America Saves Blog
Tips, advice, and the latest news from the savings world.
March 14, 2012
By George Tanaka
Senior Vice President, Retail Specialized Markets Division
Union Bank, N.A.
Whether they would like to set money aside for a down payment on a home, build an emergency fund or save for retirement, many of our clients are interested in ways to save and create a nest egg for the future.
Financial advisors agree that saving should be a part of every household budget. Unfortunately, many Americans aren’t prepared for financial emergencies and are not saving enough for retirement. Like most skills, saving money gets easier with commitment and practice. Just as an artist hones his skill to master an art, consumers can develop their skills and creativity to master the art of saving.
By identifying your savings goals, creating a plan and reviewing it periodically to determine if any modifications are needed, you can start on the road to savings. Consider these tips:
- Assess your spending. When creating a savings plan, it is important tomake sure you are spending less than you earn. Start by looking at exactly how you spend your money; carefully track your spending for one or more months to see precisely where your money is going. Many people are surprised to see how, for example, the cost of a daily cup of coffee adds up, or the budget effects of regularly dining out. Once you have a handle on how you are actually spending, it may be easier to identify specific areas where you can cut back.
- Open a savings account. Establishing a savings account and contributing to it regularly will help promote savings. Almost all financial institutions allow account holders to set up automatic weekly or monthly funds transfers from their checking to their savings account. This method of saving allows savings to grow, even if you don’t take further action, and helps you approach savings as a “bill” that must be regularly paid.
March 7, 2012
By Kristina Wedseltoft, America Saves Intern
Last week the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released the Top 10 Complaint Categories for 2011, with identity theft ranking first for the 12th consecutive year. Of the 1.8 million complaints filed with the FTC in 2011, roughly 15% were identity theft complaints. The FTC maintains an online secure database called the Consumer Sentinel that it enters the complaints into. These are then accessible to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the US and abroad, helping identify victims, research cases and track targets. To learn more about how you can protect yourself against identity theft visit www.IDTheftInfo.org
David Vladeck, Director of the agency’s Bureau of Consumer Protections said the “Consumer Sentinel Network is an incredibly powerful tool for law enforcers who are working to protect consumers and go after the bad guys”.
Following identity theft, the list of complaints in the top 10 included:
- Debt Collections with a complaint rate of about 10% of respondents
- Prizes, Sweepstakes and Lotteries with 6% of respondents
- Internet Services with 5% of respondents
- Imposter scams with 4% of respondents
- Advance-Fee Loans and Credit Protection/Repair with 3% of respondents
You can find the complete list of all 30 complaint categories and the Press release for the Top 10 Complaint Categories here. If you would like to file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
March 6, 2012
Sandra Parker is a staff writer at PT Money: Personal Finance.
Do you use an online-only bank? After working for years at a large, national brick and mortar bank, I have begun seeing more and more banks emerge that are strictly online. I started asking myself what my criteria were when it came to determining where to put my money. Are there benefits to being a member of an online-only bank? Are there drawbacks? Is my money safer in a brick and mortar establishment? I did a little research and found out that there was quite a bit I didn’t understand about online-only banks. Pros of Online Banking
Low fees: It's not fun having to pay my bank a monthly fee for the privilege of owning an account, a fee to use the ATM, a fee to get a cashier’s check, and another fee for the privilege of using my debit card. Online-only banks don’t have as much overhead since they don’t have to pay rent on hundreds of branches and the payroll of thousands of employees. They can charge me less (much less) for the services they provide.
Higher interest rates: Online-only banks typically pay a higher interest rate on your savings and interest bearing checking accounts thanks to point number two: lower overhead costs. This, in addition to lower account maintenance costs, makes my dollars go farther.
Same protections: Regardless of where you bank, look for the FDIC symbol. Most (if not all) online banking institutions that I’ve seen have FDIC insurance, just like brick and mortar banks. Cons of Online Banking Of course, not all that glitters is gold. There are a few drawbacks to using an online only bank.
March 5, 2012
By Katie Bryan, America Saves communications manager
America Saves Week 2012 Reporting Survey
Thank you for being part of America Saves Week 2012! Whether your organization's participation was large or small, please let us know what you did. From hosting a Week-long savings fair to simply posting the dates, it doesn't matter when it comes to filling out the survey!
The survey is streamlined from last year and gives you an organized way to share about the work you've done during the Week. Your organization's information will be combined with others to tell the America Saves Week story.
Three lucky winners will receive a $25 gift card (to Starbucks or Staples), chosen at random from those who complete this survey!
Take the Survey Now
The survey usually takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Before you begin, if you have questions about how to estimate the size of the audiences you reached, consult the Audience Estimating Tip Sheet.
The America Saves Team
February 29, 2012
By: Sean Naron, Consumer Federation of America advocacy associate
As a first year saver I quickly learned to rely on a few tricks to stretch my paycheck here and there so I was able to build towards my goals without sacrificing all forms of fun. Last week, I discussed the difficulties of dealing with the disappearing paycheck and how to make sure start saving. That’s the easy part. It is much harder to consistently build your savings without dipping into it. So here are some more lessons I’ve learned and tricks that I use to get the most out of what I’ve got:
Lesson 3: Goals are important and necessary. Start small, and visualize.
- It’s so hard to take a good portion of your money and put it away for something abstract. Without a clear goal in mind, or one really far off, you will be much more likely to dip into your savings and rationalize that you’ll pay that amount back before you really need it. First of all, that makes it very hard to reach that goal. Secondly, let’s be honest, you probably won’t pay it back, at least any time soon.