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Your 401K balance could be lower than what you see on paper

(FINANCE) Your 401k balance is looking good, but there are factors you might not be taking into account (including the fact that you need to stick with your current job a little longer).

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401k balance

Most of us want to retire at some point, and as you do your yearly finances (taxes, retirement, etc.) you may be looking at your 401(k) account and have some thoughts in mind.

Many Americans don’t have any retirement savings, so if you do – you may be feeling good.

But it is important to note that while your balance may look good, you may need to reexamine – because you may not have the full amount that you see.

There are a couple of things to consider if you determining if your balance is appropriate and on-track. (Most financial experts say you need to have at least 10 times your salary saved by age 67 – FYI).

There is of course, the fact you will have to pay taxes on 401k withdrawals eventually, and there are of course fees associated with your 401k – service fees, investment fees, and plan administration fees. You will want to take a look at that – at some point.

The most pressing question right now – Your employer sponsored 401k most likely has some kind of match. Ideally, you’d take advantage of that max – as not contributing the amount to get the maximum match is basically giving away free money however, that money may not be yours yet.

You may not be eligible to take it if you leave or change employers if you have not met the vesting period (usually 3-7 years) for your current employer. With the median length of tenure for salaried employees being 4.3 years – it is very possible you may lose some of that balance if you move or change careers.

And remember, the balance you see in your 401k account doesn’t include the taxes you’ll have to pay when you ultimately use that balance.

So what can you do?

Check your plan details. You may need to contact the plan administrator or someone at your HR department. If you are considering changing your careers, be mindful that you may forfeit some of that balance.

You may need to talk to a financial advisor to ensure you can reach your goals.

Also, while you are examining your plan, ask yourself If you need to consider adjusting your investment strategy to accommodate your retirement goals. Also, while you are considering your 401k – consider other IRAs, Health Savings Accounts, or other investments and ensure you are on the right track.

Kam has a Master's degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and is an HR professional. Obsessed with food, but writing about virtually anything, he has a passion for LGBT issues, business, technology, and cats.

Business Finance

How small companies can compete with free shipping

(BUSINESS FINANCE) When running a smaller shop online, how can you compete with free shipping from giants like Amazon that can afford it?

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shipping boxes


It’s hard enough for small businesses to compete with big retailers. But online shops also have to consider the additional cost of shipping. With stores like Amazon and Walmart.com offering very cheap or even free shipping, how is a smaller shop to compete?

Shopify, an e-commerce platform for online shops and point-of-sale-systems, posed this question to Thea Earl, product manager for Shopify Shipping. On the AskShopify blog, she offered some tips for managing shipping costs.

First, Earl points out that while “free shipping is an excellent marketing tool,” if you can’t afford to offer free shipping, it helps to offer a “really clear flat rate.”

Customers who think they’re getting a good deal may balk if they’re surprised by an exorbitant cost to ship. If you can consistently offer a flat rate, and let the customer know right off the bat, they’ll “know what to expect when they hit checkout” and won’t get sticker shock at the last minute, causing cart abandonment.

If you want to offer free or very cheap shipping, consider raising the prices of your products, even by a dollar or so, to help cover delivery costs. Note the ratio between the profit margin and the cost to ship.

Perhaps for highly profitable items, you can afford to absorb the shipping costs, while slightly raising the prices of less profitable products to offset the balance.

Lastly, Earl realizes that small business owners have no control over whether or not a carrier raises its prices to ship.

You do, however, have control over the packaging. Be smart about the types of packaging you use. Measure products and buy envelopes and boxes that are just the right size to save money on weight.

Paper and poly envelopes are lighter, and therefore usually cheaper than cardboard boxes. Also, Earl points out that most carriers have at least a few options for free packaging. Utilize these free options whenever you can.

And of course, you could always join a group like Shopify to take advantage of their bulk mailing partnerships with carriers like UPS, USPS, and DHL.

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Business Finance

Calculator for what your freelance rate should be

(FINANCE) When every second on the clock counts and saving is imperative, where can you go to figure out your optimal freelance rate?

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freelance rates


The issue of what your freelance rate should be is daunting for most, but is especially stressful for those who aren’t particularly mathematically gifted. When every second on the clock counts and saving is imperative, where can you go to figure out your optimal rate? A new calculator has an answer.

What Is My Day Rate is a salary calculator which determines the hourly (and daily) amount you’d have to charge in order to meet your optimal salary.

The calculator itself is intuitive enough: upon landing on the What Is My Day Rate webpage, you simply enter your preferred annual income and wait for the results to load. You’ll see both a daily and an hourly sum appear shortly thereafter.

The process of figuring out how much to charge is simple, but that doesn’t mean the process is simple.

What Is My Day Rate draws from similar geographical, workplace, and demographic data to give you a number which reflects post-holiday, post-fee, post-non-billable work results.

By clicking the “See how we calculated this” link at the bottom of the page, you can see a specific breakdown of how What Is My Day Rate determined your rate.

You’ll notice that they take into account weekends, holidays, sick leave, bonuses, benefits, and more.

If division is a strong suit for you, you may also notice that What Is My Day Rate operates on a 40-hour workweek model, meaning your rate might even be optimistic for your standards.

One problem with the calculator is that it doesn’t account for taxes of any kind; while it factors in a rather generous benefits percentage and adds in things like mandatory vacation time and unpaid sick leave, there’s still a noticeable gap between the calculator’s projected expenses and what you would probably have to pay.

On the plus side, tax brackets change, so you’ll be able to plug the day rate results into a separate tax calculator without worrying about accuracy issues.

What Is My Day Rate is a valuable tool for any freelancer looking to establish their daily freelance rate without necessitating a spreadsheet and several hours of botched accounting—or a more expensive alternative. If you’re worried about undercharging, head over to their site to lock in your rate ASAP.

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Business Finance

7 ways to quickly get outstanding invoices paid to you

(FINANCE) It’s easy to feel uncomfortable bringing up money with your superiors, but for a freelancer, it’s more important than ever to bring up the issue. Here are 7 tips to get your invoices paid quickly.

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For many, an awkward topic of conversation revolves around money. Whether asking for a raise or asking to borrow money, people often feeling uncomfortable when talking money.

This is equally, or possibly even more so, true for freelancers who are solely in charge of their finances. Without a system of weekly direct deposit, freelancers have to work overtime to keep their earnings in order.

The issue with this is that clients also have a lot on their plates, and something as simple as a freelancer’s paycheck is common to fall through the cracks. This causes freelancers to have to work friendly reminders into their repertoire.

However, freelancers may not always be knowledgeable of the best ways to keep their finances in check (no pun intended). Below are seven ways to enhance payment methods.

  1. You have to be willing to make billing a priority. Due to the fact that money is awkward to talk about, as aforementioned, many let this fall by the wayside. The best way to do this is to keep up to date with your invoices and send them as soon as they are done. Making a calendar specific for billing can help with this idea.
  2. This second bit dates back to when we were young and learning our manners: it is crucial to be polite. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also increases speed in payment. Using “please” and “thank you” in invoicing emails are said to get you paid five percent faster.
  3. It is best to try and keep a complicated concept like finance as simple as possible. Make sure you are creating specific due dates. This will help to signify importance of payment.
  4. Now that virtually anything can be done online, it would make sense to use electronic payment verses an old-school check. Accepting online payments will get a user paid, on average, eight days faster as opposed to a check.
  5. This is an important notion to keep in mind for any aspect of your business life: be professional. Invoices are often seen by many eyes so it is best to include your business’s logo on said invoice. This has been found to increase chances of being paid on time by 10 percent.
  6. Specificity is urged again in the form of transparency. Make sure you are giving detailed descriptions on each invoice so that anyone looking at it knows exactly what you are being paid for. By doing this, you are 15 percent more likely to be paid on time.
  7. While you may be invoicing month by month, try to avoid sending on the 30th or 31st. Being that everyone, generally, sends their invoices in on these dates, it takes 10 – 20 percent longer to be paid. With everyone sending it at the end of the month, it has a tendency to back up payroll.

The most important thing to remember is that while the topic of money may be awkward, it is your money. If you let a few invoices fall behind because you are uncomfortable reminding your client, this has a way of adding up. Be sure to keep on track with your finances to earn what you are working for.

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