When prebuilts don't cut it or you finally have the chance to jump into PC gaming properly, building your own rig is the way to go. This gaming PC build guide is your guide for constructing a powerful rig to run your games and more. Below is a list of the best PC parts and components to slot into your dream gaming rig.
This guide is your reference for building a reliable gaming PC. You don't have to pick up every piece of hardware in this list, but each one will deliver you a good idea of what to look for and why certain things are better than others. PC building is about having fun and making something that caters to you; this list is a cheat sheet and by no means a rule book.
Speaking of budget, the cost for this gaming PC build is $1,000, with around $400 (keep an eye out for deals) reserved for an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti that should provide an excellent framerate for most games at 1080p (and even 1440p). And with the help of upscaling tech like DLSS, 4K gameplay is within reach on some games.
The Ryzen 5 5600X is the best choice for a CPU for this build because of its price, performance, and overclocking potential. However, if you are strictly in an Intel camp, Intel Core i5 12400 and B660 motherboards are good choices. Remember, you can get by with a smaller SSD or slightly slower RAM and upgrade those later to save a few bucks.
The last thing you should know is that all the hardware on this guide are all things I'd want if I were building my own PC. Each component has been tested on the PC Gamer Test Bench and merits my full recommendation. If this isn't what you're looking for, check out our budget PC build guide and high-end PC build guide. Or skip the whole building thing and get a cheap gaming PC.
When it comes to gaming, everything that's great about the 5900X rings true for this more affordable Zen 3 chip as well. There's nothing between any of the Ryzen 5000 chips in games, which means you'll hit the same frame rates with this chip as you will the much more expensive chip. Which is incredible when you think about it—top-tier performance from the most affordable Zen 3 CPU? We'll say yes to that every single day.
This does have half the core count of that top chip, rolling in as it does with 6 cores and 12 threads. This is only an issue with those more serious workloads, though, and this is more than sufficient for more reasonable stuff. You could argue that gaming could go beyond the 12-threads we have here, but there's no evidence that is the case so far, and that's even though the next-gen consoles are rocking 8-cores and 16-threads.
The Ryzen 5 5600X also bucks the Ryzen 5000 family's trend by shipping with a Wraith Stealth cooler, so you don't have to drop extra money on a third-party chiller. You don't need to, but if you do, you'll hit higher clocks for longer and also open up the wonderful world of overclocking, which could make it worthwhile. This is a decent little overclocker, and while it won't affect gaming much, it'll help in other areas nicely.
Read our full AMD Ryzen 5 5600X review (opens in new tab).
Sure, the Asus ROG Strix B550-E isn't the cheapest motherboard for a Ryzen 5 5600X chip, but it offers a huge amount of potential room for your PC to grow in the future. It's a premium motherboard, with all the trappings you'd expect from Asus' Republic of Gamers stables, such as 14+2 power stage, M.2 heatsinks, and pre-installed backplates. You also get Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking as well as Intel 2.5Gb ethernet too. And RGB LEDs, of course.
At a glance it cuts a convincing enthusiast dash thanks to copious heat sinks and spreaders, including one for each M.2 slot, snazzy LED lighting, and three full-length PCI Express slots, two of which come in Gen 4 trim.
Impressively, those slots support dual-GPU graphics, each in eight-lane PCIe 4.0 configuration, ensuring the maximum currently available bandwidth for high end graphics. A niche concern? Perhaps, but it's indicative of the ambitions of this board. Similarly, the Strix B550 has not just an eight-pin but also a four-pin supplementary CPU power supply connector. Again, that’s an indication of a board designed for high performance.
Performance too is typically good for a high-end Asus board, matching X570 motherboards for gaming performance without issue. The Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming is the whole package then, and right now is our all-around pick for the best B550 motherboard.
Read our full Asus ROG Strix B550-E Gaming review (opens in new tab).
The RTX 3060 Ti is the GeForce card that we want in our mid-range machine. That was true last year, when buying one was almost impossible, but it's true today for another reason. The next-generation of Nvidia and AMD GPUs are just around the corner, but history tells us the first to launch will be the high-end GPUs. That means that mid-range and budget GPUs, such as the RTX 3060 Ti down to the RTX 3050, will stick around a lot longer before being replaced.
So if you want a great gaming PC now, and one that doesn't break the bank, the RTX 3060 Ti is one of the cards out there we'd still recommend.
It marks the same incredible generational leap in performance that has come to epitomize the Ampere architecture, up until the non-TI GeForce RTX 3060 (opens in new tab), that is. With performance that can often outpace the RTX 2080 Super, for a nominal $399 price tag, it's the mid-range card to beat.
And, because of its RTX 2080 Super performance levels, that means you can nail 1080p and 1440p frame rates, but also that 4K at 60fps isn't beyond the realms of possibility for this GPU. The RTX 3060 Ti then delivers gaming performance that's rather stupendous when you look at generational gains over even the RTX 20-series—next to the 10-series, it's quite frightening, actually.
Read our full Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti review (opens in new tab).
Memory is pretty straightforward these days, though if the price isn't much higher you can improve performance (opens in new tab) slightly with faster RAM. DDR4 prices have thankfully galvanized somewhat, with typical costs for 16GB often falling well below $100. There are many options to choose from: Adata, Ballistix, Corsair, Crucial, G.Skill, GeIL, Gigabyte, Hynix, HyperX, Micron, Mushkin, Patriot, PNY, Samsung, Team, and XPG are all good brands as far as we're concerned.
Our main goal for gaming memory is DDR4-3000 or higher, with as low a CAS latency as possible, but at a good price. It doesn't make a lot of sense to buy extreme memory for a mainstream build, but with DDR4-3200 only costing $10 more than basic DDR4 kits, it's worth paying a little extra for AMD builds (opens in new tab).
For more information, check out our guide to the best gaming DDR4 RAM (opens in new tab).
You could spend more on a high-performance PCIe 4.0 SSD, but you can get awfully close to top performance with this SN770 from WD.
An NVMe M.2 SSD offers swift access to your data, and the SN770 delivers that snappy response at an exceptionally agreeable price. Fitted with 1TB worth of NAND flash, there's enough space for your operating system, applications, and plenty of games. So feel free to go wild downloading your favourite games on Steam. Well, not too wild.
If you wanted to save some cash, you could opt for the smaller 512GB version here. It's more agreeable on price, and your secondary storage could make up for lost capacity later down the line.
Read our full WD Black SN770 review (opens in new tab).
Given the install sizes of most modern PC games, it's probably a good idea to get yourself a new drive for your gaming PC. While SATA SSDs are almost cheap enough to recommend as secondary storage (what a world we're living in), you'll probably look to a regular HDD to keep the cost down when you hit multiple terabyte demands.
We recommend the WD Black drive because it's a 7,200 RPM drive with a respectable 32GB cache, which offers 1TB of storage for about $70 or less. While you could get a WD Blue or Seagate Barracuda for less, the WD Black offers speed and reliability over capacity. Realistically, you'll appreciate that speed if you're planning to keep your HDD inside a gaming PC for more than a couple of years, as we already see load times creep up for the biggest games of 2022.
Power supplies are not the most exciting part of a gaming PC build. After all, it can be hard to tell them apart in terms of features. Even so, you don't want to skimp on your PSU. Corsair has an excellent and well-deserved reputation for its power supplies, and the TX650M comes at a reasonable price and delivers 80 Plus Gold efficiency.
Most power supplies from the bigger names are generally good, but we wouldn’t recommend that you put your money in anything with a warranty of fewer than five years or an efficiency rating below 80 Plus Gold (maybe Bronze in a pinch). The $10 or $20 saved often isn't worth the risk (opens in new tab).
We also tend to go with modular PSUs where possible. It means less cable mess inside the case since you don’t have to stash unused cables somewhere. Instead, the remaining wires have to find a home in your closet.
Here's our guide to the best power supplies for PC (opens in new tab) gaming.
Cases can be as stylish or boring as you want. We're going to go for the former rather than the latter, with the NZXT H510, a slick, tempered glass case available in white or black. The NZXT H510 is also reasonably priced, which is always a bonus.
If you want other options, check our guide to the best mid-tower cases (opens in new tab). The clean look goes well on any desk and doesn't stand out like many so-called 'gaming cases.' There's also the pricier H510i that integrates some smart features if you like the look of the H510 but want a few more bells and whistles.
Picking a case can be an entirely personal choice, so for more options, here are the best PC cases (opens in new tab) you can buy right now.
There are five constitutional amendments that will appear statewide on the ballots for the Nov. 8 general election. Additionally, local ballot questions will appear in certain counties, including one local referendum, passed by the General Assembly, that will appear on the ballots in Montgomery County.
Here’s every Valheim guide ever written. All right, not really, but this extensive collection of Valheim guides covers basically everything you need to know in order to survive the Viking afterlife. From the best world seeds to the best weapons and armor, from beginner tips to late-game crafting guides, and from The Elder boss to Yagluth.
So, whether you’re looking to start a boar farm or you simply want to know how to enable cheats, here’s the complete Valheim guide.
Kicking things off is our basic Valheim tips article, which should be the first guide you read before you even boot the game up. This covers all the things you might not know about the game, including a lot of little tricks you can only pick up after playing for so long, so you can incorporate them into your game from the get-go.
Few games have actual cheats these days, but Valheim is the exception to the rule. Thanks to the use of console commands, you can activate a genuine cheat mode, including things like god mode, revealing the entire map, healing yourself, raising your skill levels, and so much more. Just check out our Valheim cheats guide to learn all of the phrases to use.
Like most other procedurally-generated games, Valheim utilizes "seeds" to determine what the generation will be like as you explore. This means that if you find a particularly good seed and want to share it, other players can simply type in the same string to get your world. So our guide to Valheim seeds is all about some great worlds you can play on to begin your journey.
As is always the case when a game gets incredibly popular unexpectedly, people want to play it on their specific platform if they don't own the one(s) it's exclusive to. Unfortunately for those only on console, Valheim is solely a PC game at the moment, leading a lot of viking wannabes to wonder if it'll ever come to PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, or Switch. Check out our guide on Valheim Game Pass to learn more.
Much like Minecraft, Valheim has plenty of biomes throughout the world, each offering something new. The Valheim biomes are more progression-based though, as you're able to fight harder enemies, find new resources, and defeat tougher bosses as you venture into each one. Check out our guide for everything you need to know.
One of the first things you'll need to do is build a workbench, but how exactly do you do that? How do you cover it so it can actually be used? How do you upgrade the workbench to build bigger and better things? Our Valheim workbench guide explains all, so you can start building a base and upgrading your tools.
Getting your head round the Valheim repair mechanics isn't quite as straightforward at first, until you know how it works. Repairing your tools and buildings is a crucial element of Valheim – especially when a troll comes and throws rocks at your base – so make sure you check our guide to understand how it works.
Maybe you haven’t heard about it yet, but the Obliterator is a pretty important Valheim station. It’s used to zap stuff, so it’s basically your litter bin. You need very specific materials to get it though, such as the Thunder Stone. If you need help finding and crafting the Valheim Thunder Stone and Obliterator, here’s how to do it.
There's one trader in Valheim and his name is Haldor, but unfortunately he can be quite elusive. Finding the Valheim merchant involves a lot of luck because his spawn is essentially random, but there are some things you need to know about where he can be before you start searching, which is where our guide comes in handy.
Despite it being an open world, procedurally generated game, Valheim actually has an unwritten progression sequence. Our Valheim crafting progression guide is the perfect companion for new players who are wondering where to go or what to do next, because it lists the core resources you can obtain in order to progress further through the game and keep defeating the five bosses.
You can craft all manner of weaponry as a resourceful viking, but what are the best Valheim weapons? Whether you want to wield an atgeir or axe, this tier list of the best melee and ranged weapons in Valheim has everything you need to know about which ones you should be prioritising.
They do say defence is the best form of offense, so along with the best weapons, you need to ensure you have the best Valheim armor. You can make troll armor fairly early in the game, but are the buffs still worth using over things like bronze, iron, and wolf? Read our guide to find out.
If you fancy being an animal whisperer, you can befriend boars (and other animals) in Valheim and start an animal farm. Hopefully less dystopian than the novel, mind. It takes a lot of patience though, so if you want to get some animals on your side, check out our guide on how to tame boars in Valheim, which includes details on wolves and loxes as well.
Along with the aforementioned seeds relating to world generation, you can also obtain the other type of seeds that you plant in the ground in Valheim. Farming is a huge component of the game for a consistent food source, but even though you may find carrot seeds fairly early on, you can't plant them right away. Here's everything you need to know about how to plant seeds in Valheim.
Valheim flint is one of those resources you'll need throughout your entire time with the game, but it can be frustratingly time consuming to collect, even though it isn't particularly difficult. From the get-go though, you'll need to know exactly where to find flint in Valheim, so check out our guide to find out.
These are two resources that you won't have need for until a bit later in the game, but when the option does arise, chances are you won't have the faintest of ideas of where to search. So that;s where our Valheim barley and flax guide comes in, as the pair can usually be found alongside one another, despite having vastly different uses.
You'll first spot Ymir Flesh when you find the aforementioned merchant in Valheim, because he has it for sale in his stock. You're given no information on what exactly Valheim Ymir Flesh is though and whether it's worth dropping the coins on, so our guide helps with all the uses Ymir Flesh has and whether it's worth buying or not.
Silver is one of the harder resources to obtain in Valheim, not least because of the fact it can only be found in Mountain biomes. When you're eventually at the stage where you can obtain Valheim silver, our guide will help you find it, including how to use the Wishbone.
Once you've got enough silver and you're done with the Mountain biome, Valheim Black Metal should be the next goal. This is currently the strongest material in the game and can be used to create some seriously powerful weaponry. Read our guide to learn all you need to know about it.
Now we're onto the bosses. The second boss in the game is the first you might struggle with, so our guide on the Valheim Elder explains how to summon it, how to defeat it, the power you'll get for taking it down, and more.
Bonemass is the third boss in the game, found in the Swamp biome. This is where the game starts to get seriously difficult and as a result, you should refer to our Valheim Bonemass guide which has details on how to summon it and kill it, once you've got strong enough gear.
Boss number four, Moder, is a toughie. This is the Mountains boss and by this point, you'll have countless hours in Valheim, gearing up and preparing for this fight against a huge dragon. For help summoning and defeating the Valheim Moder boss, our guide has everything you need.
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We've tested and compared the latest and most popular SUVs side-by-side, and gathered all of those comparison reviews right here so you can narrow down your choices and find the best one for you. We've crowned the very best SUVs in the 2020 edition of our 10Best Cars and Trucks list. Beyond those, you'll find several fine suggestions in our Editors' Choice listings. Read on and use this guide to learn what we've discovered by driving and testing the latest crop of family-friendly haulers side-by-side.
On the surface, retirement planning hasn't changed all that much over the years. You work, you save and then you retire. But while the mechanics may be the same, today's savers are facing some challenges that previous generations didn't have to worry about.
First of all, life expectancy is longer, which means you'll need your money to last longer – potentially into your 90s. Bond yields are also much lower than they used to be, which means you can't buy a few fixed income instruments and earn a double-digit return. Then there is the health crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This is compounded by the fact that more companies are moving away from defined benefit pensions —which guaranteed you a certain amount of money in your golden years — to defined contribution plans, which are more subject to market ups and downs.
So, how can you have the retirement you've always wanted? After all, retirees want to experience all the things they couldn't do when they were too busy working. Exotic travel vacations, marathon running, novel writing, spending more time with friends and family — the possibilities are almost endless. There are several steps, which we explain in this retirement guide, from budgeting and setting goals to choosing the right retirement savings account that will help you map out a plan that's right for you.
How to read this guide
This guide lays out steps to focus on to get you working on retirement planning. Follow along from start to finish, or jump to the section(s) you want to learn more about.
One of the hardest parts about preparing for retirement is thinking about life as a 70-something. A lot of people get so overwhelmed about saving for an unknown future, that they end up not saving anything at all. Thankfully, planning for retirement is not overly onerous, but you will need a road map — one that can evolve over time — to keep you on track.
The first place to start is to think about what your life might look like in retirement. Sit down with a pen and paper and write down your retirement goals.
Then think about how much everything will cost. We don't know what prices will be like in the future, and in accurate years inflation has run below the Fed's benchmark of 2%, but the average inflation rate in the U.S. over the past century (1913-2013) was 3.22%. So plan for higher prices in the decades ahead. You'll also want to factor in your day-to-day expenses, like housing costs, food and health care. Remember, some of the costly expenses you have now, such as a mortgage or childcare costs, will no longer exist, which could result in a decrease in your overall expenses as you near retirement.
Next, add up all the income you might receive in your post-working years. Factor in pension income if you have one, social security payments and any other dollars, such as rental income from a property, that may come your way. Match up revenue and expenses and you'll get a good idea of what you'll need to set aside for every year of your retirement.
● Housing costs, including rent or a mortgage, heating, water and maintenance
● Health-care costs (Fidelity estimates that the average couple will need $295,000 in today's dollars for medical expenses in retirement, excluding long-term care.)
● Day-to-day living, such as food, clothing, transportation
● Entertainment, including restaurants, movies, plays
● Travel, including flights, hotels, gas if driving
● Possible life insurance
What's the magic number to hit for a golden retirement?
Over the years, finance experts have said that people need to save $1 million — that's recently climbed to $2 million as the cost of living and age demographics have changed. Some advise that you need to save 80% to 90% of your annual pre-retirement income, or that you need to save 12 times your pre-retirement salary. Those numbers and formulas can be a guide, but they're not gospel — everyone's situation will be different.
While starting early is always important – even $25 a month in your 20s is helpful – it's OK to set money aside for more immediate needs first and then start tackling retirement in your late 30s and early 40s. However, you don't want to wait much beyond that because you'll need time to put money into a retirement account for that money to grow. The longer you wait the more you'll have to sock away yearly making the challenge a lot more difficult.
Create a Budget
This is your current budget, which takes into account all of your present-day income and expenses. While you should have some idea as to what you'll need to save per month based on your retirement goals, you also need to make sure that you have that money to save. It's a good idea to put retirement savings as a line item in your budget, just like food and shelter costs, so that you can set aside those funds every month.
Set Automatic Transfers
This is a tool you can set up between your checking account and your retirement account so you don't forget to save. Set it up so that on the same day every month — maybe it's the day you get paid — funds you're earmarking for the future go from your bank account into your investments. By doing it this way, there's no risk of you spending that money.
Create an Emergency Account
Having a separate emergency account — usually with about three to six months of salary saved up — will allow you to cover any unexpected costs without throwing your retirement plans out of whack.
Pay Down Debt
One goal for everyone should be to reach 65 debt-free. That includes credit card debt — and especially the high-interest reward card kind — car and mortgage loans, any student and other big loans. The reason is simple: you don't want to be going into your non-earning years owing money.
|IRA||Roth IRA||401(k)||Roth 401(k)||Simple IRA||SEP|
|Taxed upon withdrawl||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Contribution limit for 50 plus||$7,000||$7,000||$26,500||$26,500||$16,000||N/A|
|10% tax hit if money withdrawn before 59.5||✓||✓||✓|
|72 withdrawl age||✓||✓||✓||✓|
|Employer match maximum without catch-up||$37,500||$37,500||3% of compensation||$57,000 or 25% of net earnings|
Source: Source: CNBC
Setting aside a certain amount of money every month is, of course, the most critical part of retirement savings. But you won't reach your goal without putting that money into the market. One reason to invest is because you want to take advantage of the power of compounding, which is when gains grow on top of other gains. For instance, if you invest $100 in one year and it goes to $110 the next, your next year's gains will be on top of the $110, not the original amount you put in. Over time, that compound growth can really boost returns. No matter what account you use, your investments will compound year after year. (Losses can compound as well, but, fortunately, over time, markets have climbed.)
How much you can save and what tax you may have to eventually pay, though, does change depending on the account.
High-yield savings account
It's risk-free — money inside of a federally-insured savings account does not get invested in stocks or bonds — but you'll make next to nothing on the funds in the account. Currently, the highest-yielding savings accounts are under 1% on the dollars saved, and have been trending down with current Federal Reserve policy to keep its benchmark rate lower for longer. Your money should grow more over time in a more traditional investment savings vehicle.
Traditional Individual Retirement Account (Traditional IRA)
The IRA is a tax-advantaged investing tool for individuals to earmark their retirement savings. Depending on the individual's employment status, IRAs can be of various types and have different tax liabilities. As the name suggests, it's an individual account that you open and contribute to yourself. One of the benefits of the traditional IRA, as it's called, is that contributions are, generally, tax-deductible. So, for example, if you contribute $6,000, your taxable income will decrease by the same amount.
As well, the money can grow inside the account on a tax-deferred basis, which means you don't have to pay tax on any investments until you withdraw. That allows your money to compound at a faster rate than it otherwise would. You will have to pay tax on the amount you take out of the account, but it's based on your current year's tax rate. That's a good thing: since you typically earn little income in retirement, you'll be in a lower tax bracket, which means your tax hit on those withdrawals will be minor. (There is usually a 10% penalty for withdrawing funds before you turn 59 1/2 years-old, though you can remove up to $100,000 tax-free if you've been negatively impacted by Covid-19. See the IRS website for more.)
Rules regarding maximum contributions and income limits for IRAs can change annually. As for how much you can contribute, currently you're allowed to invest $6,000 per year, though those 50 and older can save up to $7,000 a year using what's called catch-up contributions. Once you turn 72, though, you must start removing money from your IRA. The minimum required distribution will vary based on your account size and life expectancy, so talk to an accountant or an advisor before withdrawing. If you don't withdraw the required amount you could get hit with a hefty tax penalty.
Roth IRAs are different than traditional IRAs in two meaningful ways. The first is that contributions are made with after-tax dollars, which means you don't get a tax deduction when you invest. The upside is that when it comes time to withdraw you will not owe the IRS a thing. All of your contributions can, therefore, grow tax-free over time. Like the IRA, you can only contribute $6,000 a year or $7,000 if you're over 50. There is one caveat: if you earn more than $122,000 or if you and a spouse earn more than a combined $193,000, your annual contribution room will be reduced. If you earn more $137,000 individually or $203,000 as a couple, you cannot contribute to this account.
Many small businesses don't offer 401(k) plans, which can be expensive to set up and maintain. They are allowed to offer a SIMPLE IRA, which stands for Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees. It works in a similar way to a 401(k), in that both employees and employees can contribute funds, which reduce each side's taxable income by the amount that each party invests. For 2022, the annual contribution limit for SIMPLE IRAs is $14,000, up from $13,500 in 2021. Workers age 50 or older can make additional catch-up contributions of $3,000, for a total of $17,000. Employers can only contribute up to 3% of their staff member's annual compensation. Contributions can grow tax deferred, until the age you have to withdraw.
Traditional 401(k) plans
A 401(k) is a retirement account offered by a company for its employees. Contributions into this account are pre-tax, which means that like the traditional IRA they can grow on a tax-deferred basis. You will have to pay the taxman when you withdraw those funds, but if you're in a lower tax bracket in retirement than you were during your working years, then that tax hit shouldn't be too great.
There are several benefits to the 401(k). One is that the contribution limit is much higher than it is with an IRA. Workers who are younger than age 50 can contribute a maximum of $20,500 to a 401(k) in 2022, up from $19,500 in 2021, or $26,000 if you're over 50. Employers are also allowed to match contributions — though the percentage of contributions they match and the amount matched per employee dollar does vary. Using Vanguard Group-managed retirement plans as an example, in 2019 it reported an average employee contribution rate of 7.0%, and average employer contribution rate of 3.7%.
In 2022, the total employer and employee contributions combined cannot exceed $61,000 or 100% of your salary (that's $67,500 for those under 50 and older). There's also a lifetime contribution limit of $305,000. Another key feature is that money gets automatically removed from your check and put into the 401(k), so you don't have to worry about moving those dollars into the account yourself.
Like the traditional IRA, you will get hit with a 10% tax if you withdraw money before you turn 59 1/2. However, for now, you can remove up to $100,000 from a 401(k) if you or your spouse has lost a job or you've been negatively impacted by Covid-19 without the 10% withdrawal penalty.
This is an employer-sponsored account that's funded with after-tax dollars. Like the Roth IRA, contributions are not tax deductible, but you also won't get hit with a tax bill when it comes time to withdraw. Like a traditional 401(k), both employees and employers can contribute, but there are limits. The maximum amount you can contribute to a Roth 401(k) for 2022 is $20,500 if you're younger than age 50. This is an extra $1,000 over 2021. If you're age 50 and older, you can add an extra $6,500 per year in "catch-up" contributions, bringing the total amount to $27,000. Contributions generally need to be made by the end of the calendar year.
You can split contributions between a regular 401(k) — using pre-tax dollars — and a Roth 401(k), but your combined investments can't exceed the maximum contribution amount. This account is ideal for those who think they may be in a high tax bracket in retirement, where they would then have to pay a potentially hefty tax bill to Uncle Sam.
There are ways to roll money over from one of the above accounts to another — such as from a traditional IRA to a 401(k) and vice-versa — but it's a good idea to get help from a financial advisor before doing anything.
Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) Plans
If you're a self-employed individual looking to save for retirement, then the SEP plan may be the best option for you. This account, which can only be opened by a business owner with one or more employees or someone who earns freelance income, is similar to a traditional IRA in that pre-tax contributions reduce your taxable income (or the company's depending on who is contributing) and money can grow tax-deferred until you remove it in retirement. For the self-employed and small business owners, the SEP IRA contribution limit was raised to $61,000 in 2022, up from $58,000 in 2021. You can also put money into an employee's account, however, unlike a 401(k), which is more expensive to set up than a SEP, the staffer cannot contribute to his or her own SEP.
Years ago, retirement-focused investors would have likely put their money in a balanced mutual fund, which typically consists of 60% equities and 40% bonds. While that asset mix is still popular among savers today — you get some growth from stocks and some protection from bonds — investors now have more choice.
Stocks for growth
The majority of savers still buy stocks – either directly or through a mutual fund or exchange-traded fund – which are shares in a publicly listed company. Stock prices tend to rise over the long-term, which is why people buy them. Since 1926, the S&P 500 has posted a 10.24% average annual return with dividends reinvested, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices. In other words, if you invest in equities in your 30s and retire in your 70s, there's a high likelihood that your money will have grown over those 40 years.
The downside is that stocks can fall. In the Great Recession of 2008 and the more accurate pandemic stock market plunge, stock prices dropped by more than 35%, which caused a lot of problems for those in and nearing retirement.
Fortunately, while all stocks fluctuate in price, there are a lot of different kinds to choose from depending on your risk tolerance level. If you're a more aggressive investor you might tilt a stock portfolio to sectors with higher growth potential, but also more volatility, such as technology, while more conservative investors might focus on blue-chip companies in sectors such as financials, consumer staples or industrials, where there traditionally has been less potential for the biggest gains, but also less volatility. But all stocks carry risk of losses and volatility profiles have been changing in accurate years. The best way to limit exposure to stock volatility is investing through diversified equity funds rather than single-stocks or narrow sector investments.
Bonds for safety
Bonds are another popular investment for savers as they can move a lot less in price than stocks. Investors lend money to a government or company in exchange for an annual payment based on a predetermined interest rate. At the end of that bond's term — usually between one and 30 years — you get back your original investment. Investors like bonds for two reasons: they get some guaranteed annual income and there's less risk, depending on the kind of bond you buy, of losing any money. Because of this, bonds tend to fluctuate less than stocks and so they balance out a portfolio's overall ups and downs.
Bonds aren't perfect, however. First of all, there are different kinds of bonds with different risk levels. Generally, Treasury bonds, which are fixed income securities issued by the federal government, have little risk of defaulting. Even with America's high debt load, they're going to pay the interest on their loans. The same can't be said for certain municipalities, which also raise money through bond issues, or companies that may be in financial trouble. If an issuer defaults, your bond could be worthless.
As well, these days interest rates are so low that you can barely earn any money from holding fixed income. Also, when bond yields rise, prices drop and vice versa. If you need to sell your bond before the maturity date and yields climb, you'll have to sell it for a lower price than you bought it for. There's something else: Most individuals don't hold actual bonds — they tend to own bond funds, which hold a number of fixed income instruments, as buying a single bond is difficult for the average person to do. That fund's value could fluctuate depending on where interest rates go. With rates so low, many people think that at some point interest will have to rise which could negatively impact the price of your bonds. Still, if you're thinking about the stock market at all, then bonds will usually help smooth out the ups and downs.
Alternative asset classes
There are many other investments to choose from and most experts recommend holding about 5% to 10% of assets in things other than stocks or bonds. Gold is a popular investment because the yellow metal's price tends to rise during recessions and in big market declines. Depending on your level of sophistication, you can also purchase other kinds of commodities, like oil or silver, or dabble in futures and options. It's a good idea to talk to a professional before making any outside-the-box investment decisions.
There are a variety of funds types to consider when saving for retirement. Here are the most popular options.
Actively managed mutual funds
These funds have been around for decades and are still the most-popular kind of security among retail investors. They hold a variety of stocks or bonds, and sometimes both, in one investment vehicle. Mutual funds are ideal for people who don't want to choose their own stocks. Instead, a professional fund manager can do it for you. If you want to own a bunch of international stocks, but don't want to pick individual companies, then buy an international stock fund. The same goes for tech stocks, U.S. stocks and corporate bonds — there's a fund for everything. The main drawbacks are fees and flexibility. Because someone else is doing the stock picking, fees are higher on actively managed mutual funds than on other kinds of investment vehicles. You also can't buy or sell them during the day as they're only priced after the market closes.
Index funds are similar to active mutual funds, except there's no stock picker. These funds track a benchmark index, like the S&P 500 or the broad-based MSCI World Index. One of the issues with traditional mutual funds is that most don't beat their benchmarks especially when you factor in the higher fees. Index funds were developed to avoid underperformance — returns are the same as the index they follow. There is a management fee, but it's a lot less than what you might find on a traditional mutual fund. Like active mutual funds, you can't sell them during the day and they only get prices after the trading day is over.
ETFs are like traditional mutual funds in that they hold a basket of securities, like stocks or bonds, and they're like index funds in that many track a benchmark. They're different, though, in that they trade on a stock exchange, which means they're priced in real-time and can be bought and sold at any point during the day. That's less important for retirement investors who hold stocks for the long-term, but still, you never know when you might need to sell something. Most importantly, index ETFs are cheap. Many come with no management expense fees, while others have fees between 2 basis points and 10 basis points (0.02% and 0.10%). That's why they have seen their popularity soar — as you'll see later on, the more you can save on fees, the more money you can put towards your retirement.
Target date funds
One of the most popular 401(k) investments these days are target date funds, which are a class of all-in-one mutual funds or ETFs that adjust their asset class mix automatically as you age. For instance, someone who's in their 30s in 2022 might hold a 2060 target date fund, which, right now, might hold 90% stocks and 10% bonds. As you age, the stock and bond mix will self-adjust. Once the fund reaches its target date, the allocation shifts to a 50/50 portfolio—so in the year 2060, this target date fund's allocation will consist of 50% stocks and 50% bonds. The allocation will continue to shift toward bonds for approximately seven years after the designated date
By becoming more conservative, there's less of a chance of losing money in the market in the few years leading up to retirement. In many employer-sponsored retirement plans, target date funds are now the default investment choice if investors don't actively make investment selections.
Build your portfolio
A lot of people like investing on their own, but when it comes to retirement savings it's a good idea to work with a financial advisor who has a certified financial planning designation. Here are a few things to look for in a good advisor.
One of the first conversations you'll have with an advisor is around your time horizon and risk tolerance levels, which are two key things to consider when building a portfolio.
Most advisors tell their clients to get more conservative as they get older because there's less time to recover from a drop. That doesn't mean you need to hold more bonds than stocks, but if you had, say, an 80% stock and a 20% bond mix, then you may want to be closer to 50-50 come retirement. This is a rule of thumb, though many people reach retirement with a big nest egg and still can keep a good portion of their assets in stocks. Just make sure that any money you need for day-to-day living is not subject to market ups and downs.
Think about fees
It's important to assess fund management and trading fees since they can eat into profits. Even do-it-yourself investors typically have to pay commissions on some trades. Here's an example: If you invest $10,000 in a fund with a 2% fee, and if you assume a 5% rate of return over 30 years, you'll end up paying $19,643 dollars in fees. If you pay 0.5 % in fees, which is possible to do, you will fork over $6,034. That's a big difference.
Active mutual funds tend to be more expensive than index funds and exchange-traded funds, which, in most cases, passively track a market index like the S&P 500. Fees on active funds have come down due to the pressure from index funds and ETFs. According to the Investment Company Institute, the average equity mutual fund fee is now roughly 0.5%. But most index ETFs and index mutual funds remain cheaper — a few ETFs even launched in accurate years with no fees at all. There's a major movement towards lower-fee investments, in general, even if not zero-fee, so expect more funds to drop their prices in the coming years, and some active mutual fund companies are starting to launch their own active ETFs as well.
Despite bouts of volatility, the U.S. stock market as measured by the performance of the S&P 500 Index has appreciated in value significantly since the 1980s.
While your investment portfolio is a big part of the net worth equation — which you can calculate by adding up the value of your assets and subtracting your debt — it's not the only thing that can potentially contribute to your financial well-being in retirement. Here are five ways to increase your net worth.
1. Buy a house
Depending on where you live and when you purchased your abode, a house can end up being your most valuable asset and a lot of people do sell their home later in life and then use that money to help fund their retirement goals. Real estate can be a great asset because it tends to rise in value over time — though as we saw during the Great Recession, that's not a ensure by any means. While renting can be cheaper, and you can then invest the difference and potentially earn more over time than you would on a house, real estate essentially forces you to save. As you pay down your mortgage, and as the value of your property rises, your net will increase.
2. Sell a Business
A business can add a lot of value to someone's net worth — or not. While many businesses do provide a decent living for their owner, they're an illiquid asset, often hard to value that takes time to sell. Putting a price on a business is a lot harder than coming up with a sale price for a home, though, so talk to an expert who can help you set a valuation and determine how much your operation may net.
3. Increase your salary
Most people want to earn increasingly larger amounts over their lifetime. The more money you have the more you can save, put toward debt, use on buying other assets and more.
4. Spend less and pay down debt
Decreasing debt increases your net worth, so, over time, do what you can to pay down your mortgage, pay off your car loan and reduce any credit card debt. At the same time, consider cutting back on some of your expenses. The lower your expenses the more you're worth — and the more you can save.
5. Buy Life Insurance
This is a little different than the rest, but your family's net worth will, of course, drop significantly if you unexpectedly pass away and can't earn a living anymore. To protect them, consider buying life insurance. It won't help you in retirement (though, some kinds do come with an investment component that you can tap into later in life) but it will help your spouse and children stay afloat if something goes awry.
How to recover from a setback
Life does not move in a straight line, which means everything from your net worth to your investments to your retirement plan will likely experience a setback at some point. You could lose a job, the market could crash, you could face a health-care crisis and more. The key with all of this is to not panic and stick to your plan.
Of course, that's easier said than done, especially when it comes to the stock market. In March 2020, when markets dropped by about 35% due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many investors no doubt felt an extreme sense of panic and they likely wanted to sell out of everything, fearing that markets would drop further and wipe out their nest eggs. While that's a normal reaction, selling out may be the worst thing you can do since you can miss out on recouping those losses if there is an upswing. Few investors can successfully time the market.
At the end of September 2020, the S&P 500 was up about 1% on the year, and up 46% from the March 23, 2020 market bottom. If you sold out and and haven't bought back in yet, you would have lost a lot of money instead of being up on the year. Furthermore, despite the continued challenges from Covid-19 the S&P 500 finished at a record high, up nearly 27% in 2021. As we mentioned earlier, the S&P 500 has posted a 10% annual return, on average, since 1920 and about a 6% annual average return since 2000. So, while there are down years, the market is up more than it's not.
When the market does fall, don't panic. Keep contributing your monthly amount — while you may lose some of it as the market falls, you'll also end up buying stocks at the bottom, which will increase in value significantly as stocks rise — and, if you lose your job or are thinking about an income reduction, review your budget to see where you can cut back. Try and leave savings alone until that's no longer possible.
If you do feel overwhelmed, then that could be a sign that your risk tolerance is out of whack. If you're thinking about losing too much, then you may need to be in a more conservative portfolio where a market decline won't impact your assets — or your psyche.
While TikTok might be all fun and games for users, marketers know better.
This social media channel is full of essential metrics to help brands create more engaging and relevant content for their audiences, so let’s get right to it: TikTok analytics.
Read below to learn what you’re looking for on TikTok’s analytics platform, how to interpret the data you find, and how to use that data to grow your brand’s presence.
The first thing to know is that you must have a business or an influencer account to access TikTok analytics rather than a standard account.
Make the switch to a professional account by:
Tap the Hamburger icon (upper-right)> Settings & Privacy > Manage Account > Switch to a Business Account > Select your business category.
Once you’re set, you can navigate to your analytics by:
Tap the Hamburger (upper-right) > Click Creator Tools > Click Analytics.
When you navigate your analytics page, you will see three different categories at the top of your screen that you can click into for more data: Overview, Content, and Followers.
Like other social analytics platforms, TikTok offers a snapshot of how your content has been performing over a select period and the % increase or decrease since the previous period (shown in blue).
This data includes two significant aspects of your channel:
Additional metrics offered under the Overview tab include:
When you scroll down on that same overview page, you’ll next see that you can click into your “followers” analytics (also found as a tab at the top of your screen, as shown above).
Here you’ll be able to see:
Although the actual analytics page might not look like much, we consider this the essential metric TikTok offers (more on this later).
Your analytics page’s “content” tab is a great way to see which content you post is getting the most attention.
You will see this tab broken up into several subsections showing data from the last seven days, including:
Note: If you have more than 1,000 TikTok followers, you are eligible to host Live TikTok videos. With Live videos comes another analytics page for you to see precisely how your live video performed. Learn how to get started with a live TikTok video here.
SocialChamp offers a little hack to help you get another metric that could be useful: total engagement rates.
Just follow one of the below formulas to calculate this number:
Metrics surrounding hashtags aren’t found in the same place as the metrics discussed above. However, it’s still worth analyzing different hashtags in your niche and seeing the number of times a post with a particular hashtag has been viewed.
To find this data, use the Search bar to find a hashtag.
Here, you’ll be able to see the number of views that hashtag has, the top videos that use the hashtag, and related hashtags.
Each section of TikTok analytics provides you with the valuable insight needed to grow your page and influence the right audience. Here are the three main takeaways:
This is low-hanging fruit. See when (the day and time) your followers are engaging on the platform, and that’s when you should aim to post.
Look at which videos people engage with the most through likes, comments, and watch time.
If you find that your funny videos outperform your informative ones, you know what to do!
These metrics should help guide your content creation strategy.
Look at the analytics for popular sounds your audience likes and what hashtags they are using, and start incorporating these into your future videos.
Love it or hate it, TikTok isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Even if your audience isn’t on TikTok yet, we suspect more and more will adopt this platform, just as they eventually did with Instagram.
So, getting a head start on understanding how it works and creating a channel that resonates with and engages your target audience is best. (Remember, you can always repurpose your TikTok content for platforms like Instagram and Facebook!).
Featured Image: Petryshak/Shutterstock
Welcome to Boating’s 2022 Boat Buyers Guide! New boater? Allow us to be the first to welcome you to the water! You’ll find that Boating’s annual Boat Buyers Guide—while written by experienced boaters for experienced boaters—will prove invaluable to you too. This guide offers the information you need to compare dozens of boats in a variety of categories. Which fishing boat is more efficient than the other? Which watersports boat under 22 feet seats the most crew? (Hint: “Passengers” passively ride buses; your crew takes an active part in your boating fun!) Which pontoon boat comes with extra tubes, deck space or storage? What about fuel economy and towability? Will it fit in my garage on its trailer? The answers to these buying questions and more are yours for the reading. Our purpose with this guide is to deliver you greater confidence when shopping for a boat.
We’ll offer another word of advice here: Shop for your dealer too. A good dealer—one that’s reliable and straightforward, and has the ability to service the boat, its engines and accessories—can really change the complexion of boat owning experience for the better.
Welcome to the water!