open new accounts for sign up bonuses. Some bank bonuses and credit card bonuses can be worth several hundred dollars each, which is tempting!

Every few months I need to reign things in and review my accounts to make sure I don’t have too many open and unused accounts. That is one reason I maintain a list of my financial accounts and balances. It helps me track my net worth, and stay on track. It’s also good to share with my wife, so she has a good overview of our finances.

I recently decided I had too many open accounts, and I’m working on simplifying my finances, yet again.

And this leads me to the question – how many bank accounts do you need?

This seems like a simple question, and it is on the surface. But as your situation changes, you may find a benefit in opening another bank account to help manage your finances, provide a buffer from other accounts, or serve as your main financial hub.

Let’s take a quick look:

How Many Bank Accounts Do You Need? The Minimum Banking Setup

At the minimum, most people need a checking account. There are usually no limits on the number of transactions you can make through a checking account. Savings accounts usually limit the number of transactions to six per month. So you should run your normal spending through your checking account.

Unfortunately, most checking accounts don’t offer much in the way of interest*. So many people are better off keeping the minimum amount of money to cover their spending in their checking account, and using a savings account to earn higher interest rates.

*A Note About Interest Bearing Checking Accounts: Some checking accounts offer decent interest rates. Some of them make you jump through hoops to get the higher interest rates, or place caps on the balance that earns a higher interest rate.

A notable exception is the Radius Hybrid Checking account, which currently pays 0.85% on balances over $2,500. This is a very high interest rate for a checking account and allows users to simplify their banking by not needing to open an additional savings account if they don’t want to.

Radius Bank also offers the following features:

  • Earns 0.85% APY on balances over $2,500
  • Free ATMs Worldwide
  • No monthly maintenance fees
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Free Online & Mobile Banking with:
  • Mobile Check Deposit
  • Personal Financial Management tools
  • P2P payments
  • Free first order of checks
  • Open online in 5 minutes or less
  • Use with Mobile Wallets
  • Read our Radius Hybrid Checking Review for More Info

Verdict: At the minimum you need a free checking account. If simplification is your goal and you only want to maintain one bank account, then go for an interest-bearing checking account, such as the Radius Hybrid Checking Account.

Checking Account Plus a Savings Account – The Most Common Banking Setup

Having a checking account is the bare minimum. But I also recommend having a savings account so you can earn more interest on your savings. You can almost always maintain both accounts at one bank. However, you want to make sure that your savings account is earning a good interest rate. You can compare our list of highest online interest rates to see how your current savings account compares.

In most cases, the best interest rates are found at online savings accounts that can avoid the overheard that many brick and mortar banks have.

Using Multiple Bank Accounts to Separate Spending and Savings

This is another common banking setup, and one that I employ. I run the majority of my spending through one bank, which acts as my main financial hub. I have all my payroll and other direct deposits go to USAA. I also use it for all my spending. I actually use cash rewards credit cards for most daily spending, and have the full amount automatically debited from my checking account each month.

I keep enough money in my checking account to cover about 2 months of bills. The rest of my savings is kept in an online savings account where it earns more interest than I would earn at USAA.

If I really wanted to simplify things, I could probably change my bank account to the online bank. But I have been a USAA member for over 15 years now, and we also use them for insurance and other needs. So this setup works well for now.

The Benefit of Separating Spending Money from Savings

The other reason I haven’t closed my USAA account is because like having my spending money and savings separate. I use my online bank for my emergency fund and for long term savings. Keeping these accounts separate gives me an immediate sense of how much I have available  in my spending account. If I’m running low, I can simply transfer from my long-term savings. If the balance is high, I transfer to savings.

If my online savings account balance gets high (a good problem to have!), then I know it’s time to transfer some money to my brokerage account where I can invest the funds in a taxable account.

I recommend creating some business rules for your banking to help you know when to make transfers. It eliminates guess work and simplifies decision making. You can add some brief language in your Investment Policy Statement if you find it helpful.

When Does it Make Sense (or Cents!) to Open a New Bank Account?

As I mentioned above, I’m a bit of a personal finance junkie, so I’ve been guilty of chasing shiny objects and lucrative sign up bonuses. But I don’t just open an account for the sake of opening an account. I only do so if the sign up bonus is very large, and/or I will use the new account and close an old one.

Here are some times when it makes sense to open a new financial account:

Opening a New Bank Account to Avoid Fees

This is one of the best reasons to open a new bank account. Many banks now offer free checking accounts, with no minimum balance and no monthly fees. This is what you should go for at the minimum. While you are at it, you should also check to make sure you aren’t paying any other unnecessary fees, such as ATM fees, money transfer fees, or other avoidable transaction fees.

Opening a New Bank Account for Added Features

The banking industry has witnessed a lot of innovation in recent years. This includes mobile banking and mobile check deposits, the ability to open sub accounts, peer to peer payment systems, mobile wallets, free ATM use or ATM Reimbursements, and a host of financial management and budgeting tools.

Many banks are also merging with other institutions in order to add features. This happened with the Ally Bank acquisition of TradeKing. The new investment platform is now known as Ally Invest, and it can be linked directly to an Ally Bank account. This is a great way to keep people in their ecosystem.

And, of course, we also mentioned the Radius Hybrid Checking account, which combines a host of features in one easy to use account. Opening this account can make it easy to consolidate your banking accounts down to one if you so desire.

Opening a New Bank Account for a Sign Up Bonus

In this case, I generally won’t open a new bank account for a sign up bonus unless it is worth several hundred dollars. I won’t open a new account for only $50 – $100. But I will give it strong consideration for an account such as the Chase Bank Coupon, which is currently worth several hundred dollars for opening a new account. You have to make your own decisions regarding when it’s worth opening a new account for the sign up bonus. If you try, you can easily make a anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars every year by opening new bank accounts.

Should You Chase Rates?

I’m not much of a rate chaser. I do want to make sure my savings account offers a competitive interest rate, but I don’t typically move my savings to a new bank account unless the yield is substantially higher. I don’t have a firm number for this. I just look at the amount I normally keep in my savings account and make sure opening a new account will provide at least a couple hundred additional dollars of interest over the course of a year compared to the current account.

I also usually wait a month or two before deciding to open a new account simply based on interest rates. The top online savings accounts are all generally very competitive and keep their interest rates within a few basis points of each other. And when one bank increases its interest rates, other banks are soon to follow.

Note: Chasing CD Rates may pay off. There is more variance in CD Rates compared to interest rates for savings accounts. You can often find more attractive CD Rates by shopping around.

A Few Word on Opening and Closing Bank Accounts

Some banks do a hard credit check when you apply to open an account. So keep that in mind in case you will be applying for a loan or credit card in the near future. You should definitely wait until after a major purchase, such as a mortgage application. This does not apply if the bank account you are considering opening only does a soft credit pull.

Changing bank accounts can be a lot of work. I covered this in greater detail, including the steps you should take when switching bank accounts. That article shows you how to research your banking needs, find the best bank for your situation, and how to successfully open a new account and close your old account without missing a beat.

What do you think is the ideal number of bank accounts? How many bank accounts do you have?

Image created at GetStencil.com.

The post How Many Bank Accounts Do You Need? – Should You Simplify, or Optimize? appeared first on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career.

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Chase Bank is one of the largest banks in the US, with the second highest number of physical branches. This makes them well-positioned to offer a Business Checking product that can meet the needs of just about any size business. In this Chase Business Checking review, we take a deep look at what Chase Bank offers, including the pros and cons of their different business accounts, and whether or not it may be a fit for you.

Running a business is a lot of work. That last thing you want to do is spend too much time, energy, or money on your administrative tasks. That’s why finding the right business bank account is an important part of managing your business finances.

I recommend taking a deep look at your business banking needs before opening a business checking or savings account. Not all businesses have the same needs, and not all business banking accounts are created equal. This review takes a look at Chase Business Checking and can help you decide if it’s right for your business. Chase offers several flexible business checking accounts, so chances are good you can find a plan that will fit your business banking needs.

Chase Business Checking Account Review

Chase has three main business checking accounts: Chase Total Business Checking®, Chase Performance Business Checking, and Chase Platinum Business Checking.

Each of these accounts has its own features, benefits, and fee structures. Let’s take a look at the common features these accounts share, as well as some of the features that differentiate these accounts.

We’ll also show you how you can even earn a $200 cash bonus when you open a new Chase Business Checking account.

$200 Bonus Offer: To qualify for the $200 cash bonus, you must:

  • Open a new Chase Business Checking Account
  • Make a minimum qualifying deposit of $1,000 or more,
  • Maintain a balance of $1,000 or more for 60 days, and
  • Complete a minimum of 5 qualifying transactions within 60 days (debit card purchases, Chase Quick Deposit, wire transfers, ACH transfers, or check payments).
  • Learn More.
Chase Business Checking Account Features

Chase Bank offers several different checking account options. But they all share some things in common, including the following:

  • 5,100 Chase Bank locations
  • 16,000 Chase ATMs
  • Business Debit Cards

Here are some more features offered by Chase Business Checking Accounts:

Online Banking, Mobile Banking, and Bill Pay:
  • Online Banking: Manage your account, check balances, send and receive money, make transfers, receive account alerts, receive paperless statements, and much more.
  • Mobile Banking: Chase features mobile banking apps for both iOS and Android devices.
  • Online Bill Pay: Make secure payments to vendors, contractors, and others free of charge when made to a qualified account.
  • QuickDeposit: Deposit checks online, anywhere, anytime. See below for more information about QuickDeposit.
  • Chase QuickPay® with ZelleSM: Send money to nearly anyone using his or her email address or mobile phone number.
  • Account Activity Sync: Easily sync your account information with QuickBooks, QuickBooks Online, Xero, and other accounting platforms.
  • Account Alerts: Receive email, text, and push alerts for transactions such as low balance alerts, deposits, and more.
  • Paperless Statements: Paperless statements may make you eligible for reduced monthly fees.
Chase QuickDeposit – Deposit Checks Remotely

Chase QuickDeposit is a quick and easy way for businesses to deposit checks. Businesses can use the Chase mobile-banking app to deposit checks free of charge. Simply load the app and follow the prompts.

Businesses that need to deposit a large number of checks may be better off acquiring check scanner, which allows you to scan and deposit checks in bulk. You can receive a free Single Feed Check Scanner when you sign up for a two-year contract at $25 a month. This is sufficient for businesses that process a moderate number of physical checks.

If your business processes a large number of physical checks, you will be better off obtaining a Multi-Feed Check Scanner, which you can receive a free when you sign a two-year contract for $50 per month. Additional scanners are available for purchase and can be linked to your account. All check and deposit item fees will be billed and processed according to your account maintenance fee schedule, so be sure to read the details of your agreement.

Chase Merchant Services

Merchant services are a premium service that allows businesses to receive payments at Point of Sale (POS), chip card terminals, online, in-person, and over the phone. Chase Bank also offers merchant service solutions for e-commerce, mobile sales, and remote transactions. You can work with your local Chase branch to help you determine the best methods for processing payments for your business. They can walk you through your options, including potential contracts or equipment and monthly fees.

Additional Premium Services Available to Chase Bank Customers:

The following premium services are available to Chase Bank Business customers. Pricing and eligibility vary based on the service:

Chase Bank Checking Account Options – Different Plans for Different Business Needs

Chase bank offers three business checking account options: Chase Total Business Checking®, Chase Performance Business Checking, and Chase Platinum Business Checking.

Chase Total Business Checking®

The Chase Total Business Checking® is the entry-level business checking account offered by Chase Bank. But entry-level doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t meet your needs. Here are some of the prime features:

  • Monthly Service Fee: $15, $12, or $0. The Monthly Service Fee is $15 ($12 when you enroll in paperless statements). The monthly Service Fee is waived when you maintain a minimum daily balance of: $1,500 or more, or if you maintain a linked Chase Private Client Checking or Chase Premier Platinum Checking personal account.
  • 100 transactions per month at no charge
  • Unlimited electronic deposits
  • $5,000 in cash deposits per statement cycle without an additional fee
  • Domestic and International wire transfer availability

The $5,000 cash deposit limit refers to actual cash deposits, not total deposits from checks, online transfers, credit card payments and other methods. Keep this in mind if your business handles a lot of cash transactions.

Chase Performance Business Checking

This is the mid-level checking account offered by Chase Bank. It is designed for businesses that handle more transactions each month, or that deal with more cash deposits.

  • Monthly Service Fee: $30 or $0. Monthly Service Fee is waived when you maintain a combined average daily balance of $35,000 or more in qualifying business deposit accounts
  • 250 transactions per month at no charge
  • Unlimited electronic deposits and incoming wire transfers
  • $20,000 in cash deposits per statement cycle without an additional fee
  • All incoming wires and two outgoing domestic wires at no charge per statement cycle
Chase Platinum Business Checking

The Chase Platinum Business Checking account is Chase Bank’s top-level bank account.

  • Monthly Service Fee: $95 or $0. Monthly Service Fee is waived when you maintain a combined average daily balance of $100,000 or more in qualifying business deposit and business investment balances
  • 500 transactions per month at no charge
  • Unlimited electronic deposits and incoming wire transfers
  • $25,000 in cash deposits per statement cycle without an additional fee
  • All incoming wires and your 4 most expensive outgoing wires per month at no charge

Visit a Chase Bank branch for more information on these accounts. This is only a top-level overview of the features and potential fees for each of these accounts. It’s a good idea to visit a Chase Bank branch for more information to determine which account is best for your business.

Chase Bank Business Checking Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • $200 Sign Up Bonus (visit Chase website for more information).
  • Scalable – Chase Bank offers checking accounts that will take you from startup to commercial banking services, making it easy to grow with your business.
  • 5,100 branches and 16,000 ATMs provide easy access.
  • User-friendly mobile app and online banking
  • Full-service business banking solutions, including excellent business credit cards

Cons:

  • You can only open this account in-person. You must visit a Chase Bank branch to open a Chase Bank Business Checking account. (Click to get coupon code before you open your account to get the bonus).
  • Some plans may be expensive if you don’t qualify for free checking (though this is relatively easy to avoid for the Chase Total Checking account – simply maintain an average minimum daily balance of $1,500).
  • Transaction limitations. Some plans place restrictions on the amount of cash you can deposit, or on the number of transactions allowed per month.
  • Chase Business Savings Account only offers average interest rates on savings.
Final Thoughts on Chase Bank Checking Accounts

Chase Bank offers business checking and savings accounts to meet any size business need, from the online startup, to enterprise commercial banking, and everything in-between. There are some associated costs depending on which account you open, and your business needs. But the thousands of branch locations and ATMs make this a convenient option for many businesses.

Chase Bank also offers a full suite of options to support your business, including business savings accounts, small business loans, merchant services, credit cards (including some of our favorite business credit cards, cash back credit cards, and travel credit cards), and much more.

And to top it off, the $200 sign up bonus for new business checking accounts makes Chase Bank an attractive option for many businesses.

You can learn more at the Chase Bank Business Checking website.


The post Chase Business Checking Account Review – and $200 Sign Up Bonus! appeared first on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career.

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This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at Common Tax Credits and Tax Deductions – How to Qualify for and Claim Your Eligible Tax Deductions.

Thank you H&R Block for sponsoring this post. While this was a sponsored opportunity from H&R Block, all content and opinions expressed here are my own. Note: all tax information refers to the 2017 tax season and is accurate at the time of publication.

The American Tax system is complicated. But sometimes the aspects that complicate your tax return can work in your favor. I’m referring to the multitude of tax credits and deductions that are available to many American taxpayers. Some of these credits and deductions can save you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on your tax return. And some of them are commonly missed.

For example, 1 in 5 taxpayers who are eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) don’t claim it. It’s hard to believe that a full 20% of eligible taxpayers miss out on this valuable benefit!

I’ll cover some of the more common tax credits and deductions, and show you how you can use a simple online or tax software preparation such as H&R Block Online, to make sure you take advantage of all the credits and deductions you are eligible to claim – guaranteed.

And the best part is, you may even be eligible to use these products for free!

Comparing Tax Credits and Tax Deductions

Some people erroneously use the terms tax credits and tax deductions interchangeably. They both reduce the amount of taxes you owe, but they do it in different ways. A Tax Credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your income tax liability. A Tax Deduction decreases your taxable income. The value of a tax deduction is equal to the percentage of your highest marginal tax bracket.

Here is an example:

  • $1,000 Tax Credit: A $1,000 tax credit directly reduces the amount of taxes you owe by $1,000.
  • $1,000 Tax Deduction: Assuming you are in the 25% tax bracket, a $1,000 tax deduction reduces the amount of taxes you owe by $250 (25% of $1,000).
How to Apply Tax Credits and Tax Deductions:

You must first calculate your tax liability before you can apply tax credits, since they are a dollar for dollar reduction on your tax liability. Tax deductions work to reduce your taxable income. Together, tax deductions and tax credits work to reduce the amount of taxes you pay.

Tax credits are often considered more valuable than tax deductions, since they are a dollar for dollar reduction in the amount of taxes you owe. Some tax credits are even refundable, meaning you will still receive the tax credit, even if your tax liability is zero.

Bottom line: Tax credits and deductions are both extremely valuable and you don’t want to miss out on any of them!

Common Tax Credits

Here are a few common tax credits, and how you may qualify for them:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) – Benefits low-income, working families. Learn more at H&R Block (See note below)*
  • Child Tax Credit – A tax credit for having one or more qualifying children and income within a certain range. Can be both nonrefundable and refundable.
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit – A tax credit for the costs of care for a qualifying individual to allow you to work or look for work.
  • Adoption Credit – A nonrefundable tax credit for qualified adoption expenses paid to adopt an eligible child.
  • Education Tax Credits – Lifetime Learning Credit and American Opportunity Tax Credit
  • Savers Tax Credit – A retirement savings credit for low- and moderate-income workers

*The EITC is not claimed by 1 in 5 eligible tax payers. This is a refundable tax credit, which means you will receive the full amount if you are eligible, even if you don’t owe any federal taxes. Make sure you don’t miss out on this valuable benefit!

Qualifying for these various tax credits depends on many factors, often including your income, Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), number of dependents, and certain related activities throughout the year, such as retirement savings, education expenses, business activities, and more.

Covering each of these credits in detail would take a lot of space – indeed, the Federal Tax Code is thousands of pages long!

Thankfully, you can use a simple tax preparation program to help you determine your eligibility and claim the credit if you qualify. Check out H&R Block’s MoreZero to get started for free.

Tax Deductions – Should You Take the Standard Deduction or Itemize?

In addition to the tax credits listed above, you can also apply tax deductions to your tax return.

The IRS allows individuals to claim either a standard deduction or itemized deductions. You can only claim one or the other. It’s a good idea to run the numbers for both situations, and take the deduction that offers you the greatest benefit. (don’t worry, you can automatically compare both deductions when you use a program such as H&R Block Online).

The amount of the standard deduction varies depending on your tax filing status, such as Single ($6,350), Head of Household ($9,350), Married Filing Jointly ($12,700), Married Filing Separately ($6,350), etc.

Next, list all potential itemized deductions. Add them together and determine if they are greater than the Standard Deduction. If so, you should claim the itemized deductions.

It sounds complicated on paper (and it can be if you try to do it by hand). But tax preparation products such as H&R Block Online, makes finding and calculating your tax deductions a simple process. H&R Block Online even guarantees the maximum tax refund.

Common Tax Deductions

Some tax deductions are available to everyone, while other deductions may only be available if you itemize your taxes. In addition, some tax deductions may be limited based on your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) or if you are subjected to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). For example, the expense may need to exceed a percentage of your AGI to qualify as an itemized deduction. Some tax deductions may even phase out once your AGI reaches a certain amount, based on your filing status.

This is where tax preparation software comes in handy. The software will help you identify potential tax deductions, then calculate whether its better to take the standard deduction(s) or itemize your deductions. These calculations are automatic, and help you get the highest tax refund possible.

Here are some common tax deductions available during the 2017 tax-filing season (Note: recent changes to the tax law may result in some changes for the 2018 tax season. This information is current at the time of publication).

  • SALT Taxes or State Sales Tax paid (see below for explanation)*.
  • Charitable Gifts
  • Retirement account Contributions
  • Real Estate Property Taxes
  • Home Mortgage Interest
  • Student Loan Interest
  • Educator Expenses
  • Health Savings Account (HSA)
  • Moving Expenses for a job (if you moved more than 50 miles)
  • Medical Expenses

*SALT or Sales Tax: SALT means State and Local income Taxes. The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct the full amount of their state and local income taxes paid, or the amount of sales tax they paid. It’s a good idea to calculate the amount of sales taxes you paid if you made a series of major purchases during the tax year.

Qualifying for various tax deductions: Like tax credits, many of these deductions have strict eligibility requirements. You can calculate these by hand, but it’s much easier to use a tax product such as H&R Block.

H&R Block offers multiple versions to meet just about any need. They offer an online version and a version you can download for either Windows or Mac. These tax preparation products are powerful enough and easy enough to use that you can even file your tax return from your smartphone or tablet. Check out H&R Block’s Tax Prep App here.

The Best Way to Maximize Tax Credits and Deductions

As you can see, the IRS offers taxpayers many tax credits and deductions. But they don’t apply to everyone. That is why it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with them. Having a working knowledge of the available credits and deductions will help you make sure you gather the appropriate forms, receipts, and other records in order to claim these credits and deductions.

Because each tax situation is unique, I recommend using a tax preparation product to file your taxes.

Using a tax prep software program like H&R Block will guide you through a step-by-step interview process to make sure you don’t miss any potential sources of income, tax credits or deductions, or other relevant information.

To top it off, H&R Block has audit protection and guarantees 100% accuracy, and guarantees a maximum refund. So you can rest easy knowing your tax return is as good as it’s going to get. And if you qualify for H&R Block More Zero*, your tax return may be free to file.

You can’t beat free!

*H&R Block Online offers several tax return plans, including the following:

  • H&R Block MoreZero – free
  • Deluxe Online Tax Filing – starting at $34.99 (Best for Homeowners and Deductions)
  • Self-Employed Online Tax Filing – starting at $74.99 (Best for Investors and Rental Property Owners)

The best plan for your needs will depend on your overall tax situation. Compare all H&R Block plans to learn more!

~$~

All content copyright Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career; if you are reading this on another website it has been illegally reproduced in violation of copyright laws.

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This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at How to Write an Investment Policy Statement – A Guide to Help Keep Your Investments on Track.

Do you have an Investment Policy Statement (IPS)? If not, then you are missing out on one of the key ingredients of a successful investing career. An Investment Policy Statement is a written policy of your investment goals and objectives, helping you stay on track regardless of what the markets are doing. And every investor should have one – whether your just starting as an investor, or you have weathered multiple bull and bear markets.

Investing is complicated, and having a written Investment Policy Statement will save you a lot of time, money, and energy. This is nothing new. Written policies and guidelines exist in many industries. In fact, you have probably used them many times in your career.

My first exposure with using detailed written guidelines was when I worked in the US Air Force. We used Technical Orders, or T.O.s, each time we performed maintenance on an aircraft. As you can imagine, aircraft maintenance is very technical, and a lot can go wrong if you make a mistake. That is why we were required to use T.O.s when performing maintenance. Following those manuals ensured we only took prescribed methods for repairing the aircraft, and that didn’t skip any steps. This produced safer and more consistent results. I do the same thing in many areas of my life today, including running my business and managing my investment portfolio.

Let’s take a detailed look at Investment Policy Statements: What it is, why you need one, benefits, how to write your IPS, how often to monitor it, when to make changes, and much more. Buckle up, this is a 4,000 word guide that will show you everything you ned to know about writing your IPS!

Benefits of an Investment Policy Statement

There are many benefits of an IPS. Investing can be complicated, and your IPS will act as a guide to follow regardless of what is happening in the stock markets or the rest of the world. Here are some of the benefits to creating and following an IPS:

Separate Your Decision Making from Your Action Taking

As a small business owner, I create and follow business rules to make sure I stay on track. These business rules produce more consistent results with fewer resources. It makes sense when you think about it – written business rules mean you don’t have to rethink every decision.

You simply refer to the guidelines you previously created, and follow the steps you already decided you would take.

With investing, this means you don’t need to recreate the wheel each time you make a contribution to your 401k, IRA, or brokerage account. You don’t need to sit through half an hour of stock analysis of portfolio balancing before deciding to buy a stock or mutual fund. You have already made your decisions. Your IPS is there to follow.

But here is the key: You should separate these two actions. The best time to make decisions is when you have a clear mind and aren’t under any pressure. Trying to couple investment research and analysis when you are trying to make an investment decision often leads to overwhelm. Take the time to document your Investment Policy Statement and the heavy lifting is already done. You just need to take action and adjust accordingly.

Your IPS Solidifies & Defines Your Investment Goals

Writing your investment goals on paper makes them real. There is a huge difference between saying, “I want to retire someday,” and, “I want to retire at age 55.”

You will notice the first statement is a vague statement, while the other is a SMART Goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based).

Your IPS will also include the types of investments you will use to reach your investment goals. This is helpful when you are thinking about investing in the next big thing – Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, binary options, the next big IPO, etc. Is this in your IPS? If so, then go for it, if it otherwise meets your investment objectives. Otherwise, skip it and rest in the knowledge you are investing within your defined plan.

Your IPS Removes Emotion from Investing

Investing is fun when you’re winning, and terrible when you’re losing. Unfortunately, mixing emotions and investing is never a good idea. Once you start letting emotion rule your investing decisions, you end up with clouded judgement – and a greater likelihood of losses.

Developing and using a written Investment Policy Statement will help you reduce the role that emotion plays in your investment decisions. An investment policy statement codifies your goals and strategy, offering you a plan to follow as you manage your portfolio – no matter how large it is.

Your investment policy statement can provide you with guidance, and it’s a great tool to fall back on when you start getting nervous about your portfolio.

Downsides to not using an Investment Policy Statement

Without an IPS, you are leaving your investments to conjecture. You’re basically submitting to the whims of the your emotions, and how you “feel” you should be investing. You will be more likely to chase returns, invest in the hot sectors, instead of taking action toward your goals. In short, you will be shooting from the hip instead of taking precision aim. There is a time and place for spontaneity. Investing is not that time or place.

Elements of a Strong Investment Policy Statement

An Investment Policy Statement does not have to be complicated. But it does need to have sufficient information on it to help keep your investments on track. Let’s take a look at what you need to write a good IPS:

  • Investment Objectives & Investment Time Line
  • Risk Tolerance
  • Asset Classes to Invest in (and Which to Avoid)
  • Asset Allocation Targets
  • When to Rebalance Your Portfolio
  • Monitoring Frequency (and When You Will Make Changes to Your IPS)

These seems like a lot, and it is. But you can simplify each of these, and in some cases, boil them down to one or two sentences. The simpler you make this, the easier it will be to review your IPS and make sure you stay on track.

Let’s take a look at these in greater detail:

Investment Objectives & Investment Timeline

The first thing you need to do as you write your investment policy statement is to identify your long-term goals. What do you want your money to accomplish on your behalf? Whether you are planning to buy a home or whether you want to save for retirement, define the goal.

As I wrote above, your Investment Objective could be as simple as, “to retire at age 55.”

Of course, most of us have more than one goal, so you can expand upon this as well. Try to prioritize your investment objectives when you write them. This will serve as a reminder to which goal is more important. In the example below, we have retirement saving listed above saving for children’s college. We all want the best for our children, but they can always borrow their way through college. You can’t borrow your way through retirement. So take this into consideration when creating your Investment Objectives.

Example Investment Objectives:

  • Objective 1: Retire at age 55, or earlier
  • Objective 2: Have investments support annual withdrawals of $50,000 per year, based on 4% withdrawal rate ($2,000,000 investable assets)
  • Objective 3: Pay for 50% of children’s college tuition, (assuming tuition will cost $10,000 per year).
  • Objective 4: Maintain 6 months living expenses in liquid funds at all times as emergency funds (assuming $5,000 per month living expenses).

As you can see, each of these objectives is listed like a SMART Goal and prioritized according to importance. (OK, maybe it’s not exactly listed like a SMART Goal, but the writer will know their own age, when their children will attend college, and the other information to fill in the gaps). They key here is to define what is important to you and list your investment objectives with specific details.

Take some time to think about your investment objectives. These online retirement planning tools may be helpful in forming a realistic retirement timeline.

Only Include Goals You Are Actively Pursuing. You can include any financial goal that is important to you, such as paying of debts, saving for a home, taking a vacation, buying into a business, or any or goal that is important to you. Just remember – this isn’t a dream sheet that lists everything you “want to do one day.” These are your actual goals you are working toward.

Risk Tolerance

Now that you know what your investment goals are, you need to consider your risk tolerance. Your risk tolerance should take into account the time horizon for achieving your goal, as well as what you can financially handle. This should include your emotional risk tolerance.

Many people believe they are more risk tolerant than they really are. As I mentioned above, investing feels great while you’re ahead, but it feels even worse when you start losing money.

The key is to strike a balance between your stocks, bonds, and other securities to achieve growth, as well as have some stability.

Once you know your risk tolerance, you can use that to guide your investment choices. Stay away from investments that are too risky for your tolerance level – no matter how exciting they seem. Additionally, recognizing that you might be too averse to risk can help you create a plan that corrects this issue and helps you grow your wealth more effectively.

Your Risk Tolerance will have a direct impact on your Asset Allocation (see below for more information).

Asset Classes to Invest in (and Which to Avoid)

Asset classes are the building blocks of your investment portfolio. Asset classes can be defined as a group of securities that are similar in nature, and often have correlations in the marketplace. They are often governed by the same laws, regulations, and tax rules.

There are three main categories of asset classes, including stocks (equities), bonds (fixed income), and cash or cash equivalents. Some investors include real estate, precious metals, and commodities as asset classes.

You can further categorize asset classes based on their underlying securities. For example, you can consider US stocks and International stocks under the equities umbrella.

Here is an example of the types of investments you may wish to include in your IPS, and some you may wish to avoid. You can include specific funds if it makes things easier.

Asset Classes to Invest In:

Asset Classes to Avoid:

  • Individual Stocks / Company Stock
  • Actively Managed Mutual Funds / Hedge Funds
  • Commodities
  • Precious Metals
  • FOREX (Currency Trading)
  • Cryptocurrencies

The types of asset classes you list to invest with, or avoid, can include stocks, bonds, mutual funds, ETFs, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS), investment real estate, precious metals, commodities, and other investments. Just make sure they meet your investment objectives.

Why this section is important: Writing down the types of investments you will use to reach your investing objectives helps keep you on track. Not sticking to your plan makes it too easy to get caught up in investment hype. There will always be hot sectors, new asset classes, and popular investments. You want to avoid trying to hit a home run with every investment. Playing the long game is the way to go. With investing, slow and steady wins the race!

Target Asset Allocation

Use your investment goals, timeline, risk tolerance, and the asset classes you defined above to create your personalized asset allocation guidelines. Your goal is to define how much of your portfolio should be in stocks, bonds, and cash.

This should be done in two steps:

  1. Define your asset allocation (percentage in stocks, bonds, and cash equivalents)
  2. Define your asset targets by type (percentage of stocks by type; percentage of bonds by type)

Step 1 – Asset allocation (percentage of stocks and bonds): This is what many people think of when they hear the words asset allocation. What percentage of your investments will be in stocks, bonds, etc.? For example, if you are young, you might want to have an 80/20 portfolio, with 80% of your investment portfolio in stocks and 20% in bonds. As you get older, you may wish to have a more conservative investment portfolio. Through the years you might transition from 80/20, to 75/25, to 70/30, to 65/35, to 60/40, etc.

Don’t know what your percentages should be? This comes back to your investment timeline (how long until you need the money) and your risk tolerance. If you still don’t know, then a good place to start is by looking at Target Date Retirement Funds, which are designed with a specific retirement date in mind. They are automatically allocated based on the target retirement date and are generally a decent reference starting point. Just use them as a starting point. You should determine your own risk tolerances.

Retirement Planning Targets by Age:

Step 2- Asset Targets by Type: This is where you define how much of each type of investment you have in your portfolio. You can do this by combining the Assets You Will Invest In, with your Target Asset Allocation percentage. Let’s look at an example:

Let’s say your target is an 80/20 portfolio with the assets listed in the above section. It could look something like this:

Target Asset Allocation by Type (80/20): (Note: the total percentages should equal 100%, with stocks accounting for 80% of your investment portfolio. In this example, we are treating REITS the same as stocks. You can further break down the categories into sub-categories, as shownn in this example).

  • US Stocks – (45% – 30% large cap, 15% small cap)
  • International Stocks – (25% – 15% developed, 10% emerging markets)
  • US Government Bonds – (10% – 5% Treasuries, 5% TIPS)
  • US Corporate Bonds – (5%)
  • International Bonds – (5%)
  • Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITS) – (10%)
  • All of the above should be held in low-cost in index funds, when available

You can change these percentages to meet your risk tolerance and investment objectives as needed. For example, some investors think it’s OK to have all your equities in US-based markets, while others believe you should have some international stock exposure. Neither is technically right or wrong – only right or wrong for your asset allocation model, and thus for your IPS.

The easiest way to make sure your asset allocation is on track:  Managing an investment portfolio can be tricky, especially when you have money spread throughout different investment accounts (401k, IRA, taxable investments, etc). I use a free online investment portfolio management tool called Personal Capital. Personal Capital has a free portfolio analysis tool that can securely link to your investment accounts and banks to help you understand how each of the assets in your portfolio work together. It’s an excellent tool. I use it each month when updating my net worth spreadsheet. You can sign up for a free account at the Personal Capital website.

When to Rebalance Your Investment Portfolio

Your investment portfolio will change over time. When your investment portfolio is on the small side, each contribution you make can move your assets outside their targets. Don’t worry about this too much when you are younger. Over time, your portfolio will grow and your contributions will make up a smaller percentage of your portfolio, with each contribution having a smaller impact at the time it is made (but don’t stop your contributions, compound interest is an amazing force!).

What you really want to look out for is when your investment portfolio changes due to market fluctuations. The purpose of having a mix of stocks and bonds is to decrease volatility in your investment portfolio, and smooth your investment returns. By sticking to your asset allocation, you are forcing yourself to have the discipline to sell high on investments when you go over your target allocation, and buy low when you are under your allocation.

For example, when your target stock allocation is 80/20, but a recent run up causes your allocation to trend toward 90/10, you would sell 10% of your stocks and buy an equivalent amount of bonds to bring your allocation back in line with your target allocation of 80/20.

When should you rebalance your investment portfolio? There are two schools of thought, and both work well.

  1. On a set schedule, such as once per year (your birthday is a good day)
  2. When your asset allocation exceeds a pre-determined threshold (for example, more than 5% outside if your target).

1. You can use any date for a scheduled rebalance. Many people suggest not doing it on the beginning or end of the year, because a lot of money enters the market during those times, as many people are funding IRAs or other investments. My birthday is more toward the middle of the year, so that works for me.

2. When your portfolio exceeds a pre-determined threshold. In this case, if your target allocation is 80/20, you wouldn’t rebalance your portfolio until it reaches either 85/15 or 75/25. At that time, you can make some trades to bring your portfolio back in line.

Note: Don’t forget that asset allocation can and likely should change over time. You need to shift your asset allocation as you approach your investment goal. Create a timeline for changes to your asset allocation as you progress through life. Knowing what you plan to do next will help you stick to your investment objectives and risk tolerance. It’s also a good idea to have this written down so you won’t react to the moods of the market. For example, you don’t want to ratchet up your stock allocation while things are going well (buying high), then swing the other way and change your allocation to include more bonds when the stock markets decline (selling low on stocks).

How Often Should You Monitor or Change Your IPS?

Your Investment Policy Statement should be a living, breathing policy. It should be reviewed regularly and changed if necessary. Your investment objectives will likely change as your personal and professional life changes. A lot can happen in just a few years – marriage, divorce, having children, becoming an empty-nester, getting promoted, losing a job, getting a raise, losing your job, starting a business, selling a business, relocating, winning the lottery, losing a loved one. The list is endless, and any of these can change your goals and objectives.

When to review your IPS: I recommend reviewing your IPS at least once a year, or any time you have a major life event.

You may not need to make any changes to your IPS. But regularly reviewing it will help remind you what is important to you, and why it is important to you. The why is just as important, if not more so, than the what. Regularly reviewing your IPS will also help you stay on track. This is important when things are going great and you may feel like taking on more risk, and it’s especially important when the markets tank and you may be tempted to sell low.

Just be careful not to make changes based on emotion. Consider creating a time limit before acting on any changes, such as 3 months or 6 months. That will give you additional time to reflect upon the current situation and avoid making emotional investing decisions.

Other Considerations for Your IPS

Your IPS should be tailored to your needs. You can use the information in this guide to get started. But ultimately, your IPS should reflect your investment goals, timeline, risk tolerances, and needs.

You may wish to consider other factors that may influence your personal IPS, such as:

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This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at Credit Unions vs Banks – How they Differ and What It Means to You.

Savvy consumers know they shouldn’t pay too much for banking services (after all, that is how banks make money). That’s why a record number of Americans are turning to credit unions for their banking needs. A lot of this has had to do with efforts to encourage consumers to move their money from big banks charging fees to smaller financial institutions, such as credit unions.

If you’re looking for a checking account, an auto loan or another banking service, be sure to consider credit unions in your search. Credit unions are similar to banks, and they offer many of the same financial services. You will often find that credit unions have better rates and customer service. However, credit unions have a few features that may seem a bit odd to those who have only used banks.

Credit Union Members vs. Customers

An important difference between a credit union and a bank is that you are not a customer at a credit union. At a credit union, you are a member of a not-for-profit institution with the right to vote for the credit union’s board of directors. The board oversees the credit union management and has a say in setting rates and policies. This is an important distinction.

Joining a Credit Union

The membership feature of credit unions will often be the first difference an individual will see when comparing credit unions vs banks.

Most credit unions have a membership requirement in order to be eligible to join. Each credit union has a field of membership (FOM) as part of its charter which defines who is eligible to join. The FOM might allow only employees of certain companies to qualify. Many credit unions now have community-based FOMs that allow anyone who lives or works in certain areas to join. There are also FOMs based on membership in certain associations. An example of this is PenFed, a military affiliated credit union that requires members be current or former military members, or be a member of certain military-affiliated organizations.

Once you have determined that you are eligible, you can apply for membership. It’s very common for credit unions to require that you open a savings account. This is typically called a share account since it represents part ownership of the credit union. You must maintain the share account with a minimum balance to remain a member. The minimum balance that is required is rarely more than $25.

Account Differences

Once you’re a member, a credit union will look a lot like a bank. You have access to all types of accounts like checking accounts and certificates of deposit.

One small difference you may notice at a credit union is in the names that are used. As mentioned above, the name “share account” is often used instead of the name “savings account” since it represents part ownership of the credit union.  A “checking account” will often be called a “share draft” and a “certificate of deposit” may be called a “share term certificate”.

Also, instead of earning interest on these accounts, you earn dividends. The names may be different, but from all practical purposes, there is no difference. Dividends are paid out in the same way banks pay out interest. However, at credit unions you can sometimes receive a special dividend at the end of the year. If a credit union has a good financial year, it will distribute profits to its members in the form of special dividends on savings or credits to members’ loan accounts.

Perceived Advantages of Credit Unions

Many consumers see perceived benefits in joining a credit union. For one thing, many credit unions still offer fee-free accounts. However, it’s important to realize that just because you are using a credit union it doesn’t mean that you won’t pay any fees. The local credit union I belong to recently announced that it is adding a monthly checking account fee, which can be waived if you maintain a minimum balance. I don’t have a checking account there, so it doesn’t affect me. But it’s important to be on your toes, since there are some credit unions that charge account fees.

Another advantage many people cite is the favorable interest rates. In many cases, credit union members can get lower interest rates on car loans and home loans. It’s also possible in some cases to see lower interest rates on personal loans and credit cards. The lowest-interest credit card I have is the one from the credit union. However, some low-interest credit cards may not have rewards, which may be important to you. Make sure you shop around before getting a loan. In many cases, the credit union will have the lowest rates, but it’s not guaranteed.

Credit unions also might offer higher yields on interest bearing accounts. You might be able to get better yields on CDs, money market accounts, and savings accounts than what you can find at a competing bank. Sometimes, though, the yields offered by online banks can be even better than those of your local credit union. Before you decide where to put your money, check online as well as with what is offered by your local credit union.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Joining a Credit Union – Access & Convenience

It’s also important to address some of the perceived disadvantages of credit unions. First of all, credit unions, due to their nature, have membership requirements. Many of these requirements have been relaxed. USAA is a good example of a financial institution that has relaxed its previous membership requirements. Other credit unions have wide field of membership requirements that allow most people to join. Just make sure that you eligible before you try to open an account.

Another consideration is access. The vast majority of credit unions are small institutions with just a few branches. There are no giant credit unions with the size of Bank or America or Wells Fargo or Chase Bank.

You might think this is a major downside as compared to the mega-banks that have branches and ATMs throughout the country. However, credit unions have developed a way to compete on this issue. Many credit unions are part of ATM networks that give you surcharge-free access to thousands of ATMs throughout the U.S. as well as shared branch networks.

When you belong to a credit union with a large ATM network, you can access your money fee-free. In some cases, the credit union coop will offer shared branch networks. The most common one, the CU Service Centers network, has thousands of credit union branches throughout the U.S. At a shared branch you can perform many banking transactions just as if you were at your home credit union such as making deposits, withdrawals, and loan payments.

Finally, you want to make sure any credit union is covered by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), which is similar to FDIC insurance.

Deposit Insurance Differences

At U.S. banks, your deposits are insured up to at least $250,000 by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The FDIC is an independent agency of the United States government. FDIC insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government.

Credit unions are not insured by the FDIC. The vast majority are insured by the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). Like the FDIC, the NCUA is an independent agency of the United States government, and its insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. The insurance limits are the same as those from the FDIC.

It’s important to note that not all credit unions are federally insured by the NCUA. Some state-chartered credit unions only have private share insurance. These are rare and are only in certain states that allow their state-chartered credit unions to have private insurance. Still, it’s worth noting whether or not your deposits are insured.

Do Credit Unions Offer the Best Deals?

As not-for-profit institutions, credit unions are not out to turn a profit. Instead credit unions can return earnings to the members in the form of better rates and lower fees. Also, credit unions are exempt from many taxes that banks have to pay. Due to these aspects, you can often find better deals at credit unions than at banks.

However, this isn’t always the case. The profit drive of banks can sometimes lead to better products and more conveniences. This is especially true with internet banks. When deciding between banks or credit unions, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. There’s no reason why you can’t have some accounts at credit unions and some at banks. Look for the best deals, and remember to include credit unions in your search.

A credit union isn’t right for everyone, but it can be a good choice for many people. Carefully consider your options, and then choose a financial institution that works best for you.

~$~

All content copyright Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career; if you are reading this on another website it has been illegally reproduced in violation of copyright laws.

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This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at TaxAct Review 2017 – A Powerful Tax Software Solution to Fill Most Needs.

TaxAct is one of the leading tax preparation software packages available. The service was founded in 1998, and it enables you to prepare all types of returns, regardless of the degree of difficulty. Small and medium-size business tax returns are a niche of this product, but they even have a professional edition available for career tax preparers.

Why Choose TaxAct to File Your Tax Return?

Like most tax software programs, you can file a free basic federal tax return with TaxAct (Form 1040A and 1040EZ only). But TaxAct also excels if you have a more complicated tax return, including tax payers who have income from real estate rentals, investment income, freelancing, consulting, a small business, 1099 income, and similar situations. TaxAct offers some real advantages that make it well worth investigating.

First, the software generally costs less than competing packages. The difference isn’t dramatic, but they tend to be less expensive across-the-board. And since your return is guaranteed, you can feel comfortable using the software that offers the best pricing, so long as it meets your needs.

They also provide free technical phone support. More common in the industry is to provide library type content, where you can look up specific tax questions in the database. But given that most people don’t prepare taxes for a living, being able to talk to a live person can be reassuring. It’s especially comforting if you’re preparing your taxes online for the first time. Bonus: each version comes with unlimited phone and email support, not just the more expensive versions.

TaxAct comes with a Price Lock Guarantee. You will get the price for the plan you select, regardless of when you actually file your return. Lock in your price now, and it will be good until you file your tax return. This is an important feature, since many tax prep plans increase their prices closer to April 15. You can purchase TaxAct now, and make sure that that doesn’t happen.

Accuracy Guarantee. TaxAct Alerts inspects your return for errors and omissions that could increase your chance of being audited. It also finds opportunities for tax saving that you may have missed.

Track Your Tax Refund Status. When you file online, they provide you with easy access to track when your e-filed tax return has been received by the IRS, as well as the anticipated date of your refund. Here is a screenshot of the TaxAct tax refund status tool. It’s easy to use, simply enter your information, click enter, and TaxAct will give you a status update on your tax refund.

Check your tax refund status through the TaxAct website. TaxAct Features and Benefits

Some of the additional features and benefits provided by TaxAct include:

  • TaxTutor Guidance. This tool provides easy-to-follow, expert tax tips and strategies. They will help provide the biggest money-saving deductions.
  • TaxAct Bookmarks. This tool enables you to mark a spot in your Questions & Answers so that you can return to that section anytime you like.
  • FAFSA Assistance. Got a student in the family, who will need to apply for a government loan or assistance? TaxAct’s FAFSA Assistance can help with that. It enables you to prepare and print a worksheet with the tax information needed to get federal financial aid.
  • Complete tax glossary. You can get definitions for almost 300 tax terms, linked directly from the TaxAct interview process anytime you need them.
  • Personalized healthcare and tax reports. This tool enables you to maximize future tax and healthcare savings with personal strategies and tips.
  • Personalized Financial BluPrint. This is a complementary financial report provided after you file your return. It provides financial planning and tax saving opportunities based on the information in your tax return.
  • Tax Extensions. You can use TaxAct to file a free tax deadline extension. (learn more about tax deadline extensions).
Options for Receiving Your Tax Refund with TaxAct

Tax filers who use TaxAct can choose to receive their tax refund via direct deposit to their bank account, or via a check from the IRS. You can also choose to apply your refund to future tax payments. Finally, tax filers can choose to receive their tax refund on a American Express Serve prepaid debit card. The latter is a good option for those who do not have access to a bank, and want to avoid paying check cashing fees.

TaxAct Software Versions, Features, and Pricing

Like other popular tax software programs, TaxAct offers several different versions.

TaxAct Free Version – Price $0 for Federal and State

The free version enables you to file either 1040 EZ or 1040A forms at no cost. There is one add-on fee, and that’s $15 for the optional prior-year import of your tax information, plus unlimited phone support.

This version is of course only for the simplest tax returns. But it provides all the basic preparation options available with the premium versions, such as preparation, printing and e-filing of your return. You will be kept apprised of your refund or the amount due as you prepare your tax return.

TaxAct Plus Version – Price $25 + $37.00 per State

This is TaxAct’s most popular program. It’s for moderately complicated returns, including those who itemize tax deductions, own a home, take advantage of certain tax credits, and have investments and rental properties.

In fact, at just $25, it’s one of the most reasonably priced plans for owners of rental properties among all of the various tax prep services.

The Plus version also allows you to transfer data from last year’s tax return. This version enables you to import prior years information from both TurboTax and H&R Block.* You can also import charitable donations, stock transactions and W-2 information. It also enables you to prepare free amended tax returns at any time, with no upsells or upgrades required.

As part of this plan, you will get a personalized financial assessment. It’s a complementary report that shows you opportunities to reduce your tax bill, and to save for your future.

*Note about changing tax software programs: Most top tier tax software programs can import your previous tax returns, even if you are using a different software program (note: there may be a fee to import previous tax returns). That said, it’s a good idea to maintain copies of your tax records for at least 7 years. These tips are helpful for organizing your tax paperwork.

TaxAct Freelancer – Price $39 or $60, + $37.00 per State

This is the TaxAct plan for the self-employed, including freelancers, independent contractors and small business owners. It’s even an excellent plan for investors. It allows you to import and record capital gains, or to use the Stock Assistant tool for quick entry of investment information. This is especially valuable if you are an active investment trader, and have dozens of individual transactions to report on your return.

You can also use the import function to transfer important personal data from last year’s tax return, even if those returns were filed with TurboTax or H&R Block. You could even import W-2s and charitable deductions.

Freelancer also comes with the Deduction Maximizer tool. It’s a simple tool designed specifically for the self-employed, enabling you to take advantage of the deductions that are most commonly claimed by those in your line of business.

As with the Plus version, Freelancer also comes with free amended tax returns, and TaxAct Alerts to minimize audit risk, and maximize deductions.

If you have a partnership, an LLC, and either a C or S corporation, the fee for the program is higher, at $60. But that will include filing form 1065 (partnership or LLC), 1120 (C Corporation) or 1120S (S corporation) for your business, as well as your individual 1040.

Like the Plus version, you also get personalized financial assessment with the Freelancer Plan.

TaxAct Premium Version – Price $51 + $37.00 per State

This version provides all of the features and benefits of TaxAct’s other plans. But it also comes with TaxAct’s Audit Defense, which provides the following services in the event that your return is audited:

  • Comprehensive response and resolution strategies
  • Assistance with tax debt relief, denied credits, fraud and more.
  • Correspondence with the IRS or your state tax agency on your behalf.
  • Available on currently filed returns for the next three years.
  • Represent you in contact with the IRS.

TaxAct has partnered with Protection Plus for audit assistance services and is backed with a  $100K Accuracy Guarantee.

Should You Use TaxAct to Prepare Your Income Taxes this Year?

The major advantage in using TaxAct is that the plans cost less than comparable versions with other popular tax preparation software. Here’s how TaxAct’s fee structure compares with that of H&R Block and TurboTax:

TaxAct’s plans do virtually the same job as those of the more expensive providers, they just do it at a lower cost. TaxAct may have fewer bells and whistles than the other plans. For example, TurboTax integrates with QuickBooks Self-Employed, while TaxAct has no equivalent offering.

But for most people, in most tax filing situations, TaxAct will enable you to get the job done, and do it at minimal cost.

To learn more, or to sign up for the service, visit the TaxAct website.

~$~

All content copyright Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career; if you are reading this on another website it has been illegally reproduced in violation of copyright laws.

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This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at When Will I Get My Tax Refund? 2017 Tax Year Refund Schedule (2018 Tax Season).

The first day to file your 2017 taxes is January 29, 2018. The IRS reports that 9 out of 10 taxpayers who filed electronically in 2017 received their tax refunds within 21 days. Some taxpayers receive their refund in as little as 8 days, and most receive it within 10-14 days.

The IRS no longer publishes a tax refund calendar, but they continue to issue guidance stating most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days. So we have used IRS guidelines, statements, and historic tax return data to create an IRS refund schedule, which we have published on this page. We have also included additional tax return information, such as a list of important dates and Frequently Asked Questions regarding IRS refund dates. It’s important to note the calendar is an estimate and represents when the majority of tax returns should be processed.

IRS E-File Schedule for Tax Refunds via Check or Direct Deposits

As alluded to above, the IRS previously released an annual schedule to help tax payers better plan around tax season so tax-filers will know when they can expect to receive their refund check. They stopped this practice in 2013 (2012 tax year) after there were delays in the refund process due to new anti-fraud measures.

The table below shows an approximation of when your federal tax refund should be direct deposited into your bank account, or the date your check will be mailed. This table is based on previous tax return charts. Remember, this is only an estimation, and not a guarantee.

How to use this tax refund chart: This schedule only applies to tax returns filed electronically. The left column represents the date your tax refund was accepted by the IRS. This chart does not apply to tax refunds filed by mail because it takes the IRS much longer to manually process returns. There is no tax refund schedule for paper returns because it is difficult to know when the IRS will physically process your return.

2017 Tax Refund Schedule (2018 Tax Season)
Date IRS accepts your return (by 11:00 am) between… Direct Deposit Sent By Paper Check Mailed
Jan 29 and Feb 04, 2018 Feb 19, 2018 Feb 23, 2018
Feb 05 and Feb 11, 2018 Feb 26, 2018 Mar 2, 2018
Feb 12 and Feb 18, 2018 Mar 5, 2018 Mar 9, 2018
Feb 19 and Feb 25, 2018 Mar 12, 2018 Mar 16, 2018
Feb 26 and Mar 04, 2018 Mar 19, 2018 Mar 23, 2018
Mar 05 and Mar 11, 2018 Mar 26, 2018 Mar 30, 2018
Mar 12 and Mar 18, 2018 Apr 2, 2018 Apr 6, 2018
Mar 19 and Mar 25, 2018 Apr 9, 2018 Apr 13, 2018
Mar 26 and Apr 01, 2018 Apr 16, 2018 Apr 20, 2018
Apr 02 and Apr 08, 2018 Apr 23, 2018 Apr 27, 2018
Apr 09 and Apr 15, 2018 Apr 30, 2018 May 4, 2018
Apr 16 and Apr 22, 2018 May 7, 2018 May 11, 2018
Apr 23 and Apr 29, 2018 May 14, 2018 May 18, 2018
Apr 30 and May 06, 2018 May 21, 2018 May 25, 2018
May 07 and May 13, 2018 May 28, 2018 Jun 1, 2018
May 14 and May 20, 201 Jun 4, 2018 Jun 8, 2018
May 21 and May 27, 2018 Jun 11, 2018 Jun 15, 2018
May 28 and Jun 03, 2018 Jun 18, 2018 Jun 22, 2018
Jun 04 and Jun 10, 2018 Jun 25, 2018 Jun 29, 2018
Jun 11 and Jun 17, 2018 Jul 2, 2018 Jul 6, 2018
Jun 18 and Jun 24, 2018 Jul 9, 2018 Jul 13, 2018
Jun 25 and Jul 01, 2018 Jul 16, 2018 Jul 20, 2018
Jul 02 and Jul 08, 2018 Jul 23, 2018 Jul 27, 2018
Jul 09 and Jul 15, 2018 Jul 30, 2018 Aug 3, 2018
Jul 16 and Jul 22, 2018 Aug 6, 2018 Aug 10, 2018
Jul 23 and Jul 29, 2018 Aug 13, 2018 Aug 17, 2018
Jul 30 and Aug 05, 2018 Aug 20, 2018 Aug 24, 2018
Aug 06 and Aug 12, 201 Aug 27, 2018 Aug 31, 2018
Aug 13 and Aug 19, 2018 Sep 3, 2018 Sep 7, 2018
Aug 20 and Aug 26, 2018 Sep 10, 2018 Sep 14, 2018
Aug 27 and Sep 02, 2018 Sep 17, 2018 Sep 21, 2018
Sep 03 and Sep 09, 2018 Sep 24, 2018 Sep 28, 2018
Sep 10 and Sep 16, 2018 Oct 1, 2018 Oct 5, 2018
Sep 17 and Sep 23, 2018 Oct 8, 2018 Oct 12, 2018
Sep 24 and Sep 30, 2018 Oct 15, 2018 Oct 19, 2018
Oct 01 and Oct 07, 2018 Oct 22, 2018 Oct 26, 2018
Oct 08 and Oct 14, 2018 Oct 29, 2018 Nov 2, 2018

This table cuts off after the final tax filing deadline for extensions, which is October 15th this year. Here is the full IRS EFile Tax Refund Schedule.

Some important notes about this tax refund schedule: This is only good when you E-File your taxes because the IRS will notify you of the date of acceptance – generally within 72 hours of receipt. Tax returns sent on paper forms must be manually entered into the IRS computers and there is no way to track the date of acceptance. So this chart won’t work for estimating which day your tax return will be sent.

The other important thing to note is that IRS refund checks are processed fairly quickly, usually within 1-2 weeks. This is just one more reason to say no to refund anticipation loans.

When Can I File My Taxes – And When is My Tax Return Due?

What is the first day you can file your 2017 taxes? January 29, 2018 is the first day you can officially file your 2017 tax return. That said, you can always complete your return as soon as you have your paperwork ready. Many software programs will allow you to submit your return through their system and they will automatically file the return for you on the day the IRS begins accepting returns. This will get your return in the queue faster, and hopefully get your refund processed more quickly.

Filing Tax Returns Early: The first official day to file taxes is January 29, 2018, according to the IRS. Last year, some people reported they were able to submit their tax return around January 15, as part of IRS HUB Testing. HUB Testing is a controlled launch of the tax return process so the IRS can test the submission process and troubleshoot any errors before making the general launch for all tax payers. While there are benefits to submitting early, only a limited number of tax preparation companies are able to process these early returns, and only in limited numbers. Expect your tax return to be processed on the first day of tax return filing unless your tax professional or software company has informed you your return will be included in this program.

When is My 2017 Tax Return Due? Tax returns are normally due on April 15 each year, unless the 15th falls on a weekend or holiday. If that is the case, the tax return is due on the following business day. Taxes are actually due on April 17, 2018 because April 16th is Emancipation Day, an observed holiday in Washington, DC.

What happens if you don’t file your taxes on time? Don’t do it! Instead, try to file a tax extension. Filing a tax extension is free, and you can do it at any time. Just be aware that you need to pay any money due by the tax deadline, or you may owe penalties or fees. So get an estimated tax payment in the mail if you need to, then figure out your books. The deadline to file your tax return if you filed an extension is October 15th.

IRS E-File – When Will I Get My Tax Refund?

How long does it take to process a tax return? The most important factors for tax return processing time are whether you efile or file a paper return. As you might have guessed, e-filing results in a much quicker turnaround time. Paper returns have to be manually entered into the system, and can remain in the queue for several days (or longer) before they can be processed. Of course, the complexity of your return also affects how long it takes to process your return.

How long does it take to get a tax refund? The IRS has a goal of getting tax refunds to tax payers within 21 days. They reach this goal about 90% of the time. In fact, some people receive their federal tax refund in as few as 8 days, and most people receive their refunds in about 10-14 days. In previous years, the IRS created an official IRS tax refund schedule for when they will send out federal tax refunds via direct deposit or by check. They now issue general guidance. The general rule of thumb is that direct deposits will be sent out a few days before paper checks are sent out (the delay for a paper check can actually take up to one week, depending on how many refunds the IRS has to process).

Are there any known tax refund delays? Yes. A law requires the IRS to withhold tax refunds when the taxpayer claims either the Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credits (ACTC). Refunds must be withheld until Feb. 15, 2018, regardless of when you filed your tax return. Tax refunds that claim these credits after that date are processed as they come in. The IRS has also created new anti-fraud measures to combat tax refund theft. So some returns may be delayed for additional review.

When will my refund be in my bank account? Direct deposits are faster than paper checks. However, keep in mind it may take a few days for your financial institution to make your deposit available to you. Some banks make direct deposits available the day they hit, while other banks may hold the funds for a couple business days. Check with your bank for more information. Paper checks also have a delay for fund availability: it may take several days for the check to arrive in the mail, then another few days after you deposit the check before the funds are available (many banks place a hold on checks).

What day of the week does the IRS deposit refunds? The IRS process ACH transactions on any normal business day.

What day of the week does the IRS mail paper checks? Fridays.

Electronic Tax Returns and Payments Are Fastest

If you file your taxes with the IRS EFile, or with an tax software program that files your taxes online for you, then you are in luck. You will generally receive your tax refund much more quickly than if you file your taxes by mail. The IRS can process electronic tax returns faster and easier than paper returns. This makes it faster for them to clear the books on your tax return and send you a refund—via either an ACH transaction or by check.

ACH transactions (bank to bank electronic transfers) are much faster and safer than receiving a paper check. So if you want to receive your refund faster, electronic is the way to go! While you are waiting on your tax return, here is a great way to make a fast $250 free money just for opening up a Chase Bank Checking account and savings as a new customer!

Where is My Tax Refund Check?

You can check the status of your federal tax refund as soon as 72 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of your e-filed return. Please note the IRS only updates the status of your refund once a week, on Wednesdays. So checking back several times a day throughout the week won’t normally give you any new information. The quickest and easiest way to get this information is to go to the Where’s My Refund page. Or, call 1-800-829-1954 or 1-800-829-4477.

Want a Bigger Tax Refund?

If the idea of a larger tax refund sounds appealing to you, then you may wish to take advantage of tax advantaged accounts, such as opening a Traditional IRA. This will not only help you save money for retirement, but it can also help you receive a larger tax refund, as up to $5,500 worth of contributions are tax deductible ($6,500 if you are over 50 years of age). Reducing your taxable income by several thousand dollars is worth a nice chunk of change in your tax return next year. If you want to learn more, then here are some top IRA companies, where you can open an IRA. You can also adjust the your income tax withholdings in your paycheck.

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This article was originally published on Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career at How to Get Out of Debt Fast – a Step by Step Guide.

If you know the basics of personal finance, you may already know the most powerful force in the financial universe is compound interest.

With compound interest, it’s easier to grow wealthier over time as the interest you earn compounds on itself over and over again. Unfortunately, compound interest can just as easily work against you as it can for you.

If you are in debt, this force is working against you.

If you need proof, grab a copy of all your bills and do a quick exercise to see how much interest you are paying on debt.

Basically, lay all of your bills and balances on your kitchen table and tally up the total amount of interest you’re paying on every balance you owe from your credit cards to your car loan and mortgage.

The result will probably shock you and hopefully serve as motivation to learn how to get out of debt once and for all!

Unfortunately, facing a mountain of debt is never an easy task.

It can be confusing to decide where to start and how to reduce your debts – and that’s after you’ve taken the time and built up the courage to figure out how much you owe. Thankfully, there are a lot of great resources to help you make these decisions.

I have a great resource on my site for you to reference on the teachings of Dave Ramsey, who specializes in getting out of debt, staying out of debt, and planning for a prosperous future.

The lessons are about his Baby Steps to Financial Peace. Reading the entire Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps series is a good place to start to get some great ideas on how to get out of debt and become financially free.

But if you just want to get right to it, you can follow along below.

How to Get Out of Debt, A Practical Guide

The principles which help people get their finances in order and pay down debt are easy in theory but not so simple to master in practice. Like building wealth, it takes time and dedication to pay off debt once and for all.

The basic principles of getting out of debt are:

Now that we know which principles we’ll cover, let’s dive in and learn exactly how to get started and the best first steps to take.

Recognize the Debt Problem

One of the most important aspects of making any lifestyle change is recognizing the need for change.

This is especially true of habits which have become ingrained in our lifestyle.

If you didn’t try the exercise linked in the first few paragraphs, I highly recommend it. Knowing how much interest you are paying will change the way you view debt.

Another powerful exercise is to complete a debt analysis which lists all your creditors, debt balances, interest rates, minimum payments, and how long it will take you to pay off the debt.

Knowing and understanding the details of your debt situation is integral to this process.

How does your debt stack up? Another important factor for you to know and understand is how your family’s debt compares to other families in America.

These articles show the average household debt and average credit card debt in America. Both need to decrease for people to achieve financial security and be able to save for retirement. When you look at the average retirement savings in the US, you can see that as a nation, we have a long way to go.

Check your credit report. In addition to figuring out how your debt stacks up to others, it’s crucial to check your credit report for accuracy.

Not only will doing so let you identify any discrepancies on your credit report, but it will allow you to see if your credit score needs work, too.

Fortunately, you can get a free copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – once per year through a website called AnnualCreditReport.com.

In addition, you should also try to get a copy, or at least an estimate, of your credit score.

Fortunately, you can get a free estimate of your credit score easily and quickly by signing up for an account with CreditSesame.com.

Understand your financial situation – start with a budget. The most important step you and your family can take at this point is understanding your financial situation.

Once you have completed the previous exercises I mentioned, you should now have a better grasp on where you stand financially. Now it is time to start up a budget.

My friend Lynnae wrote a great primer about how to build a budget for the first time, and you should absolutely read it. There are many tools you can use to help you make a budget, but if all you have is paper and a pencil, that will work fine.

You just need to do it.

Money Management Tip: Using money management or budgeting software can help you visualize this and make the job easier. You may find the following products helpful for your needs: QuickenYou Need a Budget, Mint.com, and free online money management tools.

Commit to Eliminating Debt

More important than recognizing the need for change is actually following through with it.

This commitment can be broken down into two important steps:

  1. Stop using credit.
  2. Start paying down your loans.

Stop using credit. If you’re using credit cards and carrying credit card debt, cut up your cards, freeze them, lock them in a safety deposit box, and be willing to do whatever else it takes to stop spending money you don’t actually have.

It can also help to re-evaluate planned purchases.

For example, if you have a lot of consumer debt and were planning to use a loan for a major purchase, such as a new house or car, consider renting or buying an older model car with cash until you have eliminated your debt.

Get a balance transfer credit card. If you have a lot of debt at high-interest rates, getting a balance transfer credit card might also be ideal.

These cards let you score 0% APR on your balance for anywhere from 12 – 21 months. Some charge a balance transfer fee of 3-5 percent of your balance, but not all balance transfer cards charge this fee.

Either way, imagine how much money you could save if you could avoid paying interest on your credit card balances for nearly two years.

Keep up with your loans. Make sure you are paying at least the minimum payment on all loans so you can avoid being subjected to late fees, penalties, higher interest rates, and possibly a lower credit score.

The ultimate goal is to accelerate debt payments and pay as much as possible above the minimum payment.

While you’re getting started, however, it may be best to focus on being current on all loans.

Reduce your interest rates if you can. You may be able to contact your credit card companies and ask for a reduction in interest rates; some companies are willing to reduce interest rates provided you make on-time payments.

Another option is to do a 0% balance transfer, which we mentioned above.

This option allows you to transfer your credit card debt to a 0% interest credit card, avoiding interest payments for months in the process.

Consider this list of featured balance transfer cards and compare their offers before you sign up.

Cut your daily spending. If you’re spending money you don’t have on credit cards, chances are good you’re not living within your means. In order to get a better handle on your budget, it’s crucial to figure out exactly how much you earn each month and create a spending plan that allows you to spend less than that amount.

If your take-home pay is $3,000 per month, for example, you could keep your spending below $2,500 so you can set aside money for savings and emergencies.

To cut your daily spending, look for ways to reduce your monthly bills. Consider cutting cable television or downgrading your cell phone plan, for example.

If you’re spending a lot on food or dining out, you can also strive to cook most of your meals at home.

Get Support, and Get Your Family on Board!

Making big lifestyle changes can be difficult for one person. For this reason, it’s a good idea to get an accountability partner or someone you can check in with if you’re not paying down debt as a family. The moral support you receive from a trusted friend can go a long way toward keeping you on the right path.

On the flip side, paying down debt can be isolating and boring if you don’t have anyone to share the journey with.

On that same note, it’s essential that your family is on board if you have one. What is difficult for one person can be impossible if someone is working against you, specifically a spouse or life partner.

Having your family working with you can make it easier to set and keep expectations, avoid excessive spending, and make progress.

You can even use this as an opportunity to get your family involved by finding creative ways to cut expenses, earn a side income, or hold a garage sale to raise funds that can be used to pay off debt.

With your family on your side and dedicated to the cause, you can work together to achieve your joint goals.

Establish an Emergency Fund

What does saving money have to do with paying off debt? 

Everything.

An emergency fund is an essential part of the commitment to no longer using credit because it gives you a cash to cover unexpected expenses. Using your emergency fund instead of credit cards or other loans will help you get out of debt more quickly.

It is a good idea to keep your emergency fund in an online savings account where you can receive high-interest rates and maintain access to your money.

If you’re worried how you’ll build up an emergency fund when you can barely keep up with your bills, keep in mind it gets easier with time.

If you’re able to cut your spending, you’ll find you have more cash to save and pay down debt every month, for example.

And, as you pay off old balances and work toward debt freedom, you’ll have even more cash to spend or save.

The first step you should take is to figure out how much you might be able to save every month as you ramp up your debt repayment efforts.

Maybe you can only save $50 or $100 per month at first, and that’s okay. If you could set aside even $100 per month for an entire year, you would have a small nest egg of $1,200 saved up after 12 months.

While that amount of cash may not save you in an emergency, it’s a good place to start and it’s certainly better than saving nothing.

In the meantime, you should also make sure you’re saving your money in the right place. Ideally, you’ll want to save your emergency fund in a savings account with a high interest rate.

However, you may also want to look for savings accounts which offer a signup bonus.

The more you can get your savings working for you, the better off you’ll be.

Accelerate Debt Payments

This is the step where we really start to gain ground on your debt elimination.

Paying extra on your loans can help you save hundreds or even thousands of dollars compared to making minimum payments.

In fact, the new credit card rules stipulate credit card companies must disclose how long it will take to pay off your loans with minimum payments and what your payments should be to pay off credit card debt in 3 years.

Highest Interest Rate vs. Lowest Balance. There are two schools of thought regarding which debt to pay first, the highest interest rates or the smallest balance.

  1. Paying extra on the debt with the highest interest rate will save you the most money in the long run, but it may take longer to notice a difference when you are making multiple payments each month.
  2. Making additional payments on the loan with the lowest balance gives a psychological boost because you eliminate a credit card loan or other debt more quickly using this method.

Both methods are successful, so use the method that you prefer.

Snowball your debt payments. The debt snowball is a debt reduction method popularized by Dave Ramsey. Simply stated: Pay extra on your loans and when you eliminate one loan, add the amount you were paying to the next loan on your list and repeat.

In this method, your payments “snowball” and you will eliminate your loans more quickly.

Pick up a side hustle. If you’re trying to pay down debt with a limited income, finding a way to earn more cash is one of the best moves you can make.

Fortunately, an array of new technologies have made it easier than ever to earn money in your spare time without a huge commitment.

If you have a nicer and newer car, for example, you could earn extra money driving for Uber or Lyft or delivering groceries with Instacart.

If you have plenty of spare time in the evenings but can’t really leave your home, on the other hand, it’s possible to earn several hundred dollars in extra cash each month completing surveys online.

Last but not least, you could always look for a side gig walking dogs or doing basic yard work.

The best side hustle for you depends on your skill set and the amount of time you have to devote, but there are plenty of options to choose from.

Advanced Debt Reduction Strategies

As you repay your loans and start tackling your balances, you will probably notice your credit score improves because you are making regular, on-time payments and your credit utilization decreases.

This is great news because it lets you know you are making positive changes to your financial health.

However, it may also help you as you seek to pay down debt faster.

As you push through the final phase of your debt payoff strategy, consider these tips which can help you pay down debt at lightning fast speed.

Pick up a balance transfer credit card. If you have a good credit score, you can probably qualify for a 0% balance transfer card which allows you to transfer credit card debt to a 0% APR credit card.

This is an advanced debt reduction strategy because it requires opening a new credit card.

This should only be used if you are committed to getting out of debt and will not use the credit card for new purchases!

At this point, you may be wondering how a 0% APR card could possibly make such a huge difference. Let’s look at an example:

For a moment, imagine you have $15,000 in credit card debt with an average APR of 18 percent.

If you made a minimum payment of 3 percent, or $450, it would take you 47 months (almost four years) to pay off your balance.

During this time, you would also make $5,950.81 in interest payments alone!

Now, let’s imagine you transferred your balances to a balance transfer card which offered 0% APR for 21 months.

First off, you would need to pay a balance transfer fee of $450, or 3 percent, upfront. This brings your total balance to $15,450, which you could pay off without interest for 21 months in a row.

If you paid the same $450 per month, you would pay off $9,450 in debt over 21 months. At this point, you would have a remaining balance of $6,000, which you could pay off at a higher interest rate, or transfer to another 0% APR credit card.

If you were able to pay $735 per month for 21 months, on the other hand, you would become entirely debt-free without paying a dime in interest payments over 21 months.

Also, keep in mind not all balance transfers charge a balance transfer fee!

There are a handful which don’t charge this fee, although they typically only offer 0% APR for 15 months at most.

Either way, you should explore this list of featured balance transfer cards to find the right option for you and the amount of debt you have.

Sign up for debt consolidation. Another advanced debt reduction strategy is a do it yourself debt consolidation plan, which can reduce your interest rates and simplify the repayment process.

With debt consolidation, you usually consolidate all your debts in one place with either a balance transfer card or a personal loan.

With either option, having only one payment to make can simplify your finances and take a lot of stress out of the equation.

Consider debt settlement or a debt management plan. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), debt settlement and debt management are additional options you can consider.

With debt settlement, a third-party company will call your creditors on your behalf and attempt to settle your debts for less than what you owe.

In the meantime, you’ll start saving up for debt settlement in a special savings account earmarked to pay off your settled debts.

With a debt management plan, you’ll work with a credit counselor to pay down debt faster.

Not only will they call your creditors and try to negotiate down your interest rates on your behalf, but they’ll even pay bills out of an account you set up with the credit counseling organization. These firms promise to save you money and help you avoid fees, but they aren’t risk-free.

The FTC notes you should be aware of the risks of both debt settlement and debt management plans before you sign up.

All in all, getting out of debt will not only free up money for you on a monthly basis but not having the burden of debt collectors and high-interest rates will make your life much easier.

So, get started today on eliminating that burden in your life and live the life you were meant to live.

~$~

All content copyright Cash Money Life | Personal Finance, Investing, & Career; if you are reading this on another website it has been illegally reproduced in violation of copyright laws.

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