Should I Play the Lottery In My Thirties?

Last week the Powerball jackpot was 1.5 billion dollars. A bunch of my friends bought tickets and a few of them even won…four whole dollars.

When one of my friends first told me he went and bought a bunch of tickets, I’ll be honest, I was little upset with the idea. He asked me if I was going to buy any myself, and I replied with a haughty, ‘no, I think I’m going to invest my money and save it, thank you very much.’

I kinda felt amazingly proud of myself- the lottery (and gambling in general) are things that I can easily control my response to and I value that about myself. I have insane self-control when it comes to spending money on things that I consider wasteful. I don’t know if I’ve ever purchased a lottery ticket- maybe I bought some for an ex many years ago.

However, something about my own response bugged me- was it really so bad to buy lotto tickets? That same week, I received an email newsletter from a writer I love, Ramit Sethi. He was talking about how silly it is to discourage people from buying lotto tickets, because, in a way, you’re discouraging them from dreaming. Ironically, he was actually writing in response to bloggers who scoffed at people who bought lotto tickets. He said:

Their articles [finance bloggers] reflect a total lack of understanding about WHY people buy lottery tickets. Hint: People who buy lottery tickets don’t really expect to win. People know the odds are astronomically, cosmically against them. So why would they do it?

The answer: They’re buying permission to dream about winning it.

If you think about it, $2 for a dream is well worth it. If you live a life where you’re counting pennies, isn’t it worth paying $2 for the dream of becoming fabulously wealthy — even if just for an hour? Hell, if you live a humdrum life of $60,000/year with 2% annual raises and one 2-day vacation a year, you can see why people would crave an escape.

By the way, there are a LOT of other ways we pay for an escape: Movies, fancy clothes, and so many more things. Isn’t it funny how lottery tickets cost less, but incur more wrath from judgmental people? It’s fun. It makes you feel good, and that’s a great reason to spend $2. OF COURSE lottery tickets are mathematically stupid. So is going to a bar to meet someone…but we do it anyway.

I never really thought about lotto tickets that way, but they’re a tiny price to pay to dream about something way bigger and more exciting in your life. Sure, we can all visualize and meditate and dream for free, but any tool that helps you feel happier and more passionate about life, is harmless, and only costs a couple of dollars, is absolutely, totally worth it. Use the tools that you discover- little indulgences here and there can help you feel better and dream exponentially bigger. Make the ‘silly’ choice sometimes.

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Budgeting in Your 30’s When You Hate Budgeting

For all the writing I do about finance and money goals, I really hate to budget. I just can’t stand it.

Perhaps this is because I’m already a big saver, so when I want something, I usually REALLY want it, and not much is going to stand in my way. I hate not listening to my own written budget, but I wouldn’t listen if I really wanted something badly, so I feel like I’d probably go over budget lot of the time, and then I’d kick myself. Ok, so this is actually a self-control issue. :/

I walked around forever with budget hatred burning a hole in the pit of my stomach until recently, when I read an article and realized I’d been kind of following an unofficial budget strategy all along. I googled the info in that article and came upon even more articles that outlined alternative budgeting strategies. Turns out, I naturally follow a common budget strategy called the 80/20 budget, though my version is actually a 70/30 budget.

The 80/20 budget is basically the simplest and least detailed way to budget ever. And I love it, because the details of budgeting make me nuts. Here’s how it works: when you get a paycheck, 20 percent goes to savings. The rest is fair game to divide between needs and wants. That’s it.

This is kind of amazing if you’re never sure how much you’re going to spend in any given month- no matter what, you’ll still be saving. I do a 70/30 budget, or actually a 70/10/10/10 budget, which is only slightly different than the 80/20. The way it works is:

  1. I get a paycheck
  2. I put 10 percent in my retirement account immediately
  3. I put 10 percent in my savings account immediately
  4. I put 10 percent towards my student loan immediately (this is always in addition to the minimum monthly fee I pay)
  5. Then the other 70 percent is divided as best I can among EVERYTHING else without making a budget.
  6. Within the 70 percent, my NEEDS include: Rent, utilities, and student loan minimums (definite needs), as well as food, metrocards (transit), laundry money, and toiletries.
  7. Also within the 70 percent are WANTS including: eating out and or/drinking with friends, food and coffee and green juice splurges, new shoes or clothes, tickets to theater, subscriptions to Spotify and Hulu.

Don’t get me wrong- it’s probably best to actually budget everything out little by little with a food budget, a clothing budget, and an eating out with friends budget. But I’ve never done this, and I don’t know if I’d stick to it if I did. So I think it’s better to at least have SOME sort of budget! And with the 80/20 (or 70/30, or even 60/40) budget, you’re at least still saving. If you don’t have students loans, I’d recommend putting at least 10-15 percent of your paycheck immediately into your retirement account, and then 10-15 percent immediately into a savings account.

What’s funny about taking a certain percentage out of your paycheck right away and paying down a debt and/or putting it into savings is how little you notice that the money is gone. It’s a strange phenomenon! Try it if you don’t believe me. Take 10 percent out of your paycheck immediately each month and put it into savings…you probably won’t even miss it! And if you do, you can always take it back. I wouldn’t recommend it…but the whole point is that your savings account belongs to you! 🙂

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What To Do With A 401K From Your Old Job

Since you’re in your thirties, or almost there, I’m going to take a guess and say that you’ve probably changed jobs at least once.

In fact, it’s likely that  you’ve changed jobs multiple times.

So what did you do with the 401ks from your old jobs? Did you even have one then?

When I was looking into this (because I’ve gotten this 401k question a lot), I noticed that not only did many people not know what to do with their old 401ks, many of them didn’t know how to FIND them..or they didn’t know whether they had a 401k with their former job in the first place. 

So first things first: let’s start with what to do with a 401k at an old job when you know where it is and that it exists. Basically, there are 4 options:

1. Leave the 401k where it is (with the old job.)

2. Roll the money into your current job’s 401k

3. Roll the money into an IRA

4. Take the money and run.

I’m going to start with a warning: please don’t do the last one! DO NOT take the money and run!!! It’s a really bad idea, and will cost you a ton of money to do so! If you pull the money out of an old 401k before age 55 (retirement age for 401ks), two things will happen: 1. You’ll be hit with a 10% penalty!! 2. You’ll have to pay taxes on all the money as if it was regular income (which it is)! Just don’t do it! My research found that 25% of people choose this option…don’t be one of them! Anyway, that’s my two cents on that choice.

So now you have three choices left. All of these choices are pretty good- it really depends on what you want.

Two of the choices may not be an option:

1. You may not even be able to roll your money into your current employer’s 401k plan. You’ll have to check with them and see.

2. If you have less than $5000 in an old 401k, your old employer may not let you keep the money there anyway.

So, if you’re looking to have all your accounts in one place and less hassle with paperwork, I’d recommend either rolling your old 401k account into your new 401k account (if your new job allows you to do that), or consolidating everything into a rollover IRA.

But if you’re looking for the best possible investment options and don’t care about the hassle of paperwork from multiple accounts, you’ll have to do a little research. Here’s what you should be thinking about: 

a)Sometimes the 401k at your old job has some special investment options (like company stock) that you can’t get in an IRA.

b) A 401k offers slightly more protection from creditors in certain states.

c) You can withdraw from a 401k penalty free at age 55, but you can’t withdraw from an IRA until age 59.5 without a fee.

So if you have great old company stock or are really worried about creditors or really want to retire by 55, you may want to leave your money alone in the old 401k or roll into the new one (if possible).

But generally, rolling your old 401k into a Rollover IRA is the simplest and most cost-effective way to go. 

Here’s how to set up and roll your old 401k into a Rollover IRA and get started at Vanguard. 

Here’s how to set up and roll your old 401k into a Rollover IRA and get started at Fidelity.

Now, if your 401k is lost or you aren’t sure whether you even have old 401ks lying around from old jobs, see the awesome 401k helpcenter I found!

Hope this helps! I know that’s a lot of info if you’re unfamiliar with IRAs and 401Ks so, as always, let me know if you have any questions or anything to add! Thanks!

Do not take the money and run. You won't be able to hide...the IRS will find you and tax you on it...and take away 10% of it...

Do not take the money and run. You won’t be able to hide…the IRS will find you. And tax you…

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