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Whether you're leaving a job involuntarily, departing for something new, or just want to prepare for the unknown, it is smart to understand all your options regarding your 401k.


Leave It Where It Is

401k plans differ based on the employer, but most will give you the option to leave your 401k where it is even when you don't work for them anymore.

Depending on the 401k's money options, your money might be better off in the investments at your old job than moving it elsewhere. If you are happy with the investment options in the existing 401k, but not necessarily with your other options, it may be best to stay put. I personally did this with an ex-employer's 401k, because I was happy with the expense ratios and investments they offered.

Larger employers tend to offer 401k programs at lower fees. Compare any fees from your previous employer's 401k plan to whichever vehicles you are considering transferring to first. To do so, check the expense ratios of the mutual funds offered in both plans.

Depending on how much money is in your 401k at the time you leave, it may not be a good idea to leave it and do nothing. Often, accounts with balances of $5,000 or less may be closed automatically. If this happens, the employer may end up sending you a lump sum check, or deposit the money into an IRA in your name. It's best to check with your employer first.

Know that you won't be able to make more contributions to the existing 401k once your employment ends. Withdrawal options are also limited. 401k benefits, such as retirement loans, are usually not allowed once you are no longer actively participating in the plan.

Roll It into a 401k with Your New Employer

Simplicity is the key to easy 401k management. The standard routine for 401ks when you switch jobs is to roll it into your new employer's retirement plan.

Having just one 401k to manage can be beneficial if you don't continuously dedicate time to review all your accounts. However, as we mentioned before, you should closely compare expenses and investment options before making that decision.

Roll It into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

You also have the option to roll over the funds from your 401k into an IRA account with a bank or brokerage firm, where your money will continue to grow tax-deferred.

One possible benefit of an IRA rollover is the plethora of investment options available to you. Many 401ks are limited to just a handful of mutual funds and bonds, whereas IRAs give you more choices.

Likewise, many 401ks limit the number of times in a year you can make investment changes (known as portfolio rebalancing). With IRA accounts, you're not limited to a select amount of times you can make such changes, giving you more freedom and flexibility with an IRA.

Many brokerages and banks are known for giving out incentives to new customers — and there's no shortage of handouts when it comes to opening a new IRA with them. You may be able to snag yourself a bonus while gaining more control over your retirement money.

As promising as IRA rollovers can be, it's not always going to be the best option for 401k funds. For example, let's say you've left a job for another and you're debating moving your previous 401k into an IRA or your new employer's plan. Always take into consideration employer matching contributions. Most employer's 401k programs will contribute a certain percentage or match what you put into the account. For example, let's say the program will match up to 6% of your contributions, and you contribute 6% of your salary that year which ends up being $3,000. With the employer matching contributions, you end up gaining another $3,000 for the year. If you choose the IRA, you could possibly miss out on a ton of money.

Take the Money

You always have the option to simply close out your 401k when you leave your job, but this is almost always a bad choice.

If you decide to take the cash when you aren't 59 ½ or older, then you will end up paying an excessive amount of taxes along with penalty fees that are usually around 10%.

Your Next Steps

Once you have decided which rollover option to take, your first step is to set up the new account. When the account is opened, the new provider will provide you with instructions to transfer the money. Usually, this means you are in charge of contacting the former employer's plan administration and letting them know you need to make a direct rollover.

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Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.