One of the most common reasons businesses fail is due to lack of proper cash flow. The same is often true in many households. Here’s how this concept of cash flow applies to you along with some ideas to improve it.
Cash flow defined
Cash flow equals cash coming in (wages, interest, Social Security benefits) and cash going out in the bills you pay and money you spend. If more is coming in than going out, you have positive cash flow. If the opposite is true, you have negative cash flow. Unfortunately, calculating and forecasting cash flow can get complicated. Some bills are due weekly, others monthly. A few larger bills may need to be paid quarterly or annually.
Create your cash flow snapshot
Before improving your cash flow, you need to be able to visualize it. While there are software tools to generate a statement of cash flow, you can also take a snapshot of your cash flow by creating a simple monthly spreadsheet:
Type each month across the top of the spreadsheet with an annual total.
Note all your revenue (cash inflows), then create a list of expenses (cash outflows) in the left-hand column.
Enter your income and bills by month. Create a monthly subtotal of all your inflows. Do the same for your cash outflows. Then subtract the expenses from income. Positive numbers? You have positive cash flow. Negative numbers? You have negative cash flow.
Create a cumulative total for the year under each month to see which months will need additional funds and which months will have excess funds.
Ideas to improve your cash flow
Identify your challenges. See if you have months where more cash is going out than is coming in to your bank account. This often happens when large bills are due. If possible, try to balance these known high-expense months throughout the course of the year. Common causes are:
Property tax payments
Car and homeowners insurance
Income tax payments
Build a reserve. If you know there are challenging months, project how much additional cash you will need and begin to save for this in positive cash months.
Cut back on annuities. See what monthly expense drivers are in your life. Can any of them be reduced? Can you live with fewer cell phone add-ons? How about cutting costs in your cable bill? Is it time for an insurance review?
Shop your current services. Some of your larger bills may create an opportunity for savings. This is especially true with home and car insurance.
Create savings habits to add to cash flow. Consider paying a bill to yourself in your cash outflows. This saved money is a simple technique to create positive cash flow each month to build an emergency reserve.
Your 2023 Social Security Benefits Find out how your benefits have changed
Average Retirement Benefits Starting January 2023
All workers in 2022: $1,681/mo
All workers in 2023: $1,827/mo (+$146)
The 2023 maximum Social Security retirement benefits for a worker retiring at full retirement age: $3,627/mo
An 8.7% cost of living increase for Social Security retirement benefits and SSI payments begins with December 2022 benefits (payable in January 2023).
Increase your Social Security retirement benefits by 5 to 8% per year when you delay applying until you’re age 70.
Social Security Revenues & Expenditures
Revenue Sources = $1.09 trillion
3.5% – Taxation of benefits
6.4% – Interest
90.1% – Payroll taxes
Expenditures = $1.14 trillion
0.6% – Administrative expenses
0.4% – Railroad Retirement financial interchange
99.0% – Benefit payments
SOURCE: 2022 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance Trust Funds, Table Il.B1.
2023 Social Security & Medicare Tax Rates
If you work for someone else…
Your employer pays 7.65%
You pay 7.65%
If you’re self-employed…
You pay 15.3%
NOTE: The above tax rates are a combination of 6.2% for Social Security and 1.45% for Medicare. There is also a 0.9% Medicare wages surtax for those with wages above $200,000 single ($250,000 joint filers) that is not reflected in these figures.
Maximum amount you may pay in Social Security taxes
Maximum earnings amount Social Security will tax at 6.2%
165+ million people work and pay Social Security taxes
Social Security has provided financial protection for Americans since 1935
Social Security Payments Explained
Social Security (SS) retirement benefits are for people who have paid into the Social Security system through taxable income.
Social Security Disability (SSD or SSDI) benefits are for people who have disabilities but have paid into the Social Security the system through taxable income.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits are for adults and children who have disabilities, plus limited income and resources.
Maximum SSI Payments
How does Social Security work?
When you work, you pay taxes into Social Security.
The Social Security Administration uses your tax money to pay benefits to people right now.
Any unused money goes into Social Security trust funds and is borrowed by the government to pay for other programs.
Later on when you retire, you receive benefits.
Here’s how you qualify for retirement benefits
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn credits toward benefits. The number of credits you need to earn retirement benefits depends on when you were born.
If you were born in 1929 or later, you need 40 credits (10 years of work) to receive retirement benefits
You receive one credit for each $1,640 of earnings in 2023
4 credits maximum per year
Did you know you can check your benefits status before you retire?
You can check online by creating a my Social Security account on the SSA website. If you don’t have an account, you’ll be mailed a paper Social Security statement 3 months before your 61st birthday.
It shows your year-by-year earnings, and estimates of retirement, survivors and disability benefits you and your family may be able to receive now and in the future.
If it doesn’t show earnings from a state or local government employer, contact them. The work may not be covered within Social Security.
A brand new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) made its debut on October 1st, featuring 60% fewer questions and a host of other changes that aim to increase the likelihood that you can qualify for financial aid.
As you prepare to complete this year’s application, here are some tips to maximize your FAFSA eligibility for financial aid.
File the FAFSA early. More than a dozen states award financial aid on a first-come, first-serve basis. Students who file the FAFSA in October tend to get more than twice as much grant aid on average as students who file the FAFSA later. Even better, by completing the FAFSA early you can time your financial requests to colleges with their varied due dates.
Minimize income in the base year. 2021 is the base tax year when filling out the FAFSA for the 2023-2024 school year. If you’ve already filed your 2021 tax return, consider filing an amended Form 1040 if there were deductions you may have overlooked that could reduce your income. Otherwise, file this knowledge away to best position your income for future years.
Reduce the amount of reportable assets. While assets aren’t weighted as heavily as income on the FAFSA, they could still affect overall financial aid eligibility. To decrease the amount of reportable assets, consider using cash in your bank accounts to pay down unsecured debt such as credit cards and auto loans, or maximizing retirement plan contributions. Keep in mind that certain assets aren’t considered when determining financial aid eligibility. This includes the home you live in, the value of life insurance, and most retirement plans.
Use 529 plans wisely. 529 plan owners will impact how the funds are reported on the FAFSA. If the account owner is a grandparent or relative, the funds are not counted on the FAFSA until the money is used. So timing the use of these funds is important. And remember if the account owner is a parent or the student, the balance of 529 plans is considered an asset of the parent on the FAFSA.
Spend a student’s money first. If a student does have cash saved or other assets, consider withdrawing money from student assets first before touching parent assets, since student assets are assessed at a higher rate than parent assets.
Plan for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). If your family is eligible for the AOTC, try spending up to $4,000 in tuition and textbook expenses using cash. The AOTC’s maximum tax credit of $4,000 will be worth more dollar-for-dollar rather than using a $4,000 tax-free distribution from a 529 plan.
With supply chain snarls still plaguing parts of the U.S. economy, many consumers are turning to gift cards as the holiday present of choice this year. In fact, according to the website Research and Markets, the United States gift card industry is expected to reach $188 billion in 2022.
Why is gift card fraud such a problem?
Because of the small dollar amounts involved, gift card fraudsters face a low probability of prosecution. It’s also easy to convert gift card value to cash or merchandise. In other words, this kind of fraud is relatively risk-free and easy to pull off.
In one common scam, a crook goes to a retail establishment, grabs a handful of gift cards from an out-of-the-way stand or kiosk, and records the card numbers using a magnetic strip reader. After returning the cards, the crook heads home and repeatedly checks balances on the merchant’s website until the numbers are activated.
The thief then spends or transfers the money on the card before the legitimate buyer or gift recipient has a chance to use it. Less sophisticated scammers may simply scratch off the card’s coating and replace it with a sticker, hoping the buyer won’t notice.
You can scam-proof your gift card experience by following these tips:
Don’t pick the front card. Crooks are impatient. They often return compromised cards to the most accessible place on the rack. Select your gift card from the middle of the rack.
Buy gift cards online. Purchase cards online, directly from the business that issued them. This reduces the potential tampering risk.
Inspect packaging. If you purchase gift cards in person at a store, examine the cards for signs of tampering. It’s safer to buy from stores that keep gift cards behind the counter or in well-sealed packaging.
Register the card. If a card issuer lets you register on their website, do it. You’ll be able to check your balance regularly and identify any abuse.
Don’t give out card information to callers claiming to be from government agencies, tech companies, utilities or other businesses. Only scammers ask you to pay fees, back taxes or bills for services with gift cards.
Don’t buy gift cards from online auction sites. They could be counterfeit or stolen, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you think you’ve been scammed, contact the store directly and report incidents to local law enforcement.