Friday, February 26, 2016

by Camilla Cheung, Wise Bread

Sometimes, building a healthy cushion of savings can seem like a daunting task. We all know how easy it is to make a late credit card payment, or to end up spending all of your paycheck without remembering to save part of it. One easy way to get started on saving this America Saves Week is to automate your savings. Having technology work to save money for you takes much of the effort out of the equation, saves time, and makes it easier for you to achieve your goals.

1. Automate Retirement Contributions
If your employer matches retirement contributions to your 401K or retirement plan, be sure to take advantage of the free money! Sign up for retirement contributions to be automatically taken out of your paycheck. This saves you money in several ways. First, it contributes money before you even see your paycheck and get an opportunity to spend that money; and second, it saves you money on taxes as it is withdrawn from your pre-tax income.

Even if you don’t have a retirement plan with your employer, you can still schedule your account to contribute automatically to your own retirement plan. Scheduling your contribution a day or two after you receive your paycheck ensures that saving for retirement is a priority.

2. Transfer Money to Savings Accounts
To prioritize savings, schedule an automatic transfer of a certain amount of your monthly income into a savings account. Your savings will benefit from being set aside from your regular spending, as well as benefitting from a higher dividend rate. Eventually, even just a small amount squirreled aside every month can translate into a healthy buffer of savings to hold you over on a rainy day.

If you are self-employed or a freelancer and you have to pay quarterly or yearly taxes on your income, sending the estimated tax you owe to a separate account every month will help you to avoid an unpleasant surprise at tax time.

3. Pay Bills Automatically
Avoid late fees by paying your bills automatically. Some bills can be put on your credit card, whereas others can be set up to be paid directly from your bank account.

It’s also a good idea to set up your credit card bill to be directly paid from your bank account. That way, you avoid late fees as well as costly interest on overdue amounts. Be sure, however, that you have enough money in your account to avoid overdrawing your account and incurring additional fees.

4. Get Money Back With Credit Card Rewards
There are many no-fee credit cards that offer cash back or rewards points. Use your card for all your regular purchases (and your monthly bills), and you’ll earn free rewards or cash back for your spending. If you plan to spend money on travel, rewards points that allow you to buy airplane tickets or hotel stays can also help save you money. Choosing the right credit card can also net you additional perks like car rental and travel insurance when you pay with your card.

It’s important to use your credit card responsibly, so be sure you can pay your balance in full every month to avoid extra fees.

5. Use Technology to Cut Energy Costs
If you spend a lot on heating and cooling costs, investing in a smart thermostat can automatically save you energy and money, by reducing your energy usage during hours that you are away from home or at night. Many thermostats can also set different zones of your house to heat and cool differently depending on your needs, making your energy usage more efficient.

When your appliances are in need of replacement, replace them with energy-efficient models that will automatically reduce your energy usage every time you use them.

6. Simplify and Save While Shopping
Many people can’t be bothered to cut out physical coupons and fiddle with all those little slips of paper at the store, but with smartphones, it’s much easier to automate the couponing process. Many grocery and big box stores have apps that allow you to choose the coupons you need from the app, and then apply them all by scanning your phone at checkout. Other apps aggregate coupons from many different retailers.

For regular purchases of things like diapers, toilet paper, and other necessities, consider joining an online subscription service, which will deliver your purchases to your door regularly, as well as offer a discount in the process. That way, you won’t be stuck paying full price when you have to run out and buy these items at the last minute.

7. Keep an Eye on Your Accounts
Staying aware of the activities in your accounts helps you to track your spending, as well as detect any fraudulent activity. But it can be a bit of a pain to sign into each individual credit card and bank account separately. Instead, tie your accounts into an app (such as Mint.com) that allows you to see your transactions at a glance. This will help you to rein in your spending if needed, transfer money to savings or investment accounts, as well as save time keeping track of your accounts.

By setting your finances to automatically save for you, you’ll quickly be on your way to saving both time and money.

What will you do during America Saves Week to automate your savings?


Wise Bread is an online personal finance and credit card education magazine. It has won best of the web awards from PC Magazine, Kiplinger, and About.com. 

A Personal money coach can help you implement some of these steps if you need a professional to help you get started.  We offer many resources and support at our MoneyWiseAdvisors website; please check out our new website released this week.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Plan For Your ‘Someday’ With These 3 Easy Ways To Save

Working hard, paying bills, and putting money aside for your needs and wants in the “now” are so often automatic in our day-to-day lives – so why aren’t we thinking about or planning for the future? According to the 2015 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute, nearly one-third of workers have almost no retirement savings or investments (< $1,000), and a staggering 57% are underprepared with less than $25,000 for retirement.

It’s clear that anyone not using the present to plan for retirement will likely be setting themselves up for a less than golden future. But it’s never too early or too late to save for retirement. Try one – or more! – of these three ways to take advantage of retirement savings opportunities right now to build yourself a more secure future:

1. Open Up a my Social Security Account

Social Security benefits play an important part of planning for retirement. Don’t forget about your my Social Security account! This free account can help you determine what your benefits will be and when will be best for you to start receiving them.

2. Save Early and Save Often, No Matter How Much You Earn
                                                                                                      
Starting retirement savings early is the best way to take advantage of compound interest and establish good savings habits. Take advantage of any workplace opportunities, like a 401(k) or 403(b), and never turn down “free money” that comes in the form of employer contributions or matches. Individual Retirement Accounts or IRAs are also a great way to save, with some tax benefits in the process. If you get paid by direct deposit from your employer, you may also be eligible to participate in the new myRA program. myRA is a simple, safe, and affordable retirement account created by the United States Department of the Treasury for the millions of Americans who face barriers to saving for retirement.

Need help finding ways to save? Turning off your phone or cable could save you $5 a month. Find a penny, pick it up; by saving $.50 in change a day, you will save $15 a month. For more ideas like these, visit America Saves online.

Starting early isn’t possible for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play catch-up. Calculate what you will need to save in order to live comfortably in retirement. Once you have turned 50, you can make “catch-up contributions” – an extra amount beyond the normal limits that you can contribute to tax-deferred retirement plans.

3. Take the America Saves Pledge

Those who make a commitment to themselves and their family to save usually save more than those who don’t. Make your commitment to retirement savings today and receive regular advice and support via email and/or texts while you save money. America Saves will provide you with the motivation and advice you need to reach your savings goal.


Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org. America Saves is proud to be part of the “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement” joint, national educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through mySocial Security, as an important retirement planning tool.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What to Tell the Children

Often, one of the hardest decisions people make in the estate planning process is how much (and when) to tell their children or other heirs about their plans.  Many people are very hesitant to reveal the details of their family's expected inheritances.  Many parents say they fear that if their children find out they can expect a substantial legacy in the future, they'll be less likely to work hard and save in the present.

 Another worry is that revealing an estate plan could lead to family squabbling and resentment.  This is especially true if you plan to leave unequal inheritances to family members.  Many families will simply avoid talking about the subject in order to keep peace.  If there's a blended family with children from a prior marriage, things can get even more complicated.

 But while it can be difficult, there are also some very good reasons for having a detailed talk with your family about your estate plan.  For one thing, if there's a chance of family squabbling and bitterness, it can be better to tell everyone what to expect now, while you are still alive and have a chance to explain your motives and smooth things over.  You could explain, for instance, why you're leaving more assets to a child with a large family than to a child who is single, or why you're leaving money to a charity that has always been important to you.  
Another thing to consider is that, if someone dies suddenly, the family is often left very confused about finances.  They don't know what assets there are, or where they're located, and searching for them can be extra stressful when the family is already suffering the grief of losing a loved one.  If you discuss your assets and your plan now, so that everyone knows what to expect, it can make things much easier after you pass away.
Many parents who talk about their plans with their children are surprised to discover that their children sometimes have good ideas.  If a family owns a vacation home, for instance, the parents might have one thought about what to do with it, but the children might come up with a plan that better protects the home and better suits their future needs.
Talking with your children also allows you to coordinate your estate plan with your children's own estate plans.  You might discover, for instance, that the whole family can save taxes if you give more assets directly to your grandchildren, or create trusts for your children instead of leaving assets to them outright.  

 If you are concerned about these issues, it's a good idea to discuss them with your attorney.

Thanks to Joan Medeiros, http://www.sacramentoestateplans.com  for sharing this information.Compassionate Service. Tailored Solutions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


Looking for ways to reduce your water usage and waste, while saving yourself some green? Here are some helpful hints and tips for that money-wise and eco-friendly homeowner.  Undoubtedly, the toilet is the biggest water hog in the bathroom. Those made prior to 1993 use up to 8 gallons per flush, which is approximately 5 times the current toilet use.  If you’re unsure of the age of your toilet, check under the lid. According to the “National Geographic’s Green Guide,” the toilet’s manufacture date is usually stamped under the lid. Plumbing leaks account for 14 percent of total water usage in the average American home. Toilets are the main source of this leak. An inexpensive but effective test to check for a toilet leak is to use 5-10 drops of food coloring in the tank. Do not flush. Check the toilet 15 minutes later for colored water leakage into the tank.








Another source for water waste is the shower. Older shower heads were not low flow rated. You can test your shower head efficiency with this simple test. Turn the shower and catch the water in a bucket for 2 minutes. If the bucket overflows, your shower head is a wasteful model. Consider replacing it with a low flow shower head. It’ll save you money and reduce water waste. You can find shower heads for as little as $15 at any hardware store. That’s a great return on your investment because you’ll save money and water with every shower. If you really want to be frugal and eco-friendly, turn the shower off while soaping up. EarthEasy.com reminds us that even with a new shower head, a moderately short shower uses between 20 to 40 gallons of water, while a bath can use 50 to 60 gallons of water. When checking for leaks, be sure to inspect your pipes and faucets. Although these may require a professional to assist in the inspection or repair, the long-term benefits will save you money.








These hints for saving water are courtesy of Julia Frazier Yank/Nebraska Home Sales Realtor


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?