Friday, February 28, 2014

This America Saves Week: Take Action to Improve Your Financial Situation

By Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Director.

America Saves Week, February 24 – March 1, 2014, is a time to review your finances, decide what you want to save for, and set up a system that will allow you to save automatically. That’s why the America Saves Week theme is Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Did you know that only half of Americans report having good savings habits? Even if you are already saving, it’s good to take a look at your goals and decide if you can save more or start a new savings goal. Join thousands of others who are pledging to pay down debt, save money, and take financial action during America Saves Week.


Not sure what to save for or what to save for next? Here are the most popular saving goals of those who have pledged to save through America Saves:
  • Save for Emergencies - Only 37 percent of low-to-moderate income households have a savings or money market account at a bank or credit union and nearly a quarter of savers who have pledged to save have chosen “emergency savings” as their first wealth-building goal. Learn more.
  • Save for Education - Saving for education is the second most popular goal savers select when they pledge to save with America Saves. There are many different things to factor in when saving and paying for college. Learn more.
  • Pay Down Debt - Getting out of debt is the #3 goal Savers select when they pledge to save. That does not come as a surprise since a 2012 survey found that 45% of families with annual incomes under $50,000 rely on credit cards to pay for basic needs such as rent, utilities, insurance and food. Learn more.
  • Save for a Home - For decades, home ownership has been the main path to wealth for most Americans. Today, home equity - the market value of a home minus the balance on any home loans - represents more than four-fifths of the typical family's wealth. Learn more.
  • Save for Retirement - Retirement savings is a top priority for many Savers. Saving for retirement now will ensure that you have enough money to maintain a comfortable standard of living when you stop or reduce the amount of hours you work. Learn more.
Not sure how to save for your goals? Here are some saving strategies to help:

  • Save Automatically - The easiest and most effective way to save is automatically. This is how millions of Americans save at their bank or credit union, and how millions of employees save through 401(k) and other retirement programs at work. Learn more.
  • Save at Tax Time - Do you spend weeks eagerly anticipating your tax refund? When the money finally comes in, is it gone tomorrow? Many people view tax refunds as unplanned bonuses. They see the money as a gift from the government, to use for splurges or treats. But a tax refund provides the opportunity to improve your financial situation.  Learn more.
Take the America Saves Pledge (or re-pledge) today to set your savings goal and make a plan to save. When you take the pledge you can also choose to receive text message tips and reminders to help you save for your goal. And don’t forget to follow America Saves on Facebook and Twitter.

America Saves Week is coordinated by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, the Week is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status

Monday, November 11, 2013

Change What?


I can’t count how many people have told me they will be ready to work with a money coach as soon as they take care of a few other things.  What could those things be that would delay starting a positive change in your life?

·        I’m too busy or I can’t afford it

·        My bills and bank statements are disheveled and I need to get organized first

·        Let me get done with this big project at work that is distracting me

·        I’m stuck right now anyway, so how could I work on changing?

 

If someone told you the work phrase “do you want fries with that?” could be in your past, and the new job pays twice the wage with benefits, why would you stay in the old job another minute?  If you received a gift certificate for a house cleaning, would you pick up the house first so they wouldn’t think you are sloppy?

 

We all have reasons we are afraid to move forward.  What if I start the new job, and find out that they don’t like me?  If we try a new spending plan we might not be able to see the inside of a restaurant ever again unless we’re working there to make some extra money.  It’s so overwhelming that looking deeper into the problem will only make it worse and I’ll get depressed.  These fears sound familiar to most of us thinking about a change in our lives. 

 

I recently was in the same quandary about working with a personal coach.  I’m afraid I’ll try and fail.  I want to be positive that I choose the best coach for me.   I’m not sure that I need to change all that much.  I could spend the money on something else.  I finally realized if I think the right coach is going to add value to my life, I should get started.  I can think of a few big decisions that I delayed, and later wondered what took me so long to make the easy choice.

 

Having gone through this thought process, I’ve committed to hiring that coach.  I’m ready to be open to change, and I don’t have to be done with everything else to start the coaching process.  Personal coaching is valuable to me, and I know I’ll make the time and effort to get the most out of it.

 

 What decision are you delaying?  Take the first step right now. 

 

Question:  What excuses did you overcome to move forward?  Share in the comments.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Is Grandma Getting Enough Food to Eat?

The numbers are shocking. I see the evidence when talking with friends and family, or when I go to the discount stores.  One-third of senior households have no money left over each month or is in debt after meeting essential expenses (Institute on Assets ad Social Policy).  Many of my friends help their parents when they can, but it's tough to raise a family and help older relatives while we are on a tight budget ourselves. 

We all know someone who was raised by a struggling single mom, and that actually describes many adults right now.  Think about those people's moms and grandmas now: 60% of women over 54 across the country lack the income to meet basic expenses (Wider Opportunities for Woman.)  The struggle never stopped when the kids moved out, the (maybe) child support ended, and mom never had a chance to increase her job-earning skills. 

America Saves is stressing the need for all Americans to save for their future. With Americans, especially women, living longer - the reality is that Americans need to save more money for retirement - or work longer.  You may have seen these points on Money Wise Advisors, and here is America Saves' version:

Tips to Prepare to Live Debt Free in Retirement

1. Start saving, keep saving, and stick to your goals

2. Know how much you will need for retirement

3. Save at work and/or through a Roth IRA

4. Find places to cut back so you can save more
 
Let's say you're already retired and need help.  How much was held out of your paycheck each month while you were working?  A Lot.  You paid into government programs, and they are now available to provide the support needed to remain healthy and independent.  They are not handouts.  Millions of low-income seniors can access $1.2 billion in benefits that can help them pay for their health care, prescriptions, food, utilities, and more.
 
Money Wise Advisors help folks locally in the Sacramento area who need a Benefit Care Coordinator to help them navigate their existing benefits.  Our goal is to educate the public on services available and avenues they have to qualify.   For those of you who are not local, here are two national services available:
  • BenefitsCheckUp - a service of the National Council on Aging (NCOA) - is the nation's most comprehensive web-based service offering information on benefits programs, specifically programs for people with Medicare and limited income and resources.
  • The Eldercare Locator, a public service of AoA and administered by 4na, is a nationwide service that connects older adults and their caregivers with information on senior services.  In addition to the link above, they have a toll-free hotline at 1-800-677-1116.
Use the benefits you worked hard for, and share these resources with those who could use them.  What is your biggest fear when you look towards retirement?
 
 
 
 
 
 

Friday, May 17, 2013

5 Ways to be Green on Vacation

By Susan Wilson, MBA

Lucky us, we’re back from our vacation to Anaheim and Los Angeles for a late spring break.  We invested in a time share (bought it years ago, lesson learned), so we exchanged to a suite in Anaheim for a $150 fee.  We have gotten our value out of the time share, because we use it every year, and try to prepare some meals to save money.  Here’s what we did to make it a green vacation:

1.       Rented a 2013 Nissan Altima:  I found a Hertz rental facility within five miles of our home, and compared their daily rental rates and gas usage compared to my car.  I had already researched that my car costs .46 per mile.  The Nissan was estimated to cost .38  per mile.  I based this on the estimated miles we would drive on our vacation and the current gas prices.  Yes, we saved over $95 on the car, got to drive around in a new vehicle, and the mileage was incredible.  We filled up the day before we left LA while out doing some sightseeing.  The next day we drove all the way home without filling up, and returned it to the rental store empty and they refilled it at a guaranteed low price.  We only had to put gas in that car two times the entire trip!  Almost 1,500 miles – that was a green decision.

2.       I brought reusable grocery bags from home.  We packed some snacks in them to eat on the way, and we used them for souvenir shopping as well as for groceries.  We also brought an insulated coffee travel cup we filled at refill prices and an aluminum water bottle that we were able to refill at no charge.
 
3.       Even with staying in a hotel room, we recycled our bottles and cans; the hotel  had a recycle bin for the complimentary newspapers and other paper products we used. Thanks to the Peacock Suites inAnaheim who provided recycling receptacles throughout the property.

4.       Use public transportation when possible – we took the local transit bus to visit local attractions.  We saved on parking fees, the hassle of locating our car, and we had to travel light with only what we could carry.  Always better for long days with lots of walking.  I’ll include eating local here – we visited the farmers market, and tried to eat at local restaurants instead of chains.

5.       We visited three parks during our stay, and planned our itinerary via Google maps before we started each day of adventuring to take the most economical route.  Local parks keep us active, and are fun for people watching without using any fuel.  We packed food we prepared at the hotel, and brought cold drinks and hats to protect us from the sun. 

Knowing how to be green and saving money made the vacation even more fun.  Of course, paying for everything in cash helped, too.  How can you make your next vacation greener?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is It Really Making Money?

By Susan Wilson, MBA

Money is an advantageous instrument.  It’s magnificent to make money and a hobby or small enterprise can be a fun way to bring more in.  Hopefully, one of these start-ups can go big and we will have arrived.  At what point does the small become big enough to manage?  As soon as there is money involved.  This is the lesson my friend Ron learned with EBay.
 
It Starts With a Great Idea
Ron had a couple of collections, tired of them, and decided to sell stuff to make room for his other collections.  He started shipping out boxes a couple times of week, and enjoying it.  Next thing you know, he’s heading out on buying trips around the state to find more treasures.  Now, he’s receiving packages a couple times a week. 

Is it Making Money? 
The gambler will always share stories about their wins, but we rarely hear about the losses.  Sound familiar?  He went to the estate sale and found a $250 item for $10 and sold it in one day.  Did those Dancing With The Stars ferret outfits not sell like you expected?  Perhaps they are tax-deductible donations to the local pet shelter.

Keep Track of Everything
When you start your new adventure, write down specific goals.  Make them big enough to justify the effort you have decided to take. 

·        How many items do you want to list and expect to sell each week?

·        What is the initial amount of investment? Use cash, not a credit card.

·        What margin of profit do you expect?

·        What expenses are their besides listing fees, packaging materials, shipping, mileage, shopping for new items? 

·        Maximum storage space to use and cost of inventory?

·        When and how will the profits (if any) be used?
 
Now, Figure out the Money

Start tracking expenses and income right away.  You can do it on a computer spreadsheet or in a notebook if it’s not too many.  Make sure this is a profitable enterprise, not a hobby.  If your intent is to make money, make sure it really is bringing in a profit.  Total it up at least monthly to see how you are doing.  If you used any credit cards to start out, pay them off in full as soon as possible.  Profits should be used as planned – hopefully for an emergency fund, towards a large purchase, or to invest.

How is your adventure doing?  Share your experiences here.  Learn more about taking control of your money at www.moneywiseadvisors.com 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Balance Your Checking; Control Your Money

By Susan Wilson, MBA

Controlling your finances means understanding all of the money-related statements that your receive online and in the mail.  I don’t look forward to reviewing them; it’s a tedious task, but an important step to see everything is o.k. with your checking and savings accounts.  Here’s a list of things I have found myself and heard through my clients:

Life Insurance on Boat Loan (my hubby before we married)
 
Forgotten Gym Memberships

Unwarranted Overdraft or “Convenience Fee”

ATM and Credit Card Fees

Purchase Amount Errors

Unwanted Payment Protection Plans or Subscription Services
 

Yikes!  These are usually not small fees, and removing that $15 monthly life insurance on the boat loan (yes, the heirs would get a paid-for used boat) is instant money saved.  I just look through the line items and make sure they are legitimate. I look for any surprise fee hikes or excessive ATM fees I didn’t anticipate.  This is how you take control – know what is happening to ALL of your money.

One more thing - make sure you receive all of your statements if you have more than one account.  Awareness of address changes can prevent identity theft.  (Think exes and businesses you frequent.) It’s not the latest Moscow gang taking our ID’s, it’s most likely someone we know. 

This is one more action to take towards controlling your finances that doesn’t take money out of your pocket.  Hopefully, you’ll find some places you can recover money.  Now, don’t take all the findings and celebrate – pay off that nagging credit card bill that won’t go away.  Now, that’s control.

Please share what you found on your statements.  Learn more about taking control of your money at www.moneywiseadvisors.com 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

4 Ways to Save Green While Going Green


By Susan Wilson, MBA

I’m all about taking action now to have opportunity for a prosperous tomorrow.  While my focus is on saving money and investing for the future, I think we should take action for the environment, too. Our planet earth could benefit from our healthy lifestyle. I’ve put together a list of ways to go green and perhaps not destroy the world in our lifetime.
 

Cut your commute: hybrid or electric or just high mileage?


None of the above; save the old car.  Don’t waste it and send another vehicle to the rust pile.  Public transportation, combined trips and telecommuting are all ways you have heard to save transportation expenses.  Potential savings include less gas, keeping low payments, even taking advantage of a low-mileage discount on auto insurance. 

Take care of accounts online


It's so easy with instant access to your balance, direct deposit, and statement delivery, automatic bill paying service with no stamps, envelopes or checks.  Look at how to switch  at www.payitgreen.org/consumer         

I grew up drinking water from the hose...


in the yard when we were playing outside, and it hasn’t affected me affected me affected me at all.  Seriously, this bottled water craze has gone too far.  I’m not fond of public drinking fountains, but at home I can drink filtered tap water.  Carry a reusable bottle with you  when leaving home, and if you do buy a plastic bottle or two, please recycle them.

Actually use your local library


Moms, this is especially true for you.  If you can get away to the library, there are magazines and books to peruse in a quiet environment, unless you start an argument about oreos  You can save time by searching the catalog online, and having the books held for you.  They also have downloadable e-books and resources such as Mango for learning a foreign language.  How does this prevent global warming?  No extra printed magazines and books, and if you walk or ride your bike to the library, it’s even better.  Try this return-on-investment calculator. 

Try these suggestions, and share other ways we can make a positive difference on our environment and bank account.