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9 ways to improve your personal finances

Adjusting where you put your money and how you spend it can make a big difference for veterinarians.

9 ways to improve your personal finances

Veterinarians are inherently busy, so enacting some relatively easy and quick changes to better themselves financially is a prudent move. Here are nine ways to do just that.

1. Lower your investment fees.

Why are you invested in funds that charge exorbitant fees or commissions? Not many funds, if any, outperform the market over the long term. If you get a similar performance from cheaper investments, you will significantly improve how much money you keep on an after-fee basis. See the example below from AARP showing the math behind this concept:

“For example, assume that you put $500 a month into an investment account for 30 years, earning an average of 7 percent. At a 2 percent annual fee, you’ll wind up with about $409,500, as calculated by NerdWallet. If you slash that fee to 0.25 percent, however, you’ll retire with about $561,500. That’s $152,000 more! Every penny you pay cuts into your future or current standard of living.”

2. Have your CPA and financial adviser work in sync.

Many people meet with an accountant to see how much they owe in taxes retroactively, meaning their CPAs are looking back to see the tax consequences. You can do better. If your CPA and adviser are communicating and working in tandem, the tax savings can be substantial. As an example, an adviser working with a CPA for your benefit will know your tax bracket. You might be able to spread capital gains over many years to avoid being bumped into the next marginal bracket. That alone can save you from unnecessary taxes that would be incurred if your adviser and CPA have no consistent communication.

3. Expensive whole life insurance? You may have options.

Were you sold an unnecessary, expensive, broker-friendly whole life insurance policy? Most of the time, buying a cheap term policy is the better option. If you are paying for a whole life policy, I would encourage reviewing the fine print to see how you can get out of the policy and into a cheaper one that is more aligned with your goals.

4. Make credit cards work for you, not the other way around.

Credit card debt is a vice. Do you pay high interest rates and fees that come with overutilizing your credit cards? Are you making only minimum payments? Using credit cards to your advantage can earn you thousands of dollars a year in points that can be redeemed for cash. Learn more about the opportunity at http://bit.ly/2I5s0hB. An example of this? How about putting wedding expenses on a high rewards card so that you can use the points to pay for part of the honeymoon? How about using the highest earning business card to buy new medical equipment for the office and using the points to pay off a small part of the purchase? Again, this assumes that you are spending money you have in your budget and that the purchases were going to happen regardless. If that is the case, why not get paid the most to spend?

5. Max out your health savings account.

If you are covered under qualifying high-deductible health coverage, maxing out your health savings account, or HSA, is a great option because of its tax treatment. HSAs are tax deductible, meaning the money invested comes off your tax bill, the contributions grow tax-free, and they can be withdrawn without a tax hit. Learn more about HSAs at http://bit.ly/2K4K26i.

6. Max out retirement accounts and utilize accounts specific to your occupation.

Maxing out retirement accounts is always a good place to start accumulating wealth for retirement. See if your employer offers a Roth component. Going back to point No. 2, if you can contribute to a Roth portion of your retirement account, the funds can be withdrawn tax-free in retirement. Speaking with your adviser and CPA is especially helpful here as practice owners have many options. If you are being paid as a 1099 employee or are a practice owner, specific retirement accounts can increase the amount you can save.

7. Consider a Roth IRA conversion if you have a low income year.

If you don’t earn much one year — perhaps you changed jobs or were fired — then converting a portion of or your entire retirement account to a Roth can be a smart move. This is known as a backdoor Roth IRA. You pay income taxes on the converted amount, so taking advantage of a low income year will allow you to pay less tax because you were in a lower income bracket.

8. Make 529 contributions.

529 plans have even more flexibility this year. Read more about it at http://bit.ly/30Fy2hw. Making 529 contributions can have triple tax advantages, like with an HSA, if you live in a state that offers a tax deduction for contributions. Even the state does not, the funds grow tax-free and can be used for qualified education expenses.

9. Put your emergency fund in a higher yielding savings account.

If you have an emergency savings account, that’s great. Picking the right savings account to keep five to seven months’ worth of living expenses is a quick win. Here is a tool to help sort the best rates and banks that fit your needs: http://bit.ly/2Md4ZyD.

Bonus idea: Earmark money for professional and personal development every month.

When you set aside a predetermined amount each month to invest in yourself both personally and professionally, you remove the mental hurdle of spending the money to better yourself. This is a powerful tool for self-development.

If you are a DVM who finds these topics to be of interest and you want to find more ways to better yourself financially, I invite you to contact me at https://calendly.com/miles-mnswm.

Miles Saunders is the founder of Westport, Connecticut-based MNS Wealth Management. His views should not be construed directly or indirectly as an offer to buy or sell any securities mentioned herein. For a comprehensive review of your personal situation, always consult with a tax or legal adviser.

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