The Gardening-Leave Guide to Organizing Your Finances

Hit the road, Jack: Gardening leave is an ideal time to reevaluate your finances.

Hit the road, Jack: Gardening leave is an ideal time to reevaluate your finances.

Congratulations! You’re leaving your firm and embarking on a short paid vacation before starting a new role. During this gardening-leave period, you’re not permitted to work for your new company, and technically anything you produce still belongs to the firm you’re leaving. That means this is a perfect time to travel, read, and tackle the personal projects that you never have time to handle. Take this opportunity to make sure your finances are in order. Ideally your new job will mean you won’t have time to do this again for a while.

Here are some ways to get the most out of your gardening leave when it comes to financial organization.

 

– Documentation

Check that your will and the beneficiary designations on all your accounts are up-to-date, especially if you’ve had them for some time. Make sure you have a centralized list of all your accounts and benefits along with contact information. If someone had to call those institutions on your behalf, would they know how to reach the right person? It’s useful to keep a hard-copy “doomsday file” in a safe place for emergencies.

 

– Fee Review

What are your financial institutions charging you to manage your money?  Now is the time to look at the fees that you are paying for mutual funds, hedge funds, asset management, and credit cards, and banking. Don’t think you’re paying a fee? Consider what amount of money you have to keep with an institution to get “fee-free” services. Could that money be better invested elsewhere?

A new service called FeeX scans your retirement accounts, shows you exactly what you’re paying, and suggests similar products that cost less. Over time, money not spent on fees can compound into an important component of your portfolio.

 

-Legacy

Take a look at your charitable giving as a percentage of your income and consider whether it’s at the level you want. Also think about how you’re structuring your donations. Depending on your pace of giving, you may want to evaluate setting up a family foundation or a donor-advised fund, like Fidelity Charitable. This may allow you to maximize the tax benefits of your gifts.

Now is also a good time to think about your charitable involvement. Ask yourself whether you want to join a nonprofit board, or continue with one you’re already on. If you’re anticipating a lack of time with your new job, this may be the time to step back from volunteering or find a less time-intensive way to help.

 

-Asset Allocation

Review how you are allocating your assets among stocks, bonds, cash, real estate, and other investments. Look also at retirement and educational savings. Talk to your financial advisor about areas where you should rebalance.

Few investors think hard about their cash. This is money on the sidelines that could be working harder for you. Take a look at the yield your cash is earning in the bank. If you prefer to keep this portion of your portfolio liquid, consider online savings accounts, which pay as much as 10 times the national average in interest.

A MaxMyInterest membership can help you earn dramatically more: our members now earn about 90 basis points – 0.90% – more on their cash than the average of 0.09%. For a member with $1 million in the Max system, that comes to an additional $9000 or so each year in extra interest. Gardening leave is the perfect time to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table before you start your new job.

 

The Battle of Financial Attitudes: Old vs. New

The new way of thinking brings transparency and simplicity to investors.

The new way of thinking brings transparency and simplicity to investors.

We invited our friends at FeeX, a service that helps investors figure out what fees they’re paying on their retirement accounts, to contribute this guest post.


By Molly O’Brien

Community Manager, FeeX

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, things in the finance world aren’t what they used to be. We’re living in an era when it’s never been easier to make your money work for you, and with the new ways we manage our finances also come changes in the way we think about our finances.

Working at FeeX, an online tool that helps people find and reduce fees that are hiding in their retirement accounts, I’ve noticed that prevailing financial attitudes are transforming in a good way.

“Research sucks” vs. “Research…is…easy?”

If you wanted to research your investment strategy or hunt around for a better interest rate, you had to do it the old-fashioned way — digging through prospectuses, crunching numbers, and spending way too much time comparing performance and fees from different institutions. If you wanted to check out the fees in your investment accounts, you needed to grab a magnifying glass and find your funds’ expense ratios, plus see if any extra fees were tacked on, then add your financial advisor’s cut if you had one. Are you getting a headache just thinking about this?

Now technology has enabled people to do the research without putting in the elbow grease — whether it’s comparing interest rates for checking and savings accounts, finding the right way to manage your cash (as Max does), or scanning your retirement investments for fees to find lower-fee options (which is what FeeX does), doing the research is now often as simple as clicking a couple of buttons.

“I’m sure it’s fine to leave this account alone” vs. “There are things I can do to maximize my savings”

Like Newton’s law says, an object at rest tends to stay at rest, and that’s true for the way some folks have been managing their money in the past. Settling on one particular strategy and sticking to it forever won’t necessarily hurt you, but with all of the options we have today, it doesn’t make any sense to let the status quo rule your money.

Max is a perfect example of this—sure, cash can sit in your accounts for all time without doing anyone any harm, but if you had the opportunity to use a service that let your cash accounts earn more money for you, wouldn’t you do it, especially if you could increase FDIC insurance along the way?

Likewise with FeeX: retirement accounts can easily sit for decades as-is, but with a free FeeX account, it becomes incredibly easy to see the changes you need to make to save more money. A few changes can be all it takes to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees over the long run.

“These fees are probably normal” vs. “If you don’t know what you’re paying, you’re paying too much”

If there’s one attitude that has become particularly apparent in the recent past, it’s this: you should always question what you’re earning versus how much you’re paying to earn it. FeeX was created with the mission of delivering clear information about how much it really costs for the privilege of investing. If you know more about your fees, you can make better decisions about how to invest. If you make better investment decisions, you’ll end up saving more money. If you end up saving more money? Well, that’s a good thing—and that’s one attitude about finances that’ll never change.