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4 Good Pieces of Money Advice No One Ever Wants to Hear

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Mar 28, 2024 #advice, #Good, #Hear, #Money, #Pieces

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  • The best money advice is usually boring and unsexy, which explains why no one wants to hear it.
  • But CPA Rachel Wooten says these tips can help you save more for retirement and your other goals.
  • She advises maxing out your HSA, avoiding lifestyle creep, and starting to save for retirement ASAP.

The best money advice is decidedly unsexy.

Just do a quick Google search and you’ll find dozens of books, financial advisors, and self-made millionaires all preaching the same thing: invest for the long-term; don’t try to time the market; and let your investments compound over many years. Most of us would rather cover our ears and hope to get rich quick.

When I spoke with Rachel Wooten, a CPA and then-finance director at the Flint Group, she confirmed that there’s plenty of money advice no one wants to hear, but everyone should follow. Here are four things she wants you to know.

1. Invest the maximum possible in your health savings account

When it comes to retirement planning, most of us have heard that we should max out our IRA or 401(k). But a just-as-helpful retirement tool that you should also max out is your health savings account.

An HSA is a tax-advantaged savings account created in 2003 to help people with high-deductible health plans pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Although the purpose of an HSA is to save money for inevitable healthcare expenses, you can just as easily use your HSA as an investing tool.

“The HSA is the only account that allows you to pay no taxes at all on contributions, growth, or withdrawals,” says Wooten. “Invest your HSA funds and avoid reimbursing yourself for those expensive braces or doctor visits, and you’ll come out ahead in the long run.” Also, if you leave your HSA money in your account until age 65, you can withdraw your HSA funds for non-medical expenses at any point.

2. Put your investments on auto-pilot

After juggling work, family, and hobbies, the last thing most of us want to think about is actively trading a portfolio. That’s why one of the best ways to set yourself up for the future is through an employer-sponsored retirement plan. These are attractive, passive options that most employees can take advantage of. All you have to do is select how much of your paycheck you want to contribute each pay period.

The best strategy is to put your investments in a total market index fund or exchange-traded fund, and then forget them. “Sure, trading stocks is fun and a lot more interesting than this boring strategy, but over the long term, you are more likely to lose money actively trading than to beat market returns,” Wooten says.

3. Avoid lifestyle creep

It’s not what you make. It’s what you keep. Unfortunately, this idea gets lost on most people after they get a raise. “After a salary increase, many people immediately consider upgrading their house or vehicle. However, studies have shown that cars, houses, etc., can become quickly acclimated to, so the uplift in happiness is short-lived,” Wooten says.

If you can avoid this tendency for lifestyle creep and instead boost your savings and investments when you get a raise or bonus, you can significantly decrease your financial stress.

Sure, there are exceptions to this rule, as maybe there is a house repair or medical emergency you have been putting off for financial reasons. However, to become financially secure, consider upgrades carefully before committing to a higher standard of living.

4. Start saving for retirement as early as possible

For most people just starting their careers, it’s difficult to set money aside for something as far down the road as retirement. “It’s hard to convince a person in their 20s to consider the well-being of their older self, but money stashed away early in your career will have the benefit of compounding doing the heavy lifting for them,” says Wooten.

To see the importance of investing earlier rather than later, let’s look at this example (you can run your own through our free retirement calculator). Two people save $100 a month for retirement, each has a 5% annual compound rate of return, but one starts at 25, and the other starts at 35. The one who started at 25 will have saved nearly twice as much by age 65.

The person who started investing at 25 will have roughly $162,000 in their account, while the person who started at 35 will only have $89,000. This is the power of compound interest. The 25-year-old investor would have only invested $12,000 more of their own money, yet they would have over $70,000 more than the person who started at 35.

This article was originally published in July 2021.

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