6 things no one tells you about retirement

It’s to your benefit to prepare yourself now for some common financial considerations. After all, forewarned is forearmed.

Social Security benefits and retirement savings are taxable

You may not know that once you start collecting Social Security, Uncle Sam is going to want some of that money back. Withdrawals from a 403(b) or IRA will trigger taxes as well, unless you have Roth accounts. Take these taxes into account when you’re planning your retirement budget.

Healthcare costs may catch you by surprise

According to the Fidelity Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate, in 2020 an average retired couple age 65 needed approximately $295,000 saved to cover health care expenses in retirement. You will still have to pay premiums and co-pays once you’re on Medicare. And some services aren’t covered at all, like long-term care. Consider supplemental insurance and a long-term care insurance policy to help cover unplanned expenses.

You’re required to withdraw from your nest egg

You can’t keep retirement funds in your account indefinitely. You will need to start taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from your retirement accounts generally at age 72 (or 70½ if you turned 70½ before January 1, 2020). If you don’t withdraw on time, you’ll pay 50% of the RMD amount not taken.

You may be retired for decades

A 65-year-old can expect to live another 19 to 21.5 years on average, according to the Social Security Administration. What’s more, one third of 65-year-olds will hit age 90, and 1 in 7 will live beyond age 95.

The prospect of a 20-year or more retirement and the increased chance of health care expenses with age mean you risk outliving your money. Be sure you plan accordingly. Meeting with a financial advisor at Member Benefits can help you balance out your risk and plan for the myriad of considerations that come with a longer life span.

Housing will remain your biggest expense

Many retirees work hard to pay off their mortgage so they can afford to travel or experience once-in-a-lifetime activities. But even if you pay off your mortgage by the time your retire, property taxes and the cost of upkeep can still take up a large chunk of your budget. U.S. households led by someone age 65 or older spent an average of $17,472 on housing in 2019 (MoneyTalksNews). Make sure you plan realistically for this continued expense.

Good news: You can keep saving for retirement

If you continue to work later in life, even part-time, you can still save in tax-advantaged retirement accounts. Consider saving at least enough to get any company match.

As of 2020, there is no age limit on making regular contributions to either Traditional or Roth IRAs. And if you are self-employed, you have a few other options. Visit irs.gov for more information.

Make a fresh start on your finance$

When you think of spring, what words come to mind? Some words on your list might include planting, growth, or renewal.

It could be that after the long year we’ve had, you’re not feeling particularly spring-like. Maybe none of those words popped into your head. But spring is a good time to get a fresh start on things. And those particular words are good to keep in mind when it comes to your finances, because they can be applied so aptly to your spring to-do list:

Member Benefits can help you with many of those items you may have on your financial to-do list. Let us help you with your fresh start this year. Begin here to create and review your list before you spring ahead with your plans. Then give us a call—we’re here to help.

Planting

Whether you’re just beginning to save or want to continue to grow your savings, it’s important to plant some seeds—not just at the start of the journey, but throughout your lifetime. Life is full of beginnings and endings, and as we move forward, our circumstances may dictate that some new planting is needed.

Germinate a plan

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, now is a great time. Even as little as $20 per pay period will make a big difference over time due to compound interest. Compounding is when earnings on your investments are reinvested in your account. The reinvested earnings may also have earnings and then those earnings are reinvested and so on.

Not sure how much to save? Use our paycheck comparison calculator to help you determine the impact of changing your retirement savings payroll deductions. Go to our calculators page for this and many other free financial calculators.

Our retirement account fees are among the lowest around, so more of your money is working for you. Consider investing in a WEA Member Benefits 403(b) and/or IRA. No large amount is required like at many other providers. It’s easy to get started online. Or give us a call and we’ll walk you through it.

Feather a new nest

Many people don’t think about insurance as a way to conserve money, but if you don’t have the right coverage, you put yourself at financial risk. If you’re putting down new roots in a home, condo, or apartment this year, you need to start protecting it right away. But if you’re like most people who treat insurance like a commodity—or one-size-fits-all—you risk leaving yourself (and your family) exposed to financial loss or purchasing coverages you don’t need.

For example, umbrella insurance is an often overlooked or misunderstood coverage because many people assume their basic insurance policy offers them adequate protection. However, you may be surprised at the situations in which you may need umbrella insurance—your dog bites a neighbor, someone slips on your sidewalk, or your teen throws a party while you’re gone and one of the guests gets an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) on the way home. An umbrella policy provides extra protection for you as well as other members of your family.

Another common way people put themselves at financial risk is by assuming their home insurance policy protects all of their possessions—even those of extreme value. However, standard home policies provide only limited protection for high-value items. So you may need to add an endorsement (sometimes called a rider or schedule) to your home policy for valuable possessions to provide coverage for their full worth.

Member Benefits can help you make informed decisions regarding the right coverage for your situation and help you become a better insurance consumer in the process. Sign up for a free consultation with one of our Personal Insurance Consultants.

And if you’re planting new roots and purchasing a home this year, download our free home buying ebook, which is full of tips and information on purchasing, evaluating, and protecting your new home. Find it and other ebooks on various financial topics on our website.

Cover your ride

Auto insurance protects not only you, but also passengers, other drivers, and pedestrians. It also offers coverage for damage to your vehicle and other people’s property. Just like home insurance, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. We suggest you consider three principles to help find the right coverage for you:

While many companies offer auto insurance, ours is the only one created exclusively for public school employees like you. Set up a consultation, and we’ll review your coverage so you can compare. Or get a quote.

And if you have any recreational vehicles or classic cars, make sure they’re covered, too. We can help with that.

Growth

In order to continue growing your savings, you have to maintain an active role in your financial strategy.

Save more for retirement

When was the last time you reviewed your investment allocations in your retirement savings account? You may want to change your level of risk. How long has it been since you gave yourself a raise to grow your savings? Most plans let you choose a certain dollar amount or a percentage of your salary.

Make an appointment with one of our financial consultants if you’d like guidance on asset allocation. If you want to change your contributions and have a 403(b), you’ll need to update your salary reduction agreement with your school district. If you’d like to increase your contributions to your WEA Member Benefits IRA, give us a call.

Make it automatic

A good rule of thumb to live by is “pay yourself first.” Financial experts suggest saving 10% or more of salary (if possible) to meet retirement income needs. One really easy to way help you save is to automate your savings. Payroll deduction means you give permission to deduct a certain percentage (or amount) from each eligible paycheck and deposit it into your 403(b) plan account. For your WEA Member Benefits IRA, SmartPlan is an electronic transfer system that allows you to move money into your IRA from your bank, savings and loan, or credit union. For either, you can opt out anytime or change the amount you have deducted.

Peek at your policies

Are you getting married? Adding any new little seedlings to your family this year? You should always review your policies at any life event, good or bad. Check beneficiaries on all your accounts and review life insurance and long-term care (LTC) insurance policies for any changes you may need to make. If you’re adding or subtracting any drivers to your auto policy, be sure to review your coverages and liability limits.

New life events are also the perfect time to explore life insurance or LTC insurance options. Member Benefits offers both. Read more about LTC insurance and get life insurance comparison quotes on our website.

Weed out old spending habits

Make a plan to clean up debt, control spending, and limit credit cards. Debt is like a weed—ignore it and it will multiply, take over, and block out new growth—lessening the potential earnings you could make by saving more instead.

It can also negatively affect your credit score. Information in your credit report is used in various ways. For example, credit card companies may give you a more favorable interest rate and a larger line of credit with a higher score. Potential lenders, landlords, insurance companies, and even some employers use your credit score to help make decisions about you. Companies use different sets of factors related to your score to make their decisions, so it’s safe to say that the higher your score, the better.

Share your bounty with family

Many of your family members may be eligible to participate in our retirement and insurance programs. Let them know! This includes our IRA program, financial planning program, and home and auto insurance.

Even some of your family members who live outside of Wisconsin may be able to participate in our IRA program.

Renewal

When did you last look at your insurance coverage? Are you saving enough? Time to review your protection and renew your savings goals.

Review your coverage

Make sure your insurance coverages continue to meet your needs. Taking a look at your home and auto policies at renewal can be a good reminder to review your coverages. Perhaps you renovated or added to your home. Maybe you’ve accumulated more possessions in the past year and need to increase your coverage. Minimize your risk so you can more easily maximize what you’re able to save. Ask us for a free insurance review.

Renew your commitment to saving

When you’re ready to retire, will you thrive or survive? Having a financial plan helps you see the big picture, set goals, and stay on track, whether you are just starting your career or planning your exit.

A Member Benefits consultant can provide basic guidance on a variety of financial topics with individual consultations. Or meet with one of our financial advisors for help with building your assets, discovering whether you’re on track for retirement, or planning for an upcoming retirement. Visit our financial planning services section for more information.

Harvest our resources

Make 2021 the year to boost your financial knowledge. Use our free financial calculators, read articles, download ebooks, use an interactive budget sheet, find information on programs and services, or sign up for seminars. Visit our Learning Center to get started.

___________________________

If you want your finances to flourish, you need to do a little hands-on work. Giving your finances a little care each year can help you cultivate the life you want to live.

No matter what growing season you’re in, we’re here for you and we want to help. Contact us at 1-800-279-4030 or memberbenefits@weabenefits.com to get going on your fresh start.

April is National Financial Literacy Month

We love the national focus on financial literacy because it reinforces our belief that education is fundamental to the financial security of those we serve.

To help you achieve your financial goals, consider these resources that promote financial literacy in April and all year long. You’ll find a wealth of knowledge for your personal financial plans as well as financial literacy resources for your classroom.

(Virtual) Money Smart Week
This year the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago’s Money Smart Week has gone all virtual. Sign up for free webinars on topics such as managing money, student loan basics, identity theft, and more between April 10-17, 2021. There will be one daily live event plus select resources.

Money Management International’s Thirty Steps to Financial Wellness
Offers a 30-step path to help you achieve financial wellness. Includes budgeting tips, quizzes, information on how to save money, tools to track your income and expenses, and more.

Retirement Toolkit 
The Department of Labor, the Social Security Administration, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have collaborated to provide a list of publications and interactive tools to help in your retirement planning, plus information on how to contact them with specific questions.

MyMoney.gov
Find financial information for your personal and professional use as an educator. You can also access a clearinghouse of federally-funded research reports, articles and datasets on financial topics.

Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy
A national non-profit coalition of organizations dedicated to improving the financial literacy of pre-kindergarten through college-age youth. It strives to prepare youth for life-long successful financial decision-making by providing advocacy, research standards, and educational resources. Check out their first distance-learning module, Jump$tart Financial Foundations for Educators, which is free! Click here for Wisconsin’s Jump$tart page.

Edutopia: Resources and Downloads for Financial Literacy
A comprehensive list of links to resources to help students learn financial concepts, practice money management, and build strong financial decision-making and economic-reasoning skills.

Don’t forget to set up your personal financial consultation

Make an appointment for a financial planning service* with Member Benefits. Or call 1-800-279-4030. Summer appointments fill up fast.

*All investment advisory services are offered through WEA Financial Advisors, Inc. Consultation is free; however, if you choose to invest in the WEA Tax Sheltered Annuity or WEAC IRA program, fees will apply. Consider all expenses before investing. Must meet eligibility rules to participate. Family members may also be eligible. Call for details. 

Financial tips to fight against formidable times

We can probably all agree that this has been…a year. One that has presented various challenges for us mentally and emotionally and, for many, financially.

The pandemic has changed our way of living and has led many people to reevaluate their financial priorities. More than one in three Americans say they have been saving less since the pandemic started. And unfortunately, another one-third say they have turned to their savings or retirement accounts just to pay their bills (Pew Research).

You’re not alone if you’re feeling a bit financially unprepared during these times. Because life as we know it has become more complicated, we want to share a few financial tips to help you weather this year and beyond—regardless of your financial situation.

Use this time as an opportunity

Let’s start with creating a mindset. You may have made totally different financial choices before COVID, and maybe you feel guilty for not being more prepared. Channel those feelings into something more productive by resolving to take an active role in your financial life and make better decisions moving forward.

Create a strategy

Build a new budget strategy for your “new normal.” It may help to break things down by thinking on a per-spending basis, like setting a spending limit for each time you get groceries instead of for the whole month.

You can also separate your money into categories by giving it different labels: necessary bills, current weekly expenses (like groceries), and long-term costs (like your retirement fund). This can help you get a clearer picture of your finances and prioritize what’s most important.

Don’t get carried away by emotions

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—if you’re thinking of pulling out or jumping into the market now, you may want to think differently. History has shown us the market tends to bounce back over time. While past performance is never a guarantee of future performance, it is an important fact to consider before making any major financial decisions. If you do move your money, consider whether any interest you make will keep up with the cost of inflation. It may be worth working with a financial advisor for some guidance. We can help. Visit our financial planning page to view your options.

Keep your credit score up

In the future, there may be opportunities to refinance mortgages, student loans, and auto loans at lower rates. You’ll need to maintain a high credit score if you want to save some money on interest—which is just as important to your finances as what you gain in investments or dividends.

If you have credit card debt, student loans, or medical debt, it’s ok to hit pause for now and make minimum payments if you need to—making at least the minimum payment is crucial to keeping your credit score up. However, before you decide, determine if the interest you’ll be charged is worth the wait.

Continue saving for retirement if you can

If you’re newer to the workforce, you may not think this is important—but it is. The earlier you save, the more you take advantage of compound interest. And if you’ve been saving for a while, keep at it—or at the very least, decrease your contribution temporarily but increase it again as soon as you can.

Consider life insurance

The pandemic has been a grim reminder about the importance of having life insurance. It is an essential part of a holistic financial plan. Visit our life insurance pages to learn more and get free quotes.

Build some routines

When we’re stressed, we seek comfort. Find some free or inexpensive new routines to bring back some stability and enjoyment. It could include staying (virtually) connected with friends and family, exercising, cooking, trying a new hobby, or resurrecting an old one.

10 ways to build your wealth

No matter what your age, saving enough money to meet your needs and wants is probably up there on your list of priorities. For most of us, it will pose a challenge at some point in our life—or maybe many times. And during a challenging time such as we are facing now, it can cause a great deal of anxiety.

However, some of the basic steps you can take to help build your personal wealth are the same now as they have ever been. Yes, everyone’s situation is different. But following these tips by doing as many as you can—to the best of your ability, based on your situation—may just improve your savings account over time.

1. Save enough

People often forget that we are living longer, often into our 80s. Depending on when you retire, you could be looking at 30+ years in retirement.

According to the Social Security Administration, a 65-year-old can expect to live another 19 to 21.5 years on average. Further, one-third of 65-year-olds will hit age 90, and 1 in 7 will live beyond age 95. Depending on when you retire, you could be looking at 30+ years in retirement.

Even though your expenses during retirement average 70% of your working years, because of early retirements and active lifestyles, our expenses may be greater than 85% in the early years.

And don’t forget about the impact of inflation. A million dollars after 10 years of 3% inflation is worth about $737,000, before figuring taxes.

For health costs, Medicare doesn’t cover everything. Things like prescription drugs, custodial care, and long-term care are not covered. Consider long-term care insurance and a supplemental insurance plan to cover what Medicare doesn’t. Remember, the longer you live, the more likely you will need long-term care. The Genworth 2019 Cost of Care Survey found that the median monthly cost for a home health aide in Wisconsin is $4,767. A semi-private room in a nursing home facility is $8,273. Plan ahead for possible costly health care expenses.

2. The earlier you save, the better

The earlier you start, the more you can benefit from compound earnings. Compounding is when earnings on your investments are reinvested in your account. The reinvested earnings may also have earnings, and then those earnings are reinvested, and so on. This means that contributing a small amount now could benefit you more in the long run than any larger amount you contribute later on. Even modest monthly contributions have been shown to grow exponentially.

“I think it’s important to be saving for my future at a young age. To me, that means utilizing the benefits you are given through your job.”
— Kyle Steenport, teacher, Stanley-Boyd Area Schools

You may have heard the phrase, “Pay yourself first.” It can be a powerful savings strategy. It means you pay into your own savings and investments before anything else. Setting up automatic contributions into your retirement account using payroll deduction or electronic funds transfer can make it easier to do.

Kyle Steenport is in his early 20s and just started his first year of teaching at Stanley-Boyd Area Schools. He follows the pay yourself first mentality. “I think it’s important to be saving for my future at a young age. I think a lot of people coming out of college are just so excited to finally have a salary and make money that they forget the importance of saving. All of my family members who are older have been saying for years how imperative it is to start saving up as soon as possible. To me, that means utilizing the benefits you are given through your job.”

Nick German agrees. Nick has spent 18 years in the Appleton Area School District. He teaches high school, coaches middle school, and runs engineering and robotics camps for elementary kids in the summer. “Start saving early and live within your means. My wife and I are both fortunate to be educators. We’re also fortunate to come from modest backgrounds, so we’ve continued to live a simple life as our income has increased over the years. This allowed us to devote an aggressive percentage of our income to our retirement for the first half of our careers.”

Take a look at our infographic to see what happens when you start saving early for retirement. You might be surprised.

3. Don’t spend more than you earn

It’s important to be aware of the money you have coming in versus what’s going out. Spending more than you earn on a consistent basis can build debt quickly! Being in debt has a BIG impact on financial wellness by affecting your credit score, making it harder to get a loan, etc.

Once you’ve assessed your debt, devise a plan to pay off the highest interest debt first. If you need some help, contact one of our financial advisors. We’ll help you come up with a plan to get you back on track. And use our online debt calculators.

The best way to avoid debt is to be proactive about managing your money, which brings us to the next tip…

4. Make a budget

Not only does it help ensure you’ll have money for the things you need and that are important to you, but having a spending plan can also help keep you out of debt (or work your way out of it). And following a budget can make it less likely you’ll spend money you don’t have.

On the more positive side, a budget also helps maximize your savings and investments, allowing you to make sure your hard-earned money is being used to its best purpose. You’ll be better prepared in case of an emergency such as a job loss, major health crisis, or extensive home repair. And it gives you some room to splurge. That may sound counterintuitive, but having a budget can “give you permission” to buy those fancy shoes or purchase those drive-in concert tickets by tracking your expenses and building in an amount you choose for the fun spending.

Another way a budget can help you is to make it easier to clarify your short- and long-term savings goals. Long-term financial goals are often too easy to put off for later. For example, depending on your age, saving for retirement may seem a long way off. However, a budget can help you discover a way to fit it in, even if it’s just a small amount at first.

Here are a few examples of goals you may want to achieve:

There’s a need for all three types of saving in your financial wellness plan. Starting earlier than later gives you a huge advantage by utilizing the power of compound earnings (see tip #2).

A budget can also be a helpful tool to use if you have a partner. Kyle, who was recently married, adds, “Another thing I’ve found to be important for my wife and me is our ability to budget and to communicate about money. This saves so many headaches and allows us to be on the same page. Once a month, we review our budget and see how we did. Then we adjust it accordingly. This small step allows us the chance to understand where our money is going and puts it on paper.”

Consider setting up a budget if you don’t have one. You can download a myriad of budgeting apps, set up a simple Excel sheet, or use our interactive budget form.

5. Keep credit card debt to a minimum

Credit card loans crossed the $1 trillion mark last year, reaching $1.08 trillion in the third quarter of 2019 (debt.org). Before credit cards, people knew easily whether or not they were living within their means. But the average credit card debt for Americans reached $6,194 in 2019, and balances increased 3% compared to the year before. Also of note, generations X, Y, and Z tend to carry more debt, including credit card debt, than older generations (Experian). Those who don’t pay attention and overuse their credit cards may not realize they’re overspending until they’re weighed down with debt.

Paying off outstanding bills has many benefits—it improves your credit score, reduces stress, and increases your financial security. Focus on paying off credit cards and other high interest debt.

Use our credit card pay-off calculator to see what it will take to pay off your balance. Visit our financial calculators page for this and many other helpful financial calculators.

6. Don’t chase the market

Especially during times of uncertainty like we’re in now, people tend to make investment choices based on emotion rather than careful consideration of their long-term plan. Selling stocks or cashing out your retirement savings when things look shaky, then buying again when the outlook seems brighter, is a common mistake. Trying to time the market almost never pays off because no one really knows what will happen next. Moving out of your investments into cash or very conservative investments means you may lose any opportunity to recover your losses when the stock market rebounds. One of the best things you can do right now for your retirement is to stay the course for the long term.

7. Create an emergency fund

Plan for unexpected expenses—there will always be surprise financial situations that pop up in daily life. Start with a goal of saving at least three months worth of expenses in your emergency fund—six months is even better if you can do it.

Consider setting up a recurring transaction to place money in your emergency fund each month. If you need to, take it slow and just save $20 per paycheck, increasing as you are able.

Do you already have a well-established emergency fund and it’s calling your name? Every time you consider spending money from your emergency fund, ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Is it unexpected?
  2. Is it necessary (a need vs. a want)?
  3. Is it urgent?

Use your answers to guide your decision to make it less tempting to dip into the fund.

8. Understand and take advantage of your workplace benefits

Understand and take advantage of your benefits including flex spending accounts, health savings accounts, life insurance, disability insurance, WRS, matching contributions to your retirement savings plan, etc. Visit your district office if you’re unclear about the benefits available to you.

9. Have adequate insurance coverage

Stuff happens. Insurance is key to your financial well-being and is an important part of your financial plan. Protect yourself appropriately with auto insurance, renters/home/condo insurance, umbrella insurance, and more.

However, while nearly everyone thinks they are adequately insured, few actually are. If you’re like most people who treat insurance like a commodity (i.e., based solely on price), you risk leaving yourself and your family exposed to financial loss or purchasing coverages you don’t need.

Member Benefits can take a look at your insurance needs and your existing coverage. If you’re well protected, we’ll tell you! If not, we’ll recommend changes and coach you to become a better insurance consumer. Call 1-800-279-4030 for a free consultation.

10. Pay attention to fees

Fees are everywhere—bank fees, credit card fees, loan fees, and retirement account fees. Fees matter. Keep an eye on how much you’re paying in fees because they can take a bite out of your bottom line.

“We appreciate the time and expertise Member Benefits provides our family as we make long-term financial decisions.”
— Nick German, teacher, Appleton Area School District

Remember, Member Benefits is here to help you with financial information and guidance, whether it’s an online resource, an individual consultation, or an in-depth financial plan. “I can’t say enough about Member Benefits’ efforts to help us understand our retirement investments,” adds Nick. “This year we met with Mark Resch (a Member Benefits Consultant) for a short individual consultation. He helped us realize we were on track for a comfortable retirement and that we could afford a larger home that better fits our growing family.

“We appreciate the time and expertise Member Benefits provides our family as we make long-term financial decisions.”

Member Benefit Consultants can provide assistance with your retirement savings accounts but do not offer investment advice. Registered Representatives of and securities offered through WEA Investment Services, Inc., member FINRA. All financial advisory services are offered through WEA Financial Advisors, Inc., an SEC registered investment advisor.

Coffee or Savings

Take a look and see what saving $20 per month could do for your savings goals with our infographic demonstrating the power of compound interest!

If you would like to download a PDF of the infographic, click on the image.

coffee or savings

This infographic and these calculations are for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. Certain recommendations or guidelines may not be appropriate for everyone. Consult your personal advisor or attorney for advice specific to your unique circumstances before taking action. Your actual situation may be different from the value shown here. This example uses a projected interest rate of 6% for illustrative purposes only. No guarantees are expressed or implied. Results will vary depending upon the actual rate used in the calculation. Over time, the results of any investment will fluctuate, can lose value, and are not guaranteed.

The 403(b) retirement program is offered by the WEA TSA Trust. TSA program registered representatives are licensed through WEA Investment Services, Inc., member FINRA. All advisory services are offered through WEA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor.

Tips for paying for health care in retirement

Before you start, keep this in mind: Figuring out when you can retire isn’t predominantly driven by your savings; rather, it’s driven by your expenses. Determining the income you need each year to support your lifestyle is important, as well as estimating your future health care costs and insurance options.

Fortunately, you have several options to choose from based on your individual situation.

Employer-sponsored health insurance for retirees

Your school district may offer the option to continue your health insurance coverage as you enter retirement. If so, be clear on what is actually offered and their approach on covering premiums for spouses/partners/dependents. Rising costs are leading many employers to change the retiree benefits they offer, so approach with some caution and be sure you have enough flexibility to go with the changes.

Health savings account (HSA)

An HSA is a tax-advantaged account to help people save for medical expenses that high-deductible health plans don’t cover. Your district may offer this in lieu of employer-sponsored insurance after retirement.

COBRA coverage

COBRA typically extends your current employer-sponsored plan for up to 18 months after you retire. It can be quite expensive. You may be able to use funds from an HSA to pay for premiums.

Affordable Care Act

This public market place for insurance varies in cost by age, state, insurer, plan level, and year. Depending on your income, you may qualify for subsidies.

Private insurance

This is often significantly more expensive than the public exchange, but it may be preferable if you have the resources or specific medical needs. Be careful not to miss the open enrollment period.

Spousal health plan

If your spouse is still working, they may be able to enroll you in their plan, which can be the easiest and most cost effective option. Be sure to talk together about the timing of your retirement and the possibility of other options to bridge the gap.

Work part-time

Some retirees choose to work part-time for the insurance, which can still give you flexibility and plenty of time off depending on the job.

In general, plan for escalating costs over time. Health care costs are anticipated to rise by an average of 5.5% per year over the next decade (CMS). Invest in healthy habits to help you enjoy life and make living more affordable.

Consider whether early retirement is worth cutting back on enjoyable lifestyle expenses in order to pay for health care costs—there is no wrong answer, but it’s important to understand the costs and benefits.

Smart spending

Expecting a tax refund from Uncle Sam this year? According to the IRS, the average 2019 tax refund for those who received one was $2,833—a significant chunk of change.

If you do receive a refund this year, consider using it to improve your financial situation. Here are six great suggestions.

1. Pay off debt

Credit-card loans crossed the $1 trillion mark this year, reaching $1.08 trillion in the third quarter of 2019 (debt.org). Paying off outstanding bills has many benefits—it improves your credit score, reduces stress, and increases your financial security. Focus on paying off credit cards and other high interest debt.

Use our credit card pay-off calculator to see what it will take to pay off your balance. Visit our financial calculators page for this and many other helpful financial calculators.

2. Add to your retirement savings

Add to your current retirement savings plan or open an IRA. You may make contributions before tax (Traditional), after tax (Roth), or some combination of the two up to the IRA limit.

Unsure of which one to choose? Use our IRA comparison tool to determine what may be right for you.

3. Buy more coverage

Umbrella insurance, which provides liability coverage above the limits in your auto and home insurance policies, is often overlooked as an important part of your financial security. You can purchase $1 million or more of additional liability coverage very economically.

Long-term care insurance also helps protect your assets and may be worth a look. It has been called “the greatest uninsured financial risk today.” This is because the majority of costs for extended care services needed during recuperation from strokes, accidents, and illnesses are not covered by your health insurance or Medicare. The chances of needing long-term care usually increase as you age, but long-term care may be needed at any age.

4. Save, save, save

Start an Edvest or other 529 college savings plan for your kids or grandkids. Build up an emergency fund. Start a money market account with a higher interest rate to save for a vacation, a new car, or home remodel. Whatever your goal, you’ll feel better knowing you have a head start on your savings. Our savings calculator can help you understand what it will take to reach your goal.

5. Share the wealth

Consider giving some or all of your refund to your favorite charity. Often monetary donations to charitable organizations are tax deductible, and you’ll feel good knowing your money will go toward helping others in need. WEA Member Benefits Foundation supports public schools and is one way you can give back.

6. Open a Personal Investment Account

A Member Benefits Personal Investment Account offers a way to invest your money outside of a retirement account. It is an alternative to cash accounts such as savings, checking or certificates of deposit and can be registered in your name or opened jointly with anyone. There may also be tax advantages to these types of investments.

Finally, if you received a sizeable tax refund this year, you may want to consider adjusting your income tax withholding. Doing this will reduce your annual refund, but you will be taking home more money each paycheck instead of letting Uncle Sam hold on to it (interest free).

What’s your financial vision for 2020?

Improving one’s finances is one of the top ten most popular resolutions in the U.S. Here are a few tips and resources to help you take charge of your financial future.

Take a look at where your money is going.

Start by listing your expenses and categorizing them as either a necessary or a discretionary expense. Necessary expenses are things like rent or mortgage, car payment, gas and electric, and groceries. Discretionary spending includes dining out, specialty coffee drinks, or other kinds of entertainment.

To get a good handle on your spending, you may need to track your expenses for several months. Using our online budget worksheet or other online service may be helpful.

Once you understand where your money is going, it will be easier to start making changes. Redirect the money you save by eliminating discretionary expenses to pay down debt. After your debt is under control, funnel that amount into savings. Build up an emergency savings fund for unexpected expenses and make a plan to save for retirement.

To make a big impact on your household budget, look at your biggest expenses—typically housing and transportation. Many financial professionals recommend that people spend no more than 28 percent of their gross monthly income on housing expenses and no more than 36 percent on total debt. If your housing costs are out of whack, it may be time to consider a move. Driving a more economical car or eliminating an extra vehicle can also save you a substantial amount.

Plan for your future.

Open a 403(b) or IRA. You don’t have to start with a lot—the important thing is to just start. If you already have an account, pledge to increase your contributions, even if it’s just a little bit.  Compound interest can help you build that nest egg over time. Check with your school district on when you can make changes to your 403(b) salary reduction agreement.

Educate yourself.

We make it easy to get started…just visit our Learning Center and you’ll find helpful articles, brochures, eBooks, calculators, and more.

As always, if you have questions, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 1-800-279-4030.

Freshen up your financial knowledge

Build a budget

A budget sets the groundwork for sprucing up your finances. Think of it as a road map for managing your money or a tool that helps you make smarter decisions as you track your monthly expenses.

Not only does it help ensure you’ll have money for the things you need and that are important to you, but having a spending plan can also help keep you out of debt (or work your way out of it).

In simple terms, a budget compares what’s coming in with what’s going out. And it’s not just for those who need to closely monitor their money—even people with large paychecks and lots of money in the bank can benefit too.

Why have a budget?

  1. It helps maximize your savings and investments, allowing you to make sure your hard-earned money is being used to its best purpose.
  2. You’ll be better prepared in case of an emergency such as a job loss, major health crisis, or extensive home repair.
  3. You can build in a plan to pay off debt.
  4. It gives you some room to splurge. That may sound counterintuitive, but having a budget can “give you permission” to buy those concert tickets or celebrate at that nice restaurant by tracking your expenses and building in an amount you choose for the fun spending.
  5. It can help you clarify your short- and long-term savings goals. Long-term financial goals are often too easy to put off for later. For example, depending on your age, saving for retirement may seem a long way off. However, a budget can help you discover a way to fit it in, even if it’s just a small amount at first. Starting earlier than later gives you a huge advantage by utilizing the power of compound earnings (see next page).
  6. You’ll be less likely to spend money you don’t have. Before credit cards, people knew easily whether or not they were living within their means. But in 2017, the average American had a credit card balance of $6,375, up 3% from the year before (Experian). Those who don’t pay attention and overuse their credit cards may not realize they’re overspending until they’re weighed down with debt.

Budgets are not just about saving and spending. One important aspect of your financial health is protecting yourself from loss with appropriate insurance coverage. We can help you assess what you need.


Budgeting options

You don’t need to be a math whiz to create and maintain a budget. Spreadsheets and online software can take care of the calculations for you. Do a search for software online, create your own spreadsheet, or go old school with a ledger—whatever works for you.

Stick with it

The point of a budget is to give you more financial freedom, not less. If you find yourself having a hard time following a budget, follow these tips:

Creating a budget is not a “one and done” project. Once you’ve built your budget, review it regularly and make adjustments because life changes…just like the seasons.

Save for your future

Saving for retirement should be at the top of your list of long-term budget goals.

While Wisconsin public school employees are fortunate to have the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS), WRS is not enough. And don’t count on Social Security to fill in the gap. On average, Social Security payments make up only about 14%–28% of retirement income for those who receive WRS. To build a secure retirement, you need three things: WRS, Social Security, and your personal savings.

Personal savings options

You can save with a 403(b) through your district, and if eligible, you can also open an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). With an IRA, and sometimes with the 403(b), you can choose between a pretax or Roth account (see below).

If your employer (or your spouse’s employer) offers a match in your 403(b) plan, take it. It’s free money. Added bonus: The match effectively increases your income without increasing your tax bill, since you pay no taxes on matching contributions until you withdraw them in retirement.


Most Wisconsin public school employees can expect their retirement income to come from:


Start sooner than later

The earlier you start, the more you can benefit from compound earnings. Compounding is when earnings on your investments are reinvested in your account. The reinvested earnings may also have earnings, and then those earnings are reinvested, and so on. This means that contributing a small amount now could benefit you more in the long run than any larger amount you contribute later on. Even modest monthly contributions can grow to several hundred thousand dollars over three or four decades.

Make it automatic

If you have an IRA, making contributions directly from your savings or checking account will make it much easier to save. With Member Benefits, you can set up SmartPlan, or you can use payroll deduction if your district offers it.

If you haven’t started saving for retirement yet, give us a call. We can help you open an account or simply answer any questions you may have.

Brush up on investing terms

Now that you’ve decided to start saving for retirement, what do you need to know? Here are a few investing terms to familiarize yourself with.

Pretax vs. Roth (after-tax)

Traditional (pretax) accounts allow you to defer the taxes on your contributions and at the same time reduce your taxable income. The earnings grow tax-deferred but both the earnings and initial investment will be taxed when withdrawn.

Roth accounts allow for after-tax contributions. You pay taxes now in exchange for tax-free treatment of earnings on qualified withdrawals.

Diversification

Having a variety of investments in your portfolio helps manage risk. Historically, it also yields higher returns as the positive performance of some investments offset the negative performance of others.

Risk

Before you consider any investment, you need to understand risk and determine your personal risk tolerance. Lower risk investments have averaged modest long-term historical returns. Higher-risk investments, such as large company, small company, and foreign stocks, have averaged higher returns historically, but with more volatility or fluctuation in value. Learn your risk tolerance by using our “What kind of investor are you?” calculator.

Asset allocation

This is how you divide your money among stocks, bonds, and short-term reserves. The aim is to control risk by diversifying your portfolio. Your allocation should be based on your tolerance for risk.

Fees

The impact of fees over time on your IRA or 403(b) account can significantly reduce your nest egg. Pay attention to all of the costs, including plan fees and mutual fund expense ratios. Not all providers or funds charge the same fees. Visit weabenefits.com/fees to learn more.


Member Benefits’ investment options include plug-and-play options for those with less time or inclination to monitor their portfolio allocation, as well as do-it-yourself investing for a more hands on approach. Visit our investment choices page for more information.