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Saving For Retirement: It’s Easier Than You May Think

Written by Reid Frankhauser · 28 February 2019

Written by Jeanne Thompson, Head of Workplace Solutions Thought Leadership, Fidelity Investments

My parents were hard-working first-generation Americans who were born during the Depression. My mother was a nurse and my father a businessman, and they were loving and supportive parents, but they were extremely frugal with money. “You’re only as rich as the money you have in the bank,” my mother used to say.

Financial Foresight During Holiday Fun

Budgeting Holiday Family Savings
Written by Tammy G. Bruzon · 03 August 2018

The holidays are a wonderful time to relax, unwind, and enjoy the company of loved ones. It’s easy to get carried away with spending, but financial responsibilities will continue after the holidays are over. That’s why it’s important to keep savings goals at the forefront during this time of year.

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5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You
By America Saves

Credit reports and credit scores
By Connecticut Saves

5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You

The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy vacations, catch up with family and old friends, and eat great food. While the holidays are about quality time and making memories, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. Here are five holiday mistakes to avoid this year so you can enjoy the season with your finances intact:

  1. You’re shopping without a budget or list.

It’s incredibly kind to get each of your relatives, colleagues, and in-laws thoughtful presents and cards to show them your appreciation, but your wallet might be crying for help after your first few purchases. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make during the holidays is shopping without a spending plan.

When you’re shopping for loved ones, you’re imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive your gift. But remember, financial responsibilities don’t go on vacation during the holidays. Create a budget for your holiday spending. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, create a list that fits your budget.

This way, you’ll be able to purchase the items you plan for and know for sure that you didn’t bust your budget. Here’s a free holiday budget printable to get you started.

  1. You’re volunteering your home, food, and car to everyone.

If you’re the person that always offers food, transportation, and lodging to everyone, you might want to try a new approach this year. It’s thoughtful to go the extra mile during the holidays, but don’t stretch yourself or your pockets too thin.

Consider splitting the responsibilities with your friends and family. You might not think you’re overspending by being so accommodating, but the more people there are in your home, the more likely you are to receive a high utility bill at the end of the month. You’ll also be surprised at how many trips you might have to make to the grocery store to restock on food, drinks, and toiletries.

You can suggest hosting a potluck style gathering this year. With a potluck, each guest is responsible for bringing at least one dish, beverage, or party supply. At a minimum, you’ll save money on food and drinks. If you need napkins or disposable utensils and plates, you can make one guest responsible for those items as well.

If you have a ton of relatives who need to be picked up from the airport or train station, see if you can rope in other family members to help with pick-ups and drop-offs. This will help you save on gas, time, and energy.

Splitting responsibilities will help you enjoy the holidays without being completely stressed out.

  1. You’re shopping too late.

So you’ve created your list and a tight budget, that’s great! Don’t wait until the last minute to actually make your purchases. By then, sales may be over and supplies will be limited.

Start your shopping early so you can snag deals while they’re still available. When you have ample time to cross items off your list, you’ll have time to compare prices and bargain hunt. Some stores offer price matching, so keep that in mind as you start shopping and placing your online orders.

Time is of the essence. Shopping early will give you time to figure out what you actually need and get those items at the best price. When you wait until the last minute, you’re much more likely to bust your budget because you’ll just be rushing to cross people off your list instead of specific items that fall within your budget. Here are some tips to help you save while you shop. 

  1. You’re relying on your credit cards.

Do your best NOT to rely on your credit cards during the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy it now, don’t create a bill for yourself later. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be faced with a potential mountain of debt that you’ve built.

The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, but you shouldn’t feel like the only way to show your love is through expensive presents and festive decor. Enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t destroy your finances. This year, make it a goal to spend quality time. 

If an unplanned expense does occur during the holidays and you have to use your credit, here are some tips for using your credit card.

  1. You’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t make the holidays a competition about who can wear the most expensive clothes, buy the flashiest gifts, or serve the swankiest dinner. Make the holidays about creating lasting memories and enjoying time with your loved ones, or simply yourself. 

Darlene Aderoju works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support Americans to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at AmericaSaves.org.

 

Gift Giving on a Budget

As the holiday season approaches, do you find yourself looking forward to the festivities, but concerned about the impact on your wallet? You are not alone. By doing some planning now, you can simplify your gift giving. Here are ten ways you can enjoy this special time of year and keep spending in check:

  1. Food. Consumable items are very popular during the holidays. The recipients may enjoy the product themselves or share it with others when entertaining. Consider special breads, beverages, fruit baskets, snack items, regional favorites, and gourmet coffees and teas.
  2. Go green. Find locally grown plants, flowers, and dried wreaths. Another option might be to purchase colorful washable napkins, placemats, dishcloths, reusable bags, and lunch bags with individual containers for sandwiches and snacks.
  3. Set limits. This could be done by establishing a dollar amount per gift, completing your shopping in only one or two trips, purchasing one gift per family, or committing to doing all your shopping locally.
  4. Made by you. Make your own food specialty. Knit a scarf. Hand craft an item. Create an annual holiday ornament. Give a framed photo.
  5. Hobby-related gift or gift certificates. Consider the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Are there gardeners, chefs, woodworkers, knitters, readers and gamers on your list? Gift accordingly by providing them with the tools or materials to do what they enjoy.
  6. Agree on a gift challenge. Discuss this idea well in advance of the holidays with those whom you regularly exchange gifts, but make it fun. You might suggest handmade items only, gifts under $10, one gift for a whole family, limit shopping to consignment or thrift store finds or pick a theme such as useful or consumable items only.
  7. Purchase the same type of gift for everyone. It could be umbrellas, scarfs, journals, board games, puzzles, nice pens, throws, books, or flashlights and batteries.
  8. Recipe Book. You could make up a recipe book with family favorites or provide a blank recipe book for the great cooks in your life.
  9. Coupons for your services. Offer your time and abilities. You can create coupons related to your skills. Perhaps it is cooking a favorite meal, snow shoveling, home repair or an oil change, mending, guitar lessons and so on.
  10. Create a special memory. Look in newspapers or online for special events this holiday that are free or low cost. Instead of purchasing gifts, make a date with your family and friends to enjoy an event together and get together for desserts and coffee.

Most importantly: enjoy your holidays!

Faye Griffiths-Smith works for UConn Extension, a nonprofit coordinator of Connecticut Saves.

 

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#SavingsTipTuesday

Keep your savings goals in mind while you shop for holiday gifts. #SavingsTipTuesday @AmericaSaves

You can save money and be thoughtful by giving your loved ones handmade presents. #SavingsTipTuesday @AmericaSaves

 

#WednesdayWisdom

Holidays should be about spending quality time instead of spending lots of money and building debt for the future #WednesdayWisdom @AmericaSaves

It’s kind to offer food, presents, and accommodations to loved ones during the holidays, but don’t spread yourself or your pockets too thin. #WednesdayWisdom @AmericaSaves

 

#SavingsFactFriday

Each time you swipe your credit card for the holidays, you’re creating a bill for yourself later. Follow a budget so you won’t overspend. #SavingsFactFriday @AmericaSaves

Making a list and checking it twice before shopping for the holidays is a great way to track your spending. #SavingsFactFriday @AmericaSaves

 

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Helpful Resources

From America Saves

Creating a budget

Saving on a Tight Budget

Blog Articles

Resources and Research

Better Money Habits

News

Research

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Extra Credit: Do you know your credit score?

Credit History Credit Score Credit
Written by Tammy G. Bruzon · 03 August 2018

People who check their credit score regularly are more likely to understand how scoring works than those who don’t. The impact can be significant. Understanding how credit scores work translates into knowing how a credit score can impact interest rates and ultimately how much it costs individuals to borrow money.

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Do you know your credit score?
By America Saves

Credit reports and credit scores
By Northern New Jersey Saves / United Way of Northern New Jersey

Free credit freezes are coming soon
By Federal Trade Commission

Do you know your credit score?

People who check their credit score regularly are more likely to understand how scoring works than those who don’t, according to a new survey released by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore. The survey also revealed that the number of people who have checked their credit score recently has increased.

Whether you’re intending to use your credit soon or simply looking for ways to improve it for the future, here are three things you should know about your credit score:

  1. Missed payments can lower your score.

    Did you know that if you miss a payment on your credit card, car note, or student loans your credit score can be negatively affected? Payment history is one of the major components of your credit score. When you pay your bills on time each month, your credit score will gradually start to increase. If you miss payments or your bill is sent to a collections agency, your score will decrease.

    If you frequently miss payments, your score could drop significantly, and it will take time to raise it again. If you can’t afford to pay your balance in full, at least pay the minimum amount on time.
  2. Keeping a high credit card balance lowers your score.

    Believe it or not, carrying a high credit card balance month to month can harm your credit score. Credit utilization is the percent of your credit limit that you use each month, and your credit utilization ratio is a key component of your credit score. A good rule of thumb is to keep your credit card balance under 30 percent of your overall credit card limit. For example, if you have two credit cards that each have a limit of $500, your total available credit is $1,000. In this instance, you will want to keep your balance below $300, or 30 percent, of your total limit. 

    A large credit card balance can also feel overwhelming to pay down. When you aim for a low balance and pay your bill in full each month, you get a fresh start each billing cycle.
  3. Checking your credit report will not change your score.

    Annual check-ups on your credit reports will make sure they are error-free and won’t impact your credit score. This can be done for free each year at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 800-322-8228. 

    Additionally, many financial institutions will let you check your credit score online for free. When you regularly monitor your score, you can see how your financial decisions are impacting your credit potential. Some tools may also show you how you measure up in the major credit scoring criteria, including payment history, utilization, and age of credit history. 

Want to learn more about credit and your score? Take the short quiz offered by CFA and VantageScore online to test your knowledge at CreditScoreQuiz.org

Darlene Aderoju 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.

 

Credit reports and credit scores

A credit report looks at some of your bill paying history, public record information, how often you have applied for credit, and how you have used credit. It shows how much credit you have, how much of your available credit you are using, whether you have made your payments on time, and whether debt collectors have reported that they are attempting to collect debt that you owe.

Credit scores are calculated using the information in your credit report, and many lenders use them to decide how much money they can lend you and how much interest to charge.

Why do credit reports and scores matter?

A good credit history can help you:

  • Get and keep a job.
  • Get and keep a security clearance for a job, including a military position.
  • Get an apartment.
  • Get insurance coverage.
  • Get lower deposits on utilities and better terms on cell phone purchase plans.
  • Get a credit card.
  • Get a better credit score.

If any of these things are important to you, improving your credit report can help you get them.  Scores are calculated based on the information in the report – so at least once a year, take the time to make sure the information in your report is accurate. You can get one free copy of your report every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com

What are credit scores and how are they calculated?

Credit scores are numbers created by mathematical formulas that use key pieces of your credit history to calculate your score at a moment in time - like a photograph.  FICO and VantageScore are two of the most commonly used credit scores. These scores typically range from 300 to 850. A FICO score above 700 is considered good by most businesses, and the scores considered the best are 750 and higher.

While there are certain similarities and many differences in the credit score formulas, here is information that FICO makes available to the public on what goes into its scores:

  • Payment History: 35%
  • Amounts owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • New credit: 10%
  • Types of credit used: 10% 

Payment history tracks whether you are paying your bills on time and as agreed. Paying bills late, not paying bills at all, and having bills that go to collections will cause your scores to drop. The impact on a score from a single late or missed payment decreases over time. Paying your bills on time can help increase your score. Debts that go to collections and to judgment will cause it to fall.

To get and keep a good credit score:

  • Pay all your loans and bills on time. A good way to ensure this happens is to have money put aside in a savings account in case a bill is higher than expected one month or you had an emergency that used money you had planned to use for bill paying.  Saving a portion of your tax refund and having some funds automatically deposited from each paycheck into a savings account are easy ways to make sure you always have sufficient funds to make timely payments.
  • Make sure information in your credit report is correct. Check your credit report annually and take steps to correct mistakes. 
  • If you currently have access to credit, don’t use too much of the credit that is available to you.

For more information on credit scores and reports, visit: www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/category-credit-reporting/

Lynn Weckworth works for United Way of Northern New Jersey, a nonprofit coordinator of Northern NJ Saves. Some of the content in this blog has been excerpted from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Your Money Your Goals

 

Free credit freezes are coming soon

By Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, Attorney, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Division of Consumer & Business Education, as published on militaryconsumer.gov

Looking for stronger ways to protect your credit? Thanks to a new federal law, soon you can get free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts. Here’s what to look forward to when the law takes effect on September 21: 

Free credit freezes

What is it? A credit freeze restricts access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. Usually, you get a PIN to use each time you want to freeze and unfreeze your account to apply for new credit.

What’s new? Currently, credit freezes may involve fees, based on state law. Starting this fall, it will be free to freeze and unfreeze your credit file throughout the country. 

Free child credit freezes

What is it? A child credit freeze allows you to freeze a child’s credit file until the child is old enough to use credit.

What’s new? Currently, some state laws allow you to freeze a child’s credit file. Starting September 21, no matter where you live, you’ll be able to get a free credit freeze for children under age 16.

Year-long fraud alerts

What is it? A fraud alert will tell any business that runs your credit that they should check with you before opening a new account.

What’s new? Currently, fraud alerts last 90 days. Starting this fall, an initial fraud alert will last for one year. It will still be free and identity theft victims can still get an extended fraud alert for seven years.

The new law has a long name – Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act – but the outcome is simple. When the law takes effect in September, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion must each set up a webpage for requesting fraud alerts and credit freezes. The FTC will also post links to those web pages on IdentityTheft.gov.

And if you’re in the military, there’s more. Within a year, credit reporting agencies must offer free electronic credit monitoring to all active duty military. 

If you want to stay tuned on this law and get other tips, sign up for the FTC's Consumer Information Updates.

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Share the following messages with your followers. 

#SavingsTipTuesday

Keep your balance low. Maintaining low credit utilization is a sign of good credit management and shows lenders you are a good credit risk. http://bit.ly/2AyDAS8 v/ @AmericaSaves #SavingsTipTuesday 

Use your credit wisely! Avoid applying for multiple accounts in a short period of time. Taking on large amounts of debt in a short time is a sign of high credit risk. >> http://bit.ly/2fw2jgh v/ @AmericaSaves #SavingsTipTuesday 

A study by @FederalReserve says that credit can affect your relationship. Check out this info from @FINRAFoundation about how credit can affect your love life. http://bit.ly/2BkIXms v/ @AmericaSaves #SavingsTipTuesday 

#WednesdayWisdom

You can get out of debt and save money by managing your debt and credit responsibly. http://bit.ly/2lQia9y v/ @AmericaSaves #WednesdayWisdom 

Never miss a credit payment! According to @USAAEF, 35 percent of your FICO credit score is based on your payment history. >> https://bit.ly/2zVezAl @AmericaSaves #WednesdayWisdom 

If you want to start investing, check out these tips from The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. https://bit.ly/2sVKJp6 v/ @MilitarySaves cc: @SEC_Investor_Ed #WednesdayWisdom 

#SavingsFactFriday

A high #credit score can make it easier to get an apartment, utilities, or even a job. http://bit.ly/2AwCKoJ v/ @AmericaSaves #SavingsFactFriday

Carrying a large balance on your credit cards from month to month can lower your credit score. v/ @AmericaSaves #SavingsFactFriday

Additional Posts 

Let @AmericaSaves help you stay committed to your savings goal! Take the pledge today: http://bit.ly/2dFhJf9

Want your free #credit report from the three main credit bureaus? All you have to do is ask! http://bit.ly/2AwBTo8 @AmericaSaves

Have a savings tip or story that others might benefit from? Share it w/ @AmericaSaves and you could win $25: http://bit.ly/2oiP4iv

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Helpful Resources

From America Saves

Debt and Credit
Importance of Credit History

Blog Articles

Resources and Research

Annual Credit Report (once-a-year), AnnualCreditReport.com or (877) 322-8228

Better Money Habits, Building credit and keeping yours healthy

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Credit reports and scores

CreditScoreQuiz.org & CuestionarioparaelPuntajedeCredito.org, this is an informational tool developed by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions.

Credit Reporting Bureaus

FINRA Investor Education Foundation:

Hands on Banking, Wells Fargo, All about credit

Money Under 30, How Credit Works: Understand The Credit History Reporting System

myFICO

The USAA Education Foundation:

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Financial Capability Month: Ways to Improve Your Financial Capability Now

Emergency Savings Budgeting Financial Planning Family Savings Financial capability month
Written by · 03 August 2018

Spring is here! This is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning in your financial house. April has been declared as National Financial Capability Month. Throughout the month, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) and the Ready Campaign encourage people to take action to improve their financial futures and to be prepared when disaster strikes.

To be a part of the Financial Capability Month conversation, share these blogs, social media content, graphics, and resources with your constituents, partners, and the general public. Encourage others to receive Partner Resource Packets from America Saves in the future by signing up to receive news and updates from America Saves.

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Helpful Resources

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Blog Content

For use in communications that directly reach your constituents. We encourage you to use this content as guest posts or rewrite America Saves content as your own. 

Are you ready for National Financial Capability Month? Three Actions to Take Now
By America Saves

Twelve Successful Ways to Save Money
By Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Believing You Can Improve Your Financial Life
By Ohio Saves

Are You Ready for National Financial Capability Month? Three Actions to Take Now

By Lila Quintiliani, AFC®, America Saves

April is National Financial Capability Month, when the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) and the Ready Campaign encourage people to improve their financial futures and to be prepared when disaster strikes. Here are three actions you can take now to make sure you are ready for any financial disaster, big or small.

Have a Disaster Plan for Your Finances. Sure, you keep bottled water, canned goods, flashlights, and batteries close at hand, but you should also have a disaster plan in place for your finances. The first step is building and maintaining an emergency fund. Then you can make sure the rest of your finances are in order. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has a Financial First Aid Kit that is great for identifying all your important financial information and then helping you keep track of it.

Check Your Financial Well-Being.

Just like you should go see a doctor once a year for a check-up, so too should you assess your financial wellness. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has a nifty tool that lets you take a ten question quiz that not only evaluates your financial well-being, but also compares you to other Americans in your age group. Then it suggests ways to improve your score and where to find help.

Make Sure You’re Properly Insured.

Review your insurance coverage. Most homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flooding, so you may need to purchase a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program. An inch of water in your house can cause $25,000 of damage and 20 percent of flood claims come from areas outside of flood zones. Think because you’re a renter you don’t need insurance? If you don’t have renters insurance, and you lose your personal property to theft or disaster, you will have to replace everything out of pocket. 

Let America Saves help you save money. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. Take the first step today and take the America Saves pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time. And it doesn't stop there. America Saves will keep you motivated with information, advice, tips, and reminders to help you reach your goal. Think of us as your own personal support system.

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Twelve Successful Ways to Save Money

By Barbara O'Neill, Ph.D., CFP, CRPC, AFC, CHC, CFEd, CFCS, Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Savings is the foundation for investing. You cannot invest money if you have not saved it first. Like dieting, saving money is hard to start, even harder to maintain, and requires patience and discipline. When you achieve your financial goals, however, the results are so worth it. Below are 12 time-tested ways to save:

  • Pay Yourself First - Treat savings like an important household bill (e.g., loan payment). Set aside a part of each paycheck, even if it is only a small amount, and leave it there. Save automatically where possible.
  • Collect Coins - Put loose change into a can or jar. When the container is full, deposit the money into a savings account. Set aside $1 a day, plus loose change, and you should have about $50 a month, or $600 a year, saved. Save $2 a day, plus loose change, and you should have about $1,000.
  • Complete a Savings Challenge - Pick a savings Challenge that matches your time frame and savings goal such as the 30 Day $100 Savings Challenge or the 50 Week $2,500 Savings Challenge. Savings challenges gradually ramp up savings deposits over time and provide motivation and structure.
  • Continue to Pay a Loan or Bill - Make payments to savings or investment accounts with money that is freed up when loan payments end or an expense, such as childcare, ends. The rationale behind this savings method is that you are already accustomed to the payment so “redirecting” it will not pinch your cash flow.
  • Break Costly Habits - Track your spending for a month or two and pick a few places where spending can be cut back or cut out to “find” money to save. For example, brown bagging lunch two or three days per week could save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year.
  • Bank a Windfall - Save all or part of large, infrequent expected or unexpected sums of money. Examples of common financial windfalls include tax refunds, inheritances, settlements, awards and prizes, retroactive pay increases, and year-end bonuses at work.
  • Crash Save - Decide that, for a month or two, you will buy only absolute necessities and save any money that remains after paying bills. At the end of the crash savings time period, treat yourself and buy the item(s) that you were saving for. Then resume your “normal” spending habits or set a new crash savings goal.
  • Start a “Club” Savings Plan - Start a structured savings plan to save money over the course of a year for holiday or vacation expenses. Some banks and many credit unions still offer them. Unlike “coupon books” of years ago, weekly savings deposits are often transferred electronically from checking to savings.
  • Save Your “Extra” Paychecks - Mark your paydays each year on a calendar. If you are paid bi-weekly, in two months of the year, you will receive three paychecks. If you are paid weekly, there will be four months with five paychecks. Anticipate these months in advance and plan to save part of the “extra” paycheck.
  • Save Excess Expense Reimbursement Money - Review your employer’s reimbursement policy. If you get a fixed sum for business travel expenses, instead of having to collect receipts, and spend less than the per diem amount, save the difference. Ditto for mileage reimbursement for using a personal car for business.
  • Reinvest Interest and Dividends Automatically - Arrange to have dividends and capital gains on mutual funds reinvested to purchase additional shares rather than receiving a check for a small amount and spending it. This is a painless way to increase investment account value over time.
  • Participate in a Tax-Deferred Retirement Plan - Reduce your salary via payroll deduction to save for retirement and aim to take maximum advantage of employer matching. Money contributed to a 401(k), 403(b), or similar retirement savings plan and earnings on these funds grow tax-deferred until withdrawal. 

For additional information about saving money, visit the America Saves program website.

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Believing You Can Improve Your Financial Life

By Amanda Woods, Ohio Saves

When we find ourselves in times of financial hardship, it can overwhelm so many aspects of our life. Maybe you have debt that you’re trying to pay off, or your income has changed and you’re trying to make ends meet. There is no question that these financial situations can cause us stress if we’re unsure how to proceed. We not only become stressed about the future, we also become stressed about how we’ll manage to stay afloat right now. A recent poll conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that stress and anxiety are on the rise among many Americans, and one of the areas found to produce the biggest increase in stress was finances. These feelings can be very isolating and can make it difficult to imagine that there is a way out of this phase of our life or that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow.

I know it can be hard, but it is important to remember that there is always hope – there are always steps that you can take to begin to make the improvements necessary to improve your financial footing.

Understanding where you are. When looking to improve your financial life, a great place to start is knowing your credit score. A recent Consumer Federation of America study highlights the importance of checking your credit score, as well as understanding the factors that go into creating your score. When you have this important piece of information, you’ll be on your way to understanding how to take the necessary steps to improve it!

Another way to gain a better understanding of your current financial situation is to take a look at your budget! Tracking your income and expenses will allow you to get a clearer picture of what money you have coming in and what money you have going out each month. Once you’ve tracked for the month, you’ll be able to figure out your income (the money you receive each month) and your expenses (the money you spent). Once you’ve calculated your income and expenses, you’ll be able to organize this information to help you better understand if there are some areas of your budget that you can adjust to help get you back on track.

Understanding what steps to take. Once you have a better understanding of your current financial situation, you’ll be able to identify some steps to take to help ease your current financial burden. For example, if you’re spending more than you’re making each month, take a look at your expenses and see what changes can be made. Are you able to reduce your expenses? Perhaps there are bills that may not be necessary right now, like movie and music streaming services, that can easily be stopped until you’re once again feeling comfortable enough to add these expenses back in. I know when I’ve hit times of financial strain, one of the ways I reduced my expenses was to stop ordering food in. I was able to drastically cut my expenses because I’d been spending so much throughout the month on takeout and delivery fees, and every little bit helped. It’s important to simply take a look at where your money is going, and to be honest with yourself about the changes that can be made.

If you’re working to pay down debt, another tip would be to work on paying down your higher interest debt first. This higher interest debt will end up costing you more money in the long run in interest fees, so focusing on paying it down first will help you save money while paying off your debt. If this is something that may benefit you, America Saves has some tips for you to begin paying off that higher interest debt.

Another step I’d recommend is to work on building emergency savings! It may seem counter-intuitive when you’re focusing on paying down debt and reducing expenses, but building a little cushion for financial emergencies will have a positive impact on both your stress and financial situation. Having a financial cushion will not only better prepare you for unexpected expenses, it will also prevent you from having to put more debt on a credit card you’re working to pay down. If you’re wondering how you can begin to build an emergency savings, I’d recommend doing so automatically!

Asking for help. Working to improve your financial situation can be overwhelming, and asking for help is an empowering step to take! A great place to start would be reaching out to your local Extension Office! Extension Educators across the state offer financially focused education and outreach that could be exactly what you need to get back on track. Locate your local Extension Office to see what services are offered and to be connected with other helpful resources where available. You may also want to look for other local agencies that offer free financial education, counseling, or planning to help you take control of your financial life. Pursuing financial education will provide you with the knowledge that can help you make the changes necessary for a brighter financial future.

Additionally, if your current financial situation is making you feel stressed or overwhelmed, talking to your friends and loved ones may help! A recent study from the APA highlighted that individuals who were able to reach out to someone for emotional support reported less stress. 

Making yourself a priority. Because managing your finances can be a source of stress for many people, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself.  If you’re feeling yourself becoming stressed or overwhelmed by everything, take some time to focus on you, making yourself and your health a priority. In fact, Anita Everett, M.D., the President of the APA believes that the recent poll showing increases in financial-related stress highlights a need for people to engage in activities like regular exercise, mindfulness, relaxation, and healthy eating to reduce the impact of stress on ourselves and our families. 

No matter what the situation, you can do this! There is always hope to increase your financial security and make the changes necessary to live a financially healthy life. And when things get tough, just know that you’re not alone, and there are people and resources out there to help you through it!

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Social Media Content

Share the following messages with your followers.

Monday

Saving is the best financial defense against disasters. A little bit at a time can go a long way. Learn more on how to save smart: https://www.usa.gov/flec @AmericaSaves #FinancialFuture2019 #FinancialCapabilityMonth

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Tuesday

Automating your savings can take the guesswork out of reaching your savings goals. Make sure to set up automated regular transfers with your bank or credit union.https://bit.ly/2jADRus @AmericaSaves #SavingsTipTuesday #FinancialCapabilityMonth

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Wednesday

Never miss a credit payment! According to @USAAEF, 35 percent of your FICO credit score is based on your payment history. >> https://bit.ly/2zVezAl @AmericaSaves #WednesdayWisdom #FinancialCapabilityMonth

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Thursday

Take advantage of #compoundinterest by saving early & #saving often! http://ow.ly/Bfk8x @AmericaSaves #FinancialCapabilityMonth

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Friday

Saving your money shouldn’t be an uphill battle. Take the @AmericaSaves pledge today and build your savings plan:https://bit.ly/2mmkFSz #SavingsFactFri #FinancialCapabilityMonth

 

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Events

Twitter Chat

“Plan for the Unexpected”
Date: Wednesday, April 10
Time: 1:00 pm Eastern
Hosts: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness Division (@Ready.gov) and (@FEMA)
Hashtag: #FinancialChat
This TwitterChat #FinancialChat explores what it means to be financially capable. Participants will learn from experts about how to set financial goals, build a budget, and plan for unexpected events.

Webinar

“Money Matters: Resources for Youth in Financial Preparedness”
Date: Wednesday, April 17
Time: 4:00 pm Eastern
Hosts: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individual and Community Preparedness Division (@Ready.gov) and (@FEMA)
Guest Presenter: Amelia O’Rourke-Owens, Director of Youth Financial Capability, America Saves
This webinar will explore the importance of saving and provide tips on how to encourage saving for youth.

#FinHealthMatters Day

Date: Thursday, April 25
Hosts: Center for Financial Services Innovation (@CFSInnovations)
Mark your calendars and help us once again bring attention to Americans’ financial health through this social media campaign.

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Helpful Resources

From America Saves

Additional Resources

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Join Our List

Subscribe to America Saves partner updates to be the first to receive new partner packets, the latest savings news and research, and information about America Saves Week. 

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Tip of the Day

  • Written by Katie Bryan | November 24, 2013

    Avoid any nasty surprises this #holiday season by budgeting for the "extras." http://ow.ly/COVDP

Saver Stories View all »

Inspired to Build Savings By Starting Small

Written by Great Lakes Michigan Saves | April 19, 2016

With little-to-no money in the bank and living on a limited income with her adult daughter, Sharon wasn’t sure if building up savings for her future was even possible. “At my age, to put debts behind me would be a relief,” she said, but she wasn’t quite sure how to even get started with a savings plan. That all changed when Sharon attended the Great Lakes Michigan Saves Pay Yourself First Saver’s Summit during America Saves Week.

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Starting Over

Written by Katie Bryan | October 28, 2013

Until last summer, Michael Lindman spent money freely. “I was a union truck driver for 35 years and had a good income,” said Lindman. “I owned my own home, saved a little, and tried to live within my own budget. You always think there’s going to be that much coming in, but things can change in a split second.”

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Saving Early: Key to Successful Future

Written by Katie Bryan | October 28, 2013

For Johnnie Lovett, a Young Illinois Saver, saving has been a habit since he was a teenager. “As a teenager, I was responsible for buying certain things with my allowance,”

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