An archive of some of our most recent Weekly Savings Tips.
House hunting season is in full swing and the home-buying market is hot this year! Mortgage rates remain historically low and in most metropolitan areas it is a sellers' market. If you're thinking about buying that first home or upgrading to a better one, make sure you're prepared with financing before you go to your first Open House. Here are a few hot tips you should know before making an offer.
- Set your ceiling. You may find yourself in a bidding war in this competitive market, so know your limit on price ahead of time and stick to it. Once you find that dream home, it will be tougher to stick to your guns and you risk buying more house than you can reasonably afford.
- Make an inspection connection. Once your offer is accepted, you'll need to schedule an inspection as soon as possible. Find a reputable inspector who charges a reasonable rate beforehand so you're not scrambling at the last minute.
- Organize your mortgage application. You'll also need to apply for your mortgage right away, even if you were pre-approved. Prepare for an inquiry into the last 60 days of all of your financial transactions. If you made any large deposits, you'll have to prove the source by showing copies of cancelled checks along with valid explanations. You also need your last two years' tax returns and, if you're self-employed, a Profit & Loss statement for the year-to-date.
Find out more about what you need to prepare to buy a house on YOU Save. Happy hunting!
As the way we use our phones evolves, many of us are moving away from needing minutes and increasingly needing more data. Here are a few things to keep in mind when assessing your plan:
- Consider adding more data to your monthly plan if you're consistently paying overage charges.
- Dial it back on minutes if you're not talking as much.
- Consider looking to other providers if your contract is almost up, just make sure you're not using it as an excuse to upgrade your phone if you don't really need to spend that money yet.
Any money that you do trim from you monthly bill can be applied toward your savings goals, such as increasing your emergency fund, paying off credit card debt or getting you a little closer to your dream of a new home or a well-deserved (and cash-funded) vacation.
Let's talk about ways to automate your money so you can relax knowing it's taken care of.
- Separate. Open a separate checking account for paying your monthly bills, then set up your bills for auto-pay. Just make sure you have enough money direct-deposited from each paycheck to cover everything. No more missed due dates or late fees.
- Escalate. If your workplace retirement savings plan offers an auto-escalate tool, use it! It's the easiest and most painless way to increase your savings for the future without lifting a finger. Schedule the increase to coincide with your annual pay raise and you'll never feel the pinch while moving closer to a secure retirement.
- Automate your savings by having payroll direct deposit right from your paycheck into your savings account. No more waiting until the end of the month to see if you have money left over – pay yourself first then sit back while your nest egg grows.
It's important to check your finances at least monthly to make sure everything is working the way it's supposed to, but by automating your savings and bills you can free up your time (and your mind) for more fun things, like swinging in the hammock on a breezy summer day.
Millions of Americans tested their furnaces out this past week as fall settles in around the nation. Here's a quick reminder of some ways to save some money and watch your savings balance rise even as the temps drop:
- Winterize your home. Use this checklist to make sure your house is ready for the winter ahead.
- Bundle up. Try leaving the thermostat low and dressing warmer indoors. Keeping your HVAC unit off as long as possible will add up to big savings.
- Stock up. Now is the time to shop the sales for a warm winter coat, boots and other cold weather necessities.
- Clear out. Sort through last year's clothing and be honest about what you'll wear this year. Items that are still in good shape can be consigned for some extra dollars.
- Set up alerts. Start thinking now about the winter get-away you'll inevitably long for during the cold, dark months of winter. Set price alerts to warm destinations so you can take advantage of advance-purchase travel deals that come up.
Make a point to take care of these tasks in the next couple weeks. Before you know it, Halloween will be here and you'll be off to the races with the holidays!
It's no surprise that National Face Your Fears Day falls just a couple weeks before Halloween on October 13. This year, instead of facing your fear of heights or spiders, take some time to look into your money fears. If you're struggling to achieve your financial goals, there's a chance that some hidden fears may be the cause.
For example, people who fear running out of money often end up paying bills late, or they wait until the last minute to make sure they don't need the money for something else. Instead, they end up paying late fees and eventually taking a hit to their credit score, which can lead to other expensive consequences like higher interest rates on loans.
People who have a fear of losing it all often invest their long-term savings too conservatively, losing out on the opportunities offered by compound interest or stock market gains. The reality is that you shouldn't invest money that you are going to need within the next five years, but if you're saving for retirement, which is likely several decades away, you can afford to ride out the ups and downs of the stock market. Choose an investment allocation that's appropriate to your retirement timeline, then stick with it through the roller coaster ride.
Finally, a fear of looking too greedy can often play out in the unhealthy financial behavior of overspending, especially on family and friends. Generosity is a virtue and it's perfectly fine to help those you love when they need it. But picking up the tab at every Friday happy hour because you fear you'll be judged otherwise can compromise your financial future. Examine that behavior and set some limits for yourself - friends and family love you for who you are, not for the stuff you give them!
What other financial fears do you have? Dig a little deeper and make sure these fears are not manifesting themselves in unhealthy financial habits.
Members of the AICPA's National Financial Literacy Commission share their spookiest money stories to help you avoid financial ghosts and goblins year round.
- Credit Card Caper. One member, while reviewing his credit card statements with his wife, noticed there were some unrecognizable charges - at establishments the couple normally frequent. They called their credit card company and sure enough, their account had been hacked and a smart thief was flying under the radar by mimicking their purchasing behavior. It's important to review your accounts regularly (at least monthly) and if you share an account with your spouse, double check with them too. Report any strange activity immediately - this will keep you from any liability toward the fraudulent purchases.
- Financial Crystal Ball. Another member had a client who inherited a large sum of money from his father. The money was left to him outright since he was a grown man when his father passed. What his dad had not taken into consideration was that his son's wife would divorce him and take half of the inheritance. Something to keep in mind is that trusts aren't just for kids - if you are passing along a large sum of money to your children, consider using a trust to ensure the money stays in the family. No one can predict the future, so trusts hep to protect against our lack of crystal balls.
- Money Ghosts from Roommates Past. Finally, a member shared the story of a friend who pulled her credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com for the first time only to discover there was an unpaid cable bill from years earlier that she though her roommate had taken care of. When sharing the cost of utilities with roommates, it doesn't matter how many people are helping to pay the bill. At the end of the day, responsibility for paying falls upon the person that opened the account. If you move out and a utility is still in your name, be sure to switch it to someone who is remaining in the residence to ensure you won't be haunted by unpaid bills for years to come.
In celebration of National Cliché Day on November 3, we're sharing three money clichés everyone should avoid. After all, money doesn't grow on trees.
- A fool and his money are soon parted. If someone is trying to sell you something that has a guaranteed return and you can't find it anywhere else, then there's another cliché that applies: if it sounds too good to be true, it absolutely is. When it comes to investing your money for long-term growth, there is no get-rich-quick scheme - it takes proper asset allocation and a willingness to stick it out through stock market downturns.
- Penny wise and pound foolish. Are you the kind of person who will do anything to save a buck? It could cost you down the road. Skipping out on feeding the parking meter while you run a quick errand down the block is tempting - why pay the dollar when you're just picking up your dry cleaning? Watch out, because parking enforcement officers are typically lurking, and even if you run up while they're writing the ticket, you're out of luck. Don't always skimp - trying to get away without paying little fees will catch up with you in the long run.
There's no such thing as a free lunch. This applies mostly to making purchases with credit. Even though you don't have to shell out the cash up front, you'll eventually have to pay it back, so be aware of that when you take out that credit card or loan. A perfect example of this is student loans - many people don't realize the impact of receiving that money during school until it's too late. Don't borrow more than you need. And save the date: we will be hosting a FREE WEBINAR on Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 1PM ET called Saving & Spending 101 for college students, their parents and recent grads to share tips and techniques to take charge of your finances. Register here!
As we observe Veteran's Day this week, a deep and heartfelt THANK YOU to all our active duty women and men, as well as each and every veteran who gave time in their life to protect our freedom. Military personnel and consultants tend to have one thing in common: they move a lot. Here are a few tips for anyone who has a job that requires frequent relocation:
- Banking: When deciding where to deposit your money, consider more than just fees and interest rates (although those matter too!). Use a bank that either has locations around the country or consider using online banking that you can access from anywhere with an internet connection. It's one less task you'll have to complete with each move.
- Storage: If your nomadic lifestyle is only temporary, you may find yourself storing some of your stuff rather than dragging it with you from place to place. However, be judicious with what you store and why. If you're paying money to store things you don't need for more than a year, do you really need them? Consider cosigning furniture and clothing, then tucking that money away (along with what you'd pay in monthly storage fees) to help purchase new items once you're settled again.
- Packing Supplies: If you're moving on a consistent basis, it may be worth it to invest in sturdy plastic tote boxes that can protect your things while also saving you from having to purchase boxes and tape with each move. Many moving and storage companies actually have areas where people can take used moving boxes for reuse, so before you buy any, check to see if there is a program like this in your area.
For veterans just entering civilian life, be sure you check out these resources for military members. Thank you again for your service to our country.
While the concept of "unfriending" dates back well before Facebook existed, there is now an official "Unfriend Day" on November 17. You might ask, how does this relate to finance? Well, you should use this day to examine which friends lift you up in life and which drag you down, both online and in real life - then proceed accordingly. There are many studies that indicate your choice of friends can be a key indicator of your own financial success. In fact, some financial institutions have even started checking Facebook friends of credit applicants as one more gauge of credibility.
So, as you celebrate National Unfriend Day this year, consider going beyond just unfriending those people who post too many inappropriate photos or political rants, and also think about which friends may be influencing you toward unhealthy financial habits. Whether it's through feeling your life is a bore because a friend is constantly sharing worldwide escapades, or feeling poor because you can't yet buy the biggest house on the block, get rid of those temptations that may cause you to stray from YOUR financial goals. Try to remember that the ability to purchase "stuff" doesn't necessarily indicate financial health and may often be a sign of poor finances.
Spend your time (and your 'likes') on people who support you in your goals. Lift each other up through sharing your financial wins as well as your challenges, and try not to worry about what the girl who was prom queen at your high school is doing on social media.
Sign up now: Don't miss our webinar this Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m. EST - Kelley Long, CPA/PFS and Michael Eisenberg, CPA/PFS, who are members of AICPA's National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, will be sharing tips on student loans and budgeting. Perfect for students, recent grads and parents of students. Register here.
As we head into the biggest shopping weekend of the year, here are five tips to keep you in the black this Black Friday.
1. Make a list. Go ahead and peruse the Thanksgiving Day newspaper for deals on gifts for friends and family. Just make sure you keep a list of what you're going to buy and for whom - and stick to it!
2. Check it twice. Don't forget party host gifts, which are sneaky budget-busters but great things to stock up on during big sales.
3. Be nice. The biggest temptation will be to buy those To:Me, From:Me gifts as you're out scoring deals on other presents. Before you head out, make a deal with yourself that you'll stuff your own stocking with just one thing. That way you're not going cold turkey on yourself, but you also have ground rules to keep you from blowing your budget.
4. Beware Cyber Monday. Your email inbox will be flooded with flash sales, last-minute deals, free shipping offers and myriad other temptations to continue shopping when you head back to work on Monday. Be prepared so you don't find yourself wandering the aisles of cyber space, filling your cart with retail therapy to soothe the reality of heading back to work.
5. Save your receipts. Designate a drawer, envelope or basket where you place every receipt this season in case a gift doesn't work out. Plus, if you happen to find something at a deeper discount later, you can always get a price adjustment.
This year, the Feed the Pig team is especially grateful to YOU for inviting us into your inbox each week to share our financial wisdom. From our team to yours - a very Happy Thanksgiving!
It's the most wonderful time of the year, the song goes. And at many moments throughout the holidays, when we take the time to pause and think about all that we have and the comforts we enjoy, it is. But the rest of the season, it can seem more like the most stressful time of the year. A few quick reminders to help keep everything wonderful throughout the coming weeks:
1. Stick to your routines. Stress often creeps in when we slack on our normal sleeping, exercising and eating habits. That's not to say you shouldn't stay out a couple nights or enjoy the egg nog at the neighborhood shin dig, but as much as possible on days when you don't have something special going on, try to stick with the things you do that keep you healthy: get your sleep, stay hydrated, eat your veggies and get out and move when you can.
2. Avoid impulse purchases. This is the time of year when retailers pull out all the stops to get you to open up your wallet. The January debt hangover is a real thing! You can avoid it by resisting the urge to over-indulge in unplanned purchases. when you're tempted, invoke the 24-hour rule. Give yourself 24 hours to think about it, and if you still want to make the purchase, go for it! this works for online shopping too - just leave the items in your cart and give yourself time to think twice before clicking the checkout button the next day.
3. Practice gratitude. There is actual scientific evidence which proves that practicing gratitude, even when you don't feel it, actually makes you feel grateful. So instead of grumbling about how people seem to magically forget how to drive in mall parking lots, consider giving thanks that you have a car and the means to purchase gifts for those you care about. It at least takes your mind off the aggravation of waiting through green lights to finally make that right turn.
The truth is, the last couple of weeks of the year are probably always going to be a bit stressful - if we acknowledge that ahead of time and plan a little, it will save the wonderful parts of these weeks as well.
One way holiday spending gets away from us is a lack of planning. By waiting until the last minute to buy gifts or prepare for big meals, we often make impulse purchases or are forced to spend more on prepared foods simply because we ran out of time to make it ourselves. So, if you're planning to host a holiday meal or even just bringing a dish to an upcoming party, take some time this week to do the following:
1. Plan your menu. Be mindful of what you can prepare ahead of time - a lasagna can be prepared this week and will last for weeks in the freezer!
2. Make a list of ingredients. And check it twice so you don't overlook anything.
3. Scope out sales. Keep an eye on your grocery store sale flyers for sale items on your list so you can stock up.
4. Find time. Block out time on your calendar to shop, prepare dishes ahead of time and complete any other tasks needed to get your home ready.
Taking some time to get organized this week can help you save money, time and your sanity. After all of this is finished, you can sit back and enjoy the spirit of the season!
Bah! For many people, this is a very stressful time of year. That's why December 21 is named Humbug Day - it's your chance to vent about all the pressure of gifts, events, travel, etc. Once you get this out of your system, it'll be just in time to celebrate the rest of the year with friends and family.
So go ahead, get it out! Let your best, "Bah Humbug" fly before the day is over. Then put your inner Scrooge away and go easy on yourself. Relax, kick back and enjoy this time of year.
As 2016 approaches, take a moment to review the past year. Celebrate your financial accomplishments, mourn any financial losses, then leave them in 2015 and get ready for a fantastic 2016. Spend some time visualizing what you want 2016 to look like financially, and establish one or two savings goals for the year. Make sure they are specific, and if you can, schedule milestones into your calendar to break them down into achievable steps.
We'll kick off 2016 with our annual 4-week Ready, Set, GOAL financial challenge. Until then, have a Happy New Year!
Happy New Year! If your 2016 goals have a financial component, then Ready. Set. Goal! The 4-week Financial Fitness Challenge is for you. Let's get started with Week 1:
Challenge: Set Your Goals.
1. Write them down.
2. Divide into three lists: Immediate, Intermediate and Long-Term.
4. Research and reflect.
It's Week 2 of the Ready. Set. Goal! 4-Week Financial Fitness Challenge. How did your goal setting go last week? Hopefully spending some time dreaming about the possibilities has you motivated to get into the nitty gritty with this week's work. Let's get started.
Challenge: Track Your Spending and Saving.
1. Record all your spending.
2. Categorize your list.
3. Cross off what you could do without.
4. Calculate your daily savings for each goal.
5. Adjust your amount if you want to reach your goal faster.
It's Week 3 of the Ready. Set. Goal! 4-Week Financial Fitness Challenge. Did you learn anything surprising from tracking your spending last week? What's your biggest area for improvement? This week, we'll take that information and use it to give ourselves a dependable money plan for the future.
Challenge: Set or Review Your Budget
1. Set up your budget, if you don't already have one.
2. Review and re-evaluate.
3. Adjust where necessary.
4. Use it to your advantage.
5. Incorporate your goals.
It's the final week of the Ready. Set. Goal! 4-Week Financial Fitness Challenge. How is your budget shaping up? What's the toughest part about budgeting for you?This week we tie all the steps together to give you a sustainable plan for financial fitness.
Challenge: Create Your Financial Game Plan
1. Map out the next 5 years.
2. Set milestones along the way.
3. Create a solid plan.
4. Keep building your financial knowledge.
5. Review your budget and goals regularly.
Make sure you visit the Challenge website for more details and steps to save more! Then let us know how we can help support your ongoing financial fitness by sharing your questions on Facebook and Twitter!
Even if you don't have a team in the big game this coming weekend, it's still a great excuse to throw a party. Just don't let it turn into an excuse to overspend! Here are some tips for a fun, frugal football fiesta.
- Set your budget first. Give yourself a set spending amount before you begin planning, then stick to it.
- Plan for the sales. Popular football party foods are likely to be on sale this week, so plan your menu accordingly. Just remember that items on end-caps at the grocery store aren't always the least expensive, so make sure to comparison shop.
- Get out the slow cooker. The winter weather is a perfect reason to cook up a big pot of chili or other hearty, inexpensive dishes that will please the crowd. Just ask your guests to bring condiments and sides.
- DIY decorations. Check out our DIY Pinterest board for lots of fun ideas!.
When you marry someone, you marry their family. You also marry their finances. It's not enough just to know your sweetheart's favorite dessert or what kind of wedding they prefer. Before you tie the knot, take the time to get to know each other financially as well.
Here are three questions you and your partner should answer (honestly) before you walk down the aisle:
- How much do you make? Seems silly, but a lot of people are afraid to ask. However, you need to know so you can set realistic financial goals together.
- How much debt do you have? This is a big one, and something you don't want to learn further down the road. Plus, sharing this information can allow you to come up with a plan to work together and get rid of it. Lay it all out, no judgment.
- What's your credit score? You can find this for free here. Your partner's credit score can affect many things, from your ability to buy a home or car, or even the ability to get a new job. Know what each other's scores are so you can properly strategize, especially if one of you has a much higher score than the other.
It's also important to have a good sense of each other's financial values and beliefs, but sometimes that can take longer to learn. Taking the time to get to know each other in some of the core ways now can help ensure you start married life on the same page. Then, you can say "I do," with confidence.
A recent trend in personal finance is investing technology called "robo-advisers." These are services that provide investment management advice and services without the need to pay a human financial adviser. Many of the services don't charge a management fee for smaller account balances. So, how do you know whether robo-adviser services are for you? Here are a few situations where they might be:
- You have a smaller balance: Most investment management firms have minimum fee or balance requirements that preclude people with $100,000 or less from opening accounts with them. Robo-advisers have made investment management advice more accessible to investors who are just getting started.
- You want to minimize fees: Some robo-advisers start out not charging a management fee at all (although the mutual funds they use may have a fee that's built in to the investment), and when a fee does kick in, it's generally much lower than a management fee you'd pay an active manager or financial adviser.
- You feel pretty confident that you know how the market works: One of the benefits of a human adviser is they can help you take the emotion out of investing, and make sure you avoid spontaneous investment errors from short-term market fluctuations. A robo-adviser isn't going to stop you from liquidating during a market downturn, and studies show that long-term investors who react this way end up worse off than investors who ride out market storms. If you have the stomach for stock market fluctuations, then a robo-adviser may be good for you.
- You aren't looking for a stock picker: Robo-advisers use ETFs or index funds to implement their investment strategies, which means you won't see individual stocks in your account like you might with a financial adviser. You also won't see actively managed mutual funds.
The goal of most robo-advisers is to help investors match the market according to their individual risk tolerance. If you're looking to hit home runs and outpace the market with investing, then robo-advisers are not for you. No matter who you're hiring to help with your investments, it's important to know what you're getting into. Do your homework before investing in any idea.
If you're looking for additional tips on how to save, follow us on Snapchat! Username: BenjaminBankes.
This week is America Saves Week, a national effort to get everyone to set a savings goal, make a savings plan, and save automatically. This week we encourage you to join the Feed the Pig team, along with thousands of others, who are taking the time to start and grow their savings.
To make it official, consider taking the America Saves Pledge, which will help you stay committed to your plan all year long! Set some time aside right now to:
Happy Leap Day! Here are 5 quick money tasks to complete TODAY to take advantage of the extra time:
- Increase your automatic savings by $10 (or whatever you can) per month. You won't miss the money and you'll boost your annual savings by as much as $120!
- Re-balance your retirement investments. Recent stock market fluctuations could have your investment allocationout of whack. Log in and get your investments back to the percentage allocation that you originally set.
- Check your cell phone bill for a lower rate. Cell phone plans are always changing, as are our phone usage habits. Make sure the plan you're paying for is still the best match for your needs and adjust if necessary.
- Write down what you'll eat the rest of this week. This will help you make a grocery list and prevent you from impulse food purchases.
- Run a retirement calculator. See if you're on track, and if not, try boosting your retirement savings by a percentage point.
Each of these should take less than 5 minutes, leaving you the rest of the day to enjoy the extra time. Happy saving!
Do you ever wish you had a good way to figure out if something was a scam or not? Well, you're in luck – it's National Consumer Protection Week, brought to you by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in partnership with over 100 other agencies to help people like you make more informed buying decisions and recognize, guard against and report scams and fraud.
To "celebrate," here are a few things you can do to protect yourself and learn more:
• Make sure you're check to make sure you're doing all 15 of these ways to protect yourself from identity theft.
• Check out the NCPW resources on their website.
• Bookmark the website for Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was established in 2010 to educate, enforce and study consumer financial markets to help protect Americans from financial fraud.
• If your identity is stolen, read the FTC's steps to immediately take charge.
• Share what you learn with your friends and family.
Happy Global Money Week! In honor of this year's theme of teaching kids about banking, here's a quick review of the resources available on the Feed the Pig website about this important aspect of your financial health:
But wait, shouldn't every week be money week? It can be if you put the time in to create a successful savings plan for yourself. There are many choices out there when it comes to banking - how do you decide? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter and use the hashtag #GMW2016! By the way, have you added us on Snapchat and Instagram yet?
Looking for some easy ways to stick to your savings goals? Here are four great money hacks from the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission:
1. Use the Feed the Pig IFTTT recipes to get your apps in your plans. If shopping is your Achilles heel, you can set IFTTT to post to your Facebook News Feed when you break your shopping diet. There are 8 recipes try - set a couple up today!
2. Automate paying yourself first. Paying yourself first means setting your savings aside before spending any of your paycheck so that you remove the temptation to spend it. Make it automatic by asking your payroll department to deposit to a separate savings account on payday. If that's not possible, then set up an auto-transfer from your checking account to take place on payday.
3. Use your 401(k). One of the things that make 401(k) retirement savings accounts so great is that it's automatic. The money you save in your 401(k) is yours, you just have to wait until you're 59 1/2 or older to withdraw it to avoid penalties. If you're lucky, your workplace may also match a portion of what you deposit, making it a no-brainer to use your 401k. That's free money!
4. Set your bills on auto-pay. One way to make sure you never pay another late fee is to set your bills up for automatic payment on their due date. This is an especially simple hack for bills like your cell phone or cable bills or loan payments for your student loans or car, which are typically fixed amounts each month, making it easy to budget.
What are some of your tried and true ways to save? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter. By the way, have you added us on Snapchat and Instagram yet?
Spring is in the air! And as you're compelled to spring clean the cobwebs out of your house and de-clutter, take some time to do a little financial spring cleaning as well! 2016 is a quarter over, so it's a great time to revisit your financial goals for the year and see if you need to clean out any over-spending or update your goals.
Take a few minutes and get organized:
1. Think about your overall spending for the first 3 months of the year. Where are you doing well? Any areas where you can cut back and save more?
2. Cancel any unnecessary services. As the weather warms and you begin to spend more time outside, decide whether you can trim some of your entertainment costs like cable. Or if you're in the habit of having your meals delivered, save money by grilling out or walking to pick up your food.
3. Review your debt interest rates and see if you can save some money. If you're working to pay down credit card debt, check to see if you can find any lower (or zero) interest cards and transfer balances to expedite your pay-off.
4. Run a goal calculator. See if you're on track to reach your goals, and if not, shift some things. It's early enough in the year to get back on track!
Happy National Financial Literacy Month (also known as Financial Capability Month)! April is a special month when we focus even more on helping Americans learn about how to improve their finances. To kick off the month, check out the latest Feed the Pig ads, which were created in partnership with the Ad Council:
What do you think? Do you love them as much as we do?
Help spread the word by sharing with your friends on social media and don't forget to tag Feed the Pig! Join the conversation using #FLM2016 and let us know what you're doing this month to improve your own financial capability or for others in your community.
Over the years, questions have been raised about the solvency of Social Security. A recent AICPA survey found that almost two-in-three adults think Social Security is one of the most important issues facing our nation right now! To break it down for you, here are some things you need to know:
- You can begin receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62, but if you can wait until your full retirement age (which is 66 or 67, depending on when you were born), your benefit will be 25 to 35 percent higher. If you can wait until you're 70, it's even higher!
- To find out what your projected benefit is, you can create an account for yourself at www.ssa.gov.
- If nothing changes, the Social Security trust fund will run out in about the year 2033. That doesn't mean that benefits won't be paid - there will still be money coming in from people who are working. But it does mean that benefits may have to be reduced, possibly down to 70% of the current amount.
- You can expect this to become an increasingly important campaign issue as the years go by. Keep that in mind when voting for your U.S. Representative or Senator - that's who would have to pass any laws to fix it.
- Social Security is just one component of your retirement – a good idea is to concentrate on the things you can control by making sure you're saving enough in retirement accounts like a workplace-based 401k or 403b and/or individual retirement accounts like the Roth or traditional IRA.
Read more about Social Security on our sister website, 360finlit.org.
Finally, it's week 2 of National Financial Literacy Month 2016. How are you celebrating? Let us know on our Facebook page or by using #FLM2016.
When it comes to setting goals for your money, it's easy to talk the talk, but do you walk the walk? To help you avoid some traps that cause us to overspend and compromise our savings goals, we've added 8 new recipes to the IFTTT (If This, Then That) website. Here's how it works:
Shopping Spree Blackmail! - Use your Facebook community to curb your shopping addiction! Just tell IFTTT what your shopping weakness is, then whenever you set foot inside that store, a photo is published to your Facebook feed letting your friends know you've crossed the line.
MOM! I need a Curfew! - If your budget busters tend to happen late at night after a few adult beverages, it's time to enlist the help of Mom. With this recipe, any time you check in to a nightlife spot, an email is automatically sent to your mom, letting her know she needs to call you at 7 a.m. the next day to remind you of your savings goals.
Tweet When Shopping! - This recipe sends an SOS tweet when you shop outside the lines.
Splurge "SOS!" - No more online splurging with flash sales! When a new email is delivered to your inbox from a favorite store, the Facebook world learns so they can help stem the splurge.
Pay My Rent! - This one is a no-brainer! Set up a text alert that reminds you when you pay your rent. No more late fees!
Keep Your Mind on "Your Money"- Stay up-to-date on the latest personal finance news. This recipe sends you all the New York Times "Your Money" articles when they're published.
Save Money with Friends! - If you're about to make a bad shopping decision, this recipe knows and it lets your Group Me friends know too. Watch your phone blow up with reminders to step away from the cash register.
I Shortened My Shopping List! - Let your Facebook friends know when you're doing the right thing too! This recipe posts to let the world know when you remove something from your Amazon shopping list.
What are you waiting for? Head over to the site and sign up today! Don't forget to let us know which ones you added with #feedthepig or send us a tweet or post on Facebook! And as always, don't forget to add us on Instagram and Snapchat.
Did you know that this week is Money Smart Week? Created by the Federal Reserve, it's a week of awareness to help Americans of all demographics, income levels and education levels get a better handle on their personal finances. Use this week to reevaluate your financial goals by using all the Feed the Pig resources.
To help get you started this week, check out these free events the Federal Reserve is hosting around the nation to help you understand your finances! Sign up today, and don't forget to let us know how it went using #MSW2016.
Although we would love to know what is going to happen in the future, nobody is psychic. That's why it's important to be financially prepared for anything, especially when it comes to disability. Luckily, there's disability insurance. This type of insurance is often overlooked but is equally as important as health or life insurance.
If you're fortunate enough to have an employer that offers short and/or long-term disability insurance as part of your benefits package, make sure you understand what it covers. Most plans cover between 60 and 80 percent of your income should you become disabled, which means your emergency fund needs to fill the gap if you need to take time off work for illness or injury. And if you don't have coverage through your employer, it's worth exploring a policy to cover the main income earner in your household.
The risk of being unable to work, even for a couple of months, is easily abated by disability insurance. Don't overlook this important aspect of your employee benefits if it's available and make sure you're properly protected should an accident or illness happen.
If you are one of the estimated 1.8 million new college grads heading out into the world this spring, you probably received some cash gifts from friends or loved ones. ConGRADulations!
Now before you go spend it all on travel or an updated wardrobe for your new job, consider using at least some of it to get your financial future off to a great start. Here are some ways to use graduation money for maximum long-term impact:
1. Use it to start your emergency fund. Experts recommend keeping at least three months' worth of expenses set aside to help cushion against unexpected expenses. It can take awhile to get that amount set aside, especially early in your career - so use your gift money to get it started!
2. Fund a Roth IRA. If you expect to have any earned income this year, you can contribute up to $5,500 into an after-tax Roth IRA. One of the beauties of this type of retirement account is that you can actually withdraw your contributions penalty-free, so you're not kissing that money good-bye for the next 40 or so years. But should you not need it, any growth that money experiences over your career (which could be A LOT), will be tax-free. Who doesn't like tax-free income??
3. Pay your student loan interest before it's capitalized. If you took out any unsubsidized federal loans, you have a 6-month grace period after graduation before the interest that accrued on your loans throughout school is added to the total balance, where interest will begin accruing on top of the interest (this is where compound interest works against you). Anything you can do to decrease the amount of that interest before it's capitalized will reduce both your monthly payment as well as the total amount you pay over the life of your loan.
WHEN you buy something can be just as important as WHERE you buy it from. Did you know that May is the best month to buy refrigerators, mattresses and office furniture? Before you start shopping, here are a few tips to make sure you're REALLY getting a deal:
1. Beware "same as cash." "Same as cash" deals typically promise you no-interest payments for a certain time period. The only way these deals really save you money is if you actually pay them off before the interest kicks in. In other words, you should have the cash on-hand the day you make the purchase, or you risk paying a lot more money in interest. If you're likely to forget to pay it or spend the money in the meantime, don't risk it. You'll only earn pennies on the money in your savings account while making a mistake in paying it off can possibly cost hundreds.
2. Don't buy just because it's a deal. It's tough to know exactly when your fridge is going to bite the dust, in which case you can't really wait until they go on sale to buy a new one. But, if you've been saving for one of those fancy mattresses where you can personalize it to your comfort, this could be a great time to pull the trigger. Otherwise, buying things you don't need just because they're on sale is just another way to waste your hard-earned money.
3. Still shop around. Make sure the sale price you're being offered is still the best value for the money. Shopping at discount outlets could still be less expensive than shopping sales at a high-end retailer.
A recent survey found that at least 20% of Americans suffered some type of financial fraud in the past year and 50% actually expect it to cause them a financial loss in the next year. We've all heard those nightmare stories about victims having their credit ruined and even their money stolen by scammers. Don't be one of those people by taking these steps to protect yourself:
- Check your credit report regularly. The website www.annualcreditreport.com offers you free access to your three reports annually. Rather than pulling them all at once, set a reminder for yourself to log in and check one of the three every 4 months. This way, if your information is stolen, you'll know about it sooner and can act to get it fixed right away.
- Set alerts on your accounts. Have your bank and credit card companies text you whenever a transaction is made over a certain amount. That way, you can take immediate steps to make sure nothing else is stolen.
- Don't invest in something you don't understand. 60% of people who had a loss due to a financial scam didn't report it because they were either embarrassed, blamed themselves, knew the fraudster or didn't know who to contact. The best way to protect yourself here is to only invest in things you can explain to your friends.
If you do find yourself a victim of financial fraud, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, your local police and the credit reporting agencies right away.
Now, go change your passwords and check that credit report!
You know the classic song, "Summertiiiime, and the livin' is ... stressful?" That's right, we all look forward to summer for those easy, breezy days - but when it comes down to it, more than half of Americans say their summer financial stress is as bad (or sometimes worse!) than the year-end holiday season. So, as we kick off the summer of 2016, here are a few tips to help beat the stress:
- Get your budget together. Write down all your planned activities and associated costs for the summer so you can get a sense right now of what you'll need to set aside. Include sports registrations, club memberships, festival plans and even things like landscaping and lawn services. Knowing the total cost makes it easier to plan rather than scrambling at the last minute.
- Plan a garage sale to clear out the old. Pick a weekend right now and set it aside to sell your unwanted items - this can help de-clutter AND fund your summer vacation.
- Take it easy! You have 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and those days will fly by. Choose a few right now when you don't make any plans and instead take it easy. Your budget and your stress levels will thanks you.
Ever notice that your summer spending has a tendency to go up along with temperatures? If you've planned ahead for the increased costs, fantastic! But if it's leading to credit card debt or compromised savings plans, then follow these tips to keep your budget intact:
Sweat the small stuff. Even one degree change on the thermostat can save money. Letting it go up 7-10 degrees for the 8 hours you're at work can shave 10% from your bill, according to Energy.gov. Many programmable thermostats can be operated from your personal device. Why not save money while you are away?
Celebrate Weekend Wednesday. Not only are popular attractions like water parks, golf courses and excursions sometimes cheaper on weekdays, they're way less crowded which means more fun for your money. If you have the benefit of flexible working hours, consider trading a few Wednesdays for Saturdays to save money AND time on your summer activities.
Look for coupons. Most amusement parks offer coupons, as long as you know where to look. Some are even printed on soda cans! Before you buy tickets for your next roller coaster adventure, do a quick online search to see if you can get tickets at a local grocer, gas station or other discount partner.
Flaunt freebies. If your summer adventure requires a hotel stay, pay less attention to the amenities of the room (chances are you'll spend minimal time inside) and choose a place that offers free airport shuttles, free breakfast and even free happy hours. The old adage, "If it's free, it's for me," most certainly applies here!
Whatever your summer plans, the key is planning. Spending a little time up front to make the plan can save big bucks in the long run.
A quick glance at the greeting card aisle around Father's Day shows a clear theme: dad loves golf. What can we learn from dad's favorite sport about investing and finances? Here are a few examples of how different golf clubs are similar to typical financial instruments.
Driver=Stocks. When you tee off, you're most likely to use your driver - it's your best club to get you as far as you need to go. But sometimes your driver can shank the ball out of bounds or into a water hazard and you have to start over. The same thing goes for stocks - they are best for goals that are further out (10 years or more) because they're the most likely investment to get you to your goal, but you also need to have time to recover should the market take a plunge.
Iron=Bonds. When you use your iron in golf it's because you still need some distance, but you don't need maximum like your driver. Same goes for bonds - they still offer growth opportunity, but not as much as stocks and also without as much risk of shanking far off derailing your middle-range goals.
Putter=Cash. Imagine using your putter for the entire hole. It would take you forever to get to there! But once you're close, you need that control and certainty of control over the ball. Same goes for cash - it's your best bet for goals that are less than 5 years out, but if you use it for your longer-term goals, you may never accumulate enough to get there due to the effects of inflation and lack of growth.
Sand Wedge=Emergency Fund. When you do hit your ball into a sand pit, it's not game over, you just get out your specialty club to get you back on track. Emergency funds serve the same purpose - when life sends you into the sand, they can help bail you out quickly so you can get on with your game.
Just like you need a full set of clubs for your best golf game, you need each of these money instruments in your savings to achieve your various goals.
Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!
When was the last time you checked your phone plan against how you're actually using it? Cell phone service companies are constantly changing their plans to adapt to their consumers phone usage. If you tend to utilize more data and text rather than minutes, you could potentially free up some extra cash each month by matching your usage to the best available plan!
Even if you're not in the market for a new phone, or you're currently locked in a contract, make sure you're not overpaying for things you don't use - like minutes or causing consistent overage by not purchasing enough data. You might be surprised to find that you can lower your bill by switching your plan without having to change your usage at all.
And don't forget about prepaid plans, especially if you don't need much data or minutes. The industry has evolved to fulfill all different styles of usage, so it's worth revisiting even if it didn't make sense a few years ago.
No matter what, if you find a way to trim your bill by event just $5 per month, make the most of that by increasing your monthly savings by that much.
If you're among the 43% of people under age 30 who are struggling with serious debt, you may have had a run-in or two with debt collectors. While it's important to get your debts under control, you also have rights when it comes to the practices of those looking to collecting debts.
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, debt collectors are not allowed to call you at a time or place that is inconvenient to you, including work if you've told them not to call you there. Additionally, any debt collector is required by law to provide you with the following information:
- Name of the creditor
- Amount owed
- How you can dispute or verify the debt
If they do not, they are required to provide this in writing within 5 days of initially contacting you.
Struggling with debt is no fun - don't let collectors add to the stress by violating your rights. For help with getting your debts under control, check out Feed the Pig for some helpful resources, such as an Accelerated Debt Payoff Calculator or this plan to pay off debt.
Happy (belated) Birthday, America! Hopefully your freedom celebration was safe, fun and didn't blow the budget. Now that the year is half-way over, it's a good time to reevaluate your goals and consider taking some steps to get closer to achieving them. Here are 4 things you can do in just 15 minutes to help you get there:
1. Increase your retirement savings by 1%. You will hardly notice the difference, but this could make a huge difference in your ending balance down the road.
2. Bump up your auto-savings by $10 per paycheck. If you're paid twice per month, that's almost an extra $250 per year and you probably won't miss the money.
3. Check your calendar for what's coming up in the next six months. Start planning now for things like back-to-school expenses, fall weddings and even holiday shopping.
4. Look at where your money went so far this year. If you haven't updated your budget in awhile, take the time to figure out where your money went and if it's not where you wanted it to go, make plans to adjust going forward.
What does financial freedom look like to you? Working a passion job? Retiring early? Being debt free? We want to know! Tell us on Facebook and Twitter, or post a photo on Instagram and tag @Benjamin.Bankes.
Considering the fact that the average person will hold between 12 and 15 jobs over their lifetime, coupled with the majority of employers offering a 401(k) or other retirement savings programs, chances are you will or may already have multiple retirement accounts before you're even 30. Perhaps you've already wondered whether you should rollover those accounts either into your new employer's plan or a rollover IRA. ( Keep in mind the differences between an IRA and a 401(k)). The answer isn't cut and dry. Here are some reasons for and against:
Reasons you might roll over into an IRA:
1. You prefer access to more investment options
2. You can lower your fees
3. It can make it easier to keep track of your money if it is in one or two accounts
4. You're comfortable selecting your own investments or choosing a professional to help
5. You want to convert some or all of the money to a Roth IRA
Reasons you might roll over into your current job's plan:
1. Your current employer's plan allows it
2. You like the investment options at your current employer
3. You want all your money in one account
4. Your current employer's plan has equal or lower fees than your old plan
5. You want to employ the " Back Door Roth" method to save other money in a Roth
Reasons you might not do anything and leave it in the old plan:
1. You like the investments in your old plan better
2. Fees are lower than your current employer
3. You are organized and know that any time you have big changes in life like marriage, divorce, birth of a child, etc., that you will remember to update the beneficiary form on all your accounts
4. You want to employ "Back Door Roth" method but you don't like your current plan that much
No matter what you choose, make sure you're putting something away for the long-term. You can use the Feed the Pig calculators to figure out if you're on track for your goals, or what you need to do to get there.
Are you thinking about buying your first home? You're not alone - mortgage rates continue to be low, and the housing market is hopping. But, before you find your dream home, you need to figure out how you're going to pay for it. To start, the rate you receive is one of the top determining factors when deciding which mortgage lender to go with. Here are five other steps to take and questions to ask:
1. Get at least 3 quotes This will give you a good idea of your options so you can make the best decision.
2. Ask if each lender will help improve your credit score if you receive less than the best rates.
3. Find out how long the process typically takes and who you'll actually be working with. Oftentimes, the person who sells you the loan is different than the person who will help you apply for the loan. It's important to understand the process up front so you'll know what to expect.
4. Ask if the lender plans to sell your loan or if they will service it. You'll want to know who to call if you have issues down the road.
5. Make sure you know what happens if the appraisal comes in lower than expected or your lock rate expires. If a lender is vague with answers, ask follow-up questions or find a different lender.
Finally, don't rely on the lender to tell you what you can afford - they'll almost always lend you more than you can feasibly fit into your budget. Figure out ahead of time how much you can afford based on your income using this calculator.
For more information on mortgages, check out Feed the Pig, including information on refinancing. Also, check out Experian's #creditchat on buying a home. featuring David Lopez, CPA, of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission.
Even though there isn't a big commercial holiday in August, there are still lots of deals to be had, including back-to-school and end-of-summer clearance sales. Here are a few other things you might want to buy this month, if they're on the list of things you need and have the cash for:
- Summer apparel, as long as you have a place to store it and are certain you'll wear it next year (or if you're planning a fall getaway to a tropical locale). Many department stores are moving these clothes to the sale rack to make room for the fall collection.
- Patio furniture, although you can't be picky as the selection may be limited at this point.
- Grills, so you can make the most of the rest of the summer.
- Laptops, in line with the back-to-school season. Shop around for the best back-to-school deals.
What deals do you plan on taking advantage of this month? Tweet @feedthepig and let us know! Happy Savings!
The best budget assigns a job to every dollar, but you also need to be sure that every dollar's job isn't to be spent. It's a common misconception that if you're able to pay all your financial obligations on time each month that you're not overspending. You don't have to be in credit card debt in order to technically overspend. Here are three signs that you may need to re-examine your budget, even if you're not behind on your bills:
1. A job loss or extended illness would immediately crush you. If missing just one paycheck would put you behind on bills, you're probably living beyond your means. Try to get ahead by saving one paycheck in a separate emergency savings account. Work to slowly build that up to several paychecks to provide a cushion in case of unexpected events.
2. You don't feel like you can afford to do things you really want to do, even when your friends and colleagues do those things. If taking a vacation or treating yourself to a spa day seems out of reach, despite many of your peers of similar earnings doing these things, you're probably overspending in other areas. If you've made a trade-off in order to live in a nicer place or drive a nicer car, that's one thing. But if it's just because you never feel like you have the extra money, it's time to take a look at where the money is going. Are you spending too much on take-out meals or online shopping? Work to set limits on areas where you can trim back, then establish an automatic savings plan so that you can occasionally treat yourself.
3. You're carrying credit card balances with no plan to pay them off. You can't go back and reverse the decisions that resulted in credit card debt, but you can resolve to get rid of it going forward. Even if you're not using cards today to pay expenses, if you're not on a plan to pay off the cards ASAP, it's time to make one. Then once that debt is gone, you can turn that monthly payment into savings for yourself!
In some cases, it may take a little time to find wiggle room in your budget - for example, if the reason you're stretched is partially due to a housing or car payment that turn out to be a financial stretch. In that case, be mindful of what you do with financial windfalls like tax refunds, raises at work or even little things like a $20 bill found in last winter's coat pocket. Rather than just absorbing those monies into your spending, put them aside in savings to give you some breathing room.
What are some strategies you have to prevent overspending? Tweet @feedthepig and let us know!
Have you started saving for retirement? It may seem like a far-off fantasy, but the reality is that the earlier you start saving, the better off you'll be 30 to 40 years from now.
The wide array of retirement savings account options might feel overwhelming. More and more employers are offering a Roth option in 401(k) plans, and if you are eligible to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), there is a choice between Traditional and Roth. Whichever you decide depends on your personal situation, but here are a few things to consider.
Young professionals tend to favor the Roth for a couple of reasons. If you have a lower income and aren't as concerned with lowering your taxable income as you may be later in your career, this could be the right choice for you. Because the money goes into a Roth after taxes are taken out, it doesn't offer the same income-reducing incentive as a Traditional IRA, but Roth savings (including the growth in the account), are not taxed upon withdrawal, so it's possible that an aggressive investor's Roth savings from their 20's could quadruple by the time they are withdrawing that money in retirement. Saving early in a Roth could earn significant long-term tax savings.
Young professionals might also favor the Roth because they can usually meet the income limits on who can contribute. The 2016 limits start at $117,000 for single taxpayers, and once you get to $132,000, your ability to contribute directly to a Roth IRA goes away completely - so taking advantage of this account while you're young could be beneficial.
On the flipside, if you are seeking immediate tax deductions, or you believe your marginal income tax rate may be considerably lower in retirement, you may opt for a Traditional IRA or 401(k). If you have a workplace retirement plan available, there are income limits on the deductibility of Traditional IRA contributions, so make sure you check those rules too.
The good news is that you can have both, although the limits on how much you can contribute to an IRA or 401(k) are for both types combined. The one thing that both Roth and Traditional retirement accounts have in common are their contribution limits—in 2016 you can put up to $5,500 combined into IRA accounts and $18,000 into 401(k) accounts combined (if you're over 50, there are catch-up contributions for both that raise the limits).
One way to balance your budget is to cut back on expenses. If you can't find anywhere else to cut back, the next step is to increase your income. While you work toward a raise at work, here are three ways you can earn some cash on the side without compromising your career.
- Teach fitness. Rather than paying to go to the gym and take classes, get certified for your favorite fitness format. You'll not only get paid to work out, but will likely have free access to a gym as well, allowing you to cut one more expense.
- Watch pets. People who don't have nearby friends or family to take care of pets while they travel typically prefer to leave their furry friends at home and use a pet sitter. Sign up as a contractor for a service that will find you clients, or post some flyers in your neighborhood, the lobby of your building or on Facebook to advertise your services.
- Drive for a ride-sharing service. One way to help defray the costs of your car would be to give a few people a ride each day and earn some back. Services like Lyft and Uber make it easy to get signed up and drive when you want.
October 20th is Get Smart About Credit Day! Do you know how your knowledge measures up? Here are four key pieces you should know to help get and keep your credit up to snuff.
- Know your credit score. The first step is making sure your credit report is correct and free of blemishes. You can access your free copies at annualcreditreport.com. To find out your actual score, you can access websites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, or check if your bank or credit card statement provide it for you.
- Manage your cards. The best way to keep your credit score in good shape is to pay your credit cards off every month. If you're working on getting out of debt, first strive to get your balance to less than 30% of your credit limit. Remember, you don't have to carry a balance to keep a good score, but you may want to keep paid off accounts open to show the full length of your credit history.
- Deal with student loans. Know what you're getting into when you take out loans, and, once you have them, make sure you're paying them off as quickly as you can afford.
- Protect your identity. It can take years for your credit to recover from identity theft so the best defense is a great offense: make sure it doesn't get stolen in the first place by taking these steps.
Maintaining good credit keeps your financial options open when it comes to lots of important life goals, like buying a house, obtaining car insurance and sometimes even securing a job. Get smart and stay smart by taking care of your credit today!
During open enrollment season, it's not uncommon to hear lots of insurance-related acronyms being tossed around. PPO, HSA, HDHP, FSA, LTD, AE, etc.* It's easy to get confused! But one of those acronyms, the HSA, can be a powerful way for you to save on taxes and possibly provide an alternate way to save for retirement.
72% of employers offer plans that include a Health Savings Account (HSA) component and the lower premium plans on the healthcare exchange are also HSA-eligible plans. Here are some facts about HSAs to help you decide if that's the right choice for you.
- HSAs are basically savings accounts. You can save money for your out-of-pocket healthcare costs. Plus, the money goes in tax-free and comes out tax-free, as long as it's spent on qualified healthcare costs.
- They're different from FSAs. They're not "use it or lose it." You can roll over money year after year, no limit. And if you leave your job or retire, the account goes with you.
- You must be enrolled in a health insurance plan. In order to deposit money, you'll need a health insurance plan with a high deductible. The IRS defines "high deductible" as $1,300 for single coverage and $2,600 for family coverage. That means your initial health expenses each year will be at 100% out-of-pocket, no co-pays, until you've reached your deductible.
- Spend it on you or anyone else on your tax return. Once money is deposited into your HSA, you can spend it on any eligible healthcare expenses for you or anyone else on your tax return (dependent or spouse), regardless of whether that person is on your insurance. You can even use it later on in life when you may not be enrolled in a high-deductible health plan.
- Free money. Your job may deposit money into your HSA to help offset your healthcare costs, which is basically free money (especially if you don't spend because you don't have a lot of healthcare expenses).
For people who rarely go to the doctor outside of preventive care visits (which are covered 100% on all health insurance plans by law), an HSA health insurance plan can be a great way to save money on premiums while also allowing you to save taxes on money you set aside for the times you DO have expenses, both now and in the future.Talk to your HR department to find out what options are available!
*PPO: preferred provider organization; HSA: health savings account; HDHP: high deductible healthcare plan; FSA: flexible spending account; LTD: long term disability; AE: annual enrollment
Does looking at your bank account make you want to cry "bibbidi-bobbidi-boohoo"? Here are three frightful financial follies to avoid so you can keep more of your money. Now that's what we call a Halloween treat!
- Paying overdraft fees. Many checking accounts have a feature that will allow a certain amount of debit card transactions to go through, even if you don't have the money in your account. Although it might save you some embarrassment at payment time, it also makes the bank a lot of money. If your balance gets close to zero before payday, consider turning this feature off so you don't accidentally incur unnecessary fees.
- Losing FSA money and vacation time. Plan ahead to make the most of your "use it or lose it" benefits at work. If you have paid time off that will expire at the end of the year, schedule some days off now, even if all you have to do on those days is sleep in and relax. Days like that are priceless! If you have a flex spending account that still has money in it, think of ways to spend that money so you don't lose it. Consider re-ordering contact lenses, getting your teeth cleaned or even just stocking up on sunscreen.
- Hits to your credit score. Late payments hurt your credit score more than any other factor. The number one thing you can do to maintain a high credit score is pay your bills on time. Every bill, every month.
You don't have to wait until the New Year to get started on that resolution. Whether you're looking to combine your finances after getting married, buy your first house, start a family or just want to get out of debt quickly, you can make a plan to achieve your goals today!
Depending on what you'd like to accomplish, select up to three goals with our tool and click 'Make My Plan' to create a step-by-step guide to start you on your way to financial success. It's quick and easy, and will provide a clear outline of what you need to do in order to reach your goals.
Once your plan is created, head on over to our calculators for more help crunching those numbers and getting your budget in order.
Happy Global Entrepreneurship Week! Being your own boss has many advantages – you can choose your hours, make your own rules, and, in some cases, pants are optional! However, it also comes with some challenges, such as paying higher self-employment taxes and a lack of easy access to employer-sponsored retirement savings options. The good news is that there are similar options available for small business owners, it just may take more discipline to make the most of them.
Here are the most popular options available today (all three offer up-front tax savings as well as tax-deferred growth):
- SEP-IRA: Best for solopreneurs and moonlighters, you can open one at pretty much any bank or financial institution for little to no fees. Each year you can deposit up to 25% of your business net income, up to a maximum of $53,000 (that amount occasionally goes up with inflation). You can put money in throughout the year to spread out the savings, but the exact amount you can contribute each year won't be determined until your taxes for that year are done, so you have until the date you file to put the money in for the previous year.
- SIMPLE-IRA: Best if you're planning to hire anyone down the road due to the lower requirement for what you have to offer your employee(s) in terms of matching. Basically, if your employee wants to contribute to their own retirement account, you have to allow them to open up an account in your plan and match their contributions up to 3%. SEP and Individual 401(k) also have rules like that, but they're more expensive for the business owner, making this the plan most choose to ease the burden. However, the amount you can tuck away each year is much lower. $12,500 per year, which may not be enough to retire when you want.
- Individual 401(k): If you're a lone ranger (or your only other employee is your spouse) and want to save more than 25% of your net business income, then this might be the best choice for you. Individual 401(k)'s allow you to stash up to $18,000 per year (or $24,000 if you're over age 50) as the "employee," then as the boss you can add up to an additional 25% more of your compensation for a max of $53,000. One other thing the individual 401(k) offers that the other two don't is the ability to borrow against your balance if you really need the money. Downside: these are a little more complicated to set up and once your balance reaches $250K, you have to file an additional Form 5500 for your taxes.
Not sure which is best for you? Your best bet may be to visit with a CPA/PFS and ask for their guidance.
Do you know where the name "Black Friday" comes from? It's a reference to the fact that when a business is making more money than what it's spending, it's called "being in the black" (when it's losing money, the business is "in the red"). Black Friday is the day that puts businesses in the black after being in the red all year. In other words, when we head out for those doorbusters and shop 'till we drop the day after Thanksgiving, our spending is enough to put retailers back on solid financial ground for the entire year. That's a lot of spending!
One of the reasons Black Friday works is that stores advertise huge deals, and once they get you in the store, they know you'll start browsing and impulse buying, which, if you're not careful, can send YOU into the red. Don't fall victim to these clever tricks! Give yourself a spending limit right now for Black Friday and consider only taking cash with you so you'll stick to your limit. Seriously, leave the credit cards at home.
Whether you plan to camp outside your favorite electronics store or steer clear of any shopping areas this Friday, the Feed the Pig team wishes you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful for YOU!
If you have a bank account, health insurance, credit card or even an email address with certain free services, there is a chance that your personal information could be exposed to hackers - especially during tax filing season. There are many ways to combat identity theft, but here's the number one way to prevent it this tax season:
File ASAP. Not only does filing early mean you'll get your refund sooner if you're owed one, it's also the best way to combat hackers who may use your information to file a fraudulent tax return. If a hacker uses your information to file a fake return, and you've already filed, you will have foiled their plan.
But what if I owe money? Even if you owe, you can still file your tax return early, but wait until the deadline (April 18 this year) to make your payment.
Want more tips on how to prevent identity theft year round? Check them out here.
We've all been there, scrolling through Facebook's news feed, and suddenly you see a link claiming a great investment opportunity in a new company, sure to make you rich! While this may sound like an easy-to-identify scam, many companies are finding stealthier ways to tout their impending success (think penny-stock scams in The Wolf of Wall Street ). Fake financial news is a growing problem, and unsurprisingly, it's affecting Americans' abilities to make certain financial decisions.
To avoid falling victim to these masters of disguise, the AICPA National CPA Financial Literacy Commission recommends taking these five steps:
- Do your due diligence: Before making an impulsive decision, put your mind at ease and do your research.
- Be suspicious of outrageous claims: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Before believing a claim, corroborate it with other reports.
- Watch our for website spoofing: We all have our go-to websites that we know and trust, but be on the lookout for fake news that looks credible and is anything but.
- Closely scrutinize sponsored content and advertorials:Is it an editorial piece or a sponsored ad? It can be hard to to tell the difference, but make sure to double check.
- Look out for pranks:Check to see if the source is a parody or if it's legit - satire can often mislead people, especially if it's been shared on social media.
Ever wondered how your life would be different if you could go back and save all that money you earned at your part-time job in high school? Or if you could re-think that brand new car you just had to have, even though it put you in debt?
What if you could also fast-forward to see how changing something today would affect you financially in the future? It's east to adopt a "worry about it tomorrow" attitude when it comes to developing good money habits, but we often find ourselves wishing we could go back to yesterday and make better decisions.
Now you can play out those types of scenarios with Yesterday's Tomorrow, our new online game that helps you see how decisions today can affect you tomorrow. Play Yesterday's Tomorrow now and see how adopting health financial habits can pay off!
If the heat of the summer has you itching to get away for a quick weekend of fun, you're not alone. It's prime vacation time! Here are some tips to get out of town without sweating your bank account:
- Home-sharing: You can definitely save some major bank using home-sharing websites, but make sure you know what you're getting into before reserving. Read the reviews of prior users and be clear on what is provided. Some hosts make life easy by providing the basics and more, like beach towels and coffee filters, while others may not even provide a second roll of toilet paper. Know before you go!
- Pack a cooler: Nothing racks up a vacation bill like dining out for every meal. If you're accustomed to a morning smoothie or cup of yogurt at home, stick with that routine when you're traveling too - bring a cooler if you're driving, or make a quick trip to a grocery store to stock up your hotel room fridge before settling in on your first night.
- Think like a local: Chances are your destination has an Instagram or Facebook page where they post about fun (and often free) activities for locals and visitors - follow along so you can take advantage of every opportunity to experience the local culture.
Planning to say, "I do?" Chances are that you and your loved one have at least had a discussion about your wedding budget, but what about the rest of your financial stats? Here are the things you should discuss before the big day:
- Credit score: There's a reason that your bank and landlord want to know this number - it's a great measurement of your financial habits. And if you and your betrothed are planning to purchase a home or car together in the future, you'll want to figure out if you'll qualify for the best rates. If not, then you can work together to improve your scores.
- Money mindset: Prevent money fights by getting to know each other's financial personalities. Discuss how you feel about money, whether you have fears or hopes, how you make spending decisions, your family history with money, etc. When you inevitably disagree about something, having an understanding of your spouses' money background can help you find middle ground quickly and with fewer potential misunderstandings.
- Big purchases: Every couple who is financially successful knows their number - the amount of money that they "check in" with each other before spending. For some couples, that's $50. For others, it might be $500. Whatever it is, having that agreed-upon number in place before your nuptials will also help prevent money fights (and potential financial disasters!).
Eventually you'll want to work out a household budget and decide which of you will be in charge of which financial responsibilities, like bills, but that is often an evolving process as you adjust to each other's habits and lifestyles. Above all, remember that communicating is key - your sweetheart won't know that his or her financial habits are driving you nuts unless you speak up in a way that encourages sharing. By sticking together and remaining open and loving, you'll be well on your way to happily ever after.
Planning on getting hitched soon? Share your tips for talking about finances on Instagram and tag @benjamin.bankes, and be sure to catch all our stories on Snapchat!
You know how it goes - in an effort to save money, you make a point to keep your weekend plans light, and turn down invitations that involve spending money outside your budget. Here's a virtual pat-on-the-back for taking charge of your money!
Then it happens.
You open Instagram out of habit, only to find your friends having the time of their lives at a music festival. You scroll down more to see your college roommate just landed at an all-inclusive resort, drink in hand, toes in the white sand. Even your parents are posting about their wine tasting tour with the neighbors! FOMO kicks in. What to do?
Obviously, one way to avoid FOMO would be to delete your social media apps, but no need to resort to extremes. Here are a few ideas to fight the FOMO and keep your savings plan on track:
- Visualize your goal: Find a visual reminder of what achieving your savings goal will mean to you and put it everywhere. If your goal is to be debt-free, how about a picture of you looking free and relieved? If you're saving for something specific, like buying a house or a new car, make sure you're looking at that picture every day.
- Make plans: Saving money doesn't mean you have to sit home on your couch and do nothing. Plan free things to do like going to the beach, checking out a neighborhood festival or even planning a potluck with friends - that way you won't have time to feel like you're missing out.
- Join in: FOMO goes both ways, show your friends that you can have fun without spending tons of money by sharing your own pics of why you're saving.
- Follow pages that encourage your savings habits: You'll get that good kind of money FOMO if you follow Feed the Pig - add us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat!
It's National Bargain Hunting Week, a great time to hit up your favorite clearance racks and discount stores to find great deals! Here are a few tips to make the most of it:
- Set a limit. A bargain is not a true deal if it compromises your savings goals. Before you start digging through bins, decide how much you're willing to spend on your treasure hunt so you don't blow your budget.
- Volunteer. One way to celebrate without spending any of your own money is to take someone else shopping, perhaps an elderly person or someone with a disability who needs a companion. Helping other people find their own deals is just as satisfying!
- Stick to your rules. Designer Nate Berkus is famous for advising people to bring things they love into their home. What is your rule about whether something comes home with you or not? Decide before you start your hunt, and you'll be less likely to buy "just because."
Happy Hunting! Be sure to share your finds with us on Facebook or tag us on Instagram. Everyone loves a good bargain!
This past weekend, Justin Thomas won a whopping $1.89 million as the 99th P.G.A. champion. Luckily, Justin can apply some of his golfing basics to handling all this money (and so can you!). Even if you don't have that kind of money in the bank, check out these five tips to keep your finances on par:
- Perfect your short game. A monster drive is definitely important to getting the ball in the hole, but championships are typically won by the short game - and the same goes for your money. It doesn't matter how well you plan for your goals if your everyday financial decisions derail your game. Check out Yesterday's Tomorrow to see how different game plans can affect your end score.
- Don't forget your long game. Retirement may seem like it's in the distant future, but you still want to set aside money to keep options open later in your career. In fact, saving less early on is more impactful than saving a bunch as retirement looms closer. Get a jump start and work toward saving at least 10 percent of your income for maximum yardage on your future dollars.
- Avoid hazards. Nothing spoils a round of golf more quickly than a sand trap or water hazard, where even the best golfers sometimes find themselves. The best way to avoid hazards, like a job loss, accident or illness, is to have your emergency fund in place. That way you can quickly get back in the game with minimal credit card debt or disruption.
- Fix your slice. If you find that you can't seem to get your financial ball going straight because you're living paycheck to paycheck, first take a look at where your money is going. Oftentimes people are spending way more than they think on things like dining out, entertainment or other non-essentials. It's fine to enjoy your youth and have fun. But you should also look for easy areas to cut back so you can put something aside and find some wiggle room in your game.
- Consult your caddy. The caddy's job is to know their partner's game and the course in order to customize club recommendations and advice on where to hit next. Likewise, a CPA can work up a financial plan that takes your personal goals, strengths and weaknesses into account. It will help you stay on par and maybe even find a few birdies and eagles along the way! Find your financial caddy here.
How are you perfecting your financial game? Share with us on Facebook!
Deciding whether to accept that new job offer? It can be tempting to jump at an offer that increases your pay, but if your current job includes benefits and the new job is sparse in that department, you may find yourself actually making less when it's all said and done. Here are the things to consider before accepting a job offer:
- Healthcare: It's not just about what premium you'll pay (although having your employer pay 100% of the premium is pretty sweet!), make sure to double check the coverage. Leaving a plan that has a low deductible and a lot of in-network options for a job that has a high deductible and limited in-network options can be very costly if you have healthcare needs.
- Retirement: It may seem like retirement is lifetime away, but an employer that helps to fund yours can make a huge difference in the short and long runs. Front-loading your retirement savings with a generous employer match early on gives you the benefit of compound interest, which means you may be less pressed to save in the future as you near that golden age.
- Culture: Let's be honest, you spend the majority of your time at work, so you need to make sure it will be a place that will nurture you rather than beat you down. No big salary is worth it if you have zero time for yourself, or you go home at the end of each day feeling like your soul was sucked. Every job has its perks and disadvantages, so do your best to find out what those are before you accept an offer.
For more tips on career planning, check out our tips here. What do you look for in a job? Share with us on Facebook!
In case you missed it, it's that time of year again - back to school! Let's have a little throwback to our own school days, and review a couple of tried and true lessons we learned from our piggy banks:
- Make it hard to reach: One of the useful things about a real glass piggy bank was that it saved you from yourself. Once the money went in, it was there until you were ready to literally break the bank to access it. You can apply this same concept in adulthood by opening up a savings account at a separate bank from your checking, like a higher-interest paying online bank.Taking away the ability to transfer funds in a pinch from savings will force you to re-think raiding it during times of temptation.
- Visualize your money: Debit cards and online banking have made it easier to manage our money, but it also makes it easier to spend. Your piggy bank gave you a visual of the coins and dollars adding up, which can be a motivation to keep the trend going. One way to recreate this is to make a deal with yourself that you'll only spend cash on discretionary purchases like dining out, shopping and entertainment. Handing over five 20's for your bar tab after buying a round for all your friends, rather than swiping your card, will probably make you think twice about whether you need to treat everyone.
What other lessons from your school days do you still put to use today? Share with us on Facebook!
Are you prepared should disaster strike? September is National Preparedness Month, an annual event focused on planning. This year's theme, "Disasters Don't Plan Ahead. You Can." is, unfortunately, especially relevant. Whether you live in an area affected by hurricanes or not, it's always a good idea to be prepared. Here are some key steps:
- Make a plan: One of the most important things to know ahead of any disaster is your evacuation route and communication plan. Assign necessary responsibilities to each family or household member, and make sure everyone knows your assigned meeting place should you get separated. It can be scary to talk through logistics, but far scarier to not know what to do in the face of disaster.
- Secure your documents: Paperwork is the last thing on your mind during a disaster, so it's important that you make sure documents like social security cards, insurance documents, marriage licenses and birth certificates, are safe. You should also review your homeowner's policy to know what is covered in case of damage.
- Help others: Once you've gone through your own disaster preparation, offer to help others make their own plan. You can also take steps to learn what else you can do should disaster strike, like Until Help Arrives training from FEMA.
For more information, check out the full disaster preparedness and recovery guide from the AICPA, NEFE and the Red Cross. Our thoughts are with all those who have been and will be affected this hurricane season.
September is Self-Improvement Month - which means 30 days of focusing on improving something about yourself - like your finances! Here are 3 ways you can celebrate that will pay off for years to come:
- Improve your emergency savings: Use this month to try and beef up your emergency fund. One easy way can be to tie it to another goal you may have. For instance, if you're trying to get healthy by cutting down on meals out, redirect the money you were spending on those meals toward your savings!
- Improve your investments: Take time this month to learn more about the basics of investing, then check to make sure your retirement and other investments are in line with your goals. For example, if you have more than 10 years to go until retirement, make sure your investments aren't too conservative - you could be limiting your opportunities for growth over the long term by staying too safe in the short term.
- Improve your budget: Where are you leaking money? Set aside some time this month to review your past 3-6 months of spending to see if you are spending more in a certain area than you planned. Then figure out if you need to plug the leak by cutting back, or redirect from another area of your budget that isn't as important.
Looking for more direction to improve your finances? Set your goals over here, then follow the plan!
Ahoy, matey! It's Talk Like A Pirate Day, and shiver me timbers, of course you're probably dreaming about the day when ye can smartly weigh anchor of the working life washing the poop deck and instead spend your days marooned on an island, swigging grog with your chums.
Here are some resources to help your goals set sail. You'll be counting your booty in no time!
- Where to keep your booty: Retirement plan solutions for "right now" situations.
- How much booty do you need? See how your savings can add up with our 401(k) savings calculator.
- How to save more booty: Defining what normal spending looks like for you can help you find where you're able to save.
Take a moment today to get on the path to your pot of gold with these frugal habits of millionaires.
- Cultivate a frugal mindset. Many people equate being frugal with being cheap, but that's not really correct. Being frugal means carefully watching your dollars and not spending more than you need to—a trait many millionaires employ. To help cultivate a frugal mindset, get in the habit of asking yourself this question: "With a little extra effort and/or sacrifice on my part, is there any way I can save money here?" Having a frugal mindset can really help when it comes to facing temptations.
- Buy wisely and sparingly. We all need "stuff" now and then; the key is not overdoing it or overpaying for it. Try to buy mostly what you really need, not what you really want. Money you save can then be used to build your savings and investment accounts.
- Be smart about everyday purchases. You might be surprised to learn that many millionaires clip coupons, buy in bulk, wait for sales, scour eBay and Craigslist for deals, limit clothing purchases, fly coach, avoid credit cards, and save half their restaurant meal for lunch the next day.
- Shun debt. Generally speaking, you should be leery of taking on debt for things that cause you to live beyond your means. Remember, every dollar you borrow today is a dollar you'll have to pay back tomorrow, with interest.
- Take action. As Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise." And indeed, many millionaires and leaders aren't couch potatoes. They don't sit around waiting for things to happen; they make things happen by getting up early, working hard, looking for opportunities, constantly educating themselves, taking calculated risks, networking, staying active, and generally trying to improve themselves day in and day out.
People who turn a modest financial base into wealth often do so by living frugally, saving regularly, investing wisely, and avoiding debt. How are you building your wealth? Share your tips and tricks with us on Facebook and Twitter!
Whether you like it or not, you are probably influenced by your peers in more ways than one. While sometimes this can be a good thing—motivating you to get healthy or try something new—other times it can be detrimental.
According to a 2013 survey from the AICPA and the Ad Council, over three quarters of young adults (78%) use their friends’ financial habits to determine their own. The vast majority (66%) wants to keep pace with their peers on where they live, 64% say the same thing about what they wear, and nearly two-thirds experience pressure to keep up with the types of places they eat and the gadgets they carry. At the same time, in the past year alone, almost half had to use a credit card to pay for necessities like food or utilities, more than a quarter missed a bill payment or were contacted by a bill collector, and 61% still get financial help from their family. That doesn’t sound all that great, does it?
Here are a few ideas to help you and your friends get on the path to financial stability.
- Start with the right blueprints. You can’t build a house without a solid foundation, and the same goes for your finances. This means setting up a budget and financial plan that works for you and your lifestyle.
- Set goals. Like a horse with a carrot, sometimes we need motivation to get where we want to go. That’s what goals are for. Whether it’s to pay off debt, buy a car or simply worry less about money, knowing what you’re working towards and having a plan to get there can be your best offense for your financial future.
- Watch our new PSAs and get inspired to forge your own path to financial security!
As our new ads say, “When it comes to financial stability, don’t get left behind.” Check out all of our tips and tools to help you discover your road to financial success!
With the end of summer often comes the end of many apartment leases and summer jobs, which means we're heading into "moving season" across the US. Finding and moving into a new home is a time of great excitement, but it can also be quite expensive, especially when it comes to unexpected expenses. If you're preparing to move in the coming months, or year, make sure you're properly budgeting for all of the costs involved to avoid unnecessary credit card debt or financial short-falls. Here are a few moving expenses that might surprise you.
- Application fees and credit checks. Many landlords charge fees just to apply for a lease, and also often pass along the cost of a credit check. Make sure you're certain you want a place before you apply.
- Move-out/move-in fees. If you live in a large building, there could be a fee associated with scheduling the loading dock or reserving an elevator. This is hard to avoid, so plan ahead and make sure you understand all the details and charges prior to moving.
- Utility installation. Many cable providers will charge an installation fee to send someone out and hook up your equipment. If you're transferring service, see if you can bargain with the provider to waive the cost in return for your loyalty.
- Packing supplies. Before you purchase boxes, stop by the rental office of your local storage or moving company. They often have a place where customers can leave used boxes for others, saving you from buying new. Also, if you live in an apartment, check the trash room at your current building, you may find used boxes from neighbors.
- Truck rental or movers. It's always better to overestimate how long your move will take so you can avoid overage fees. If you're hiring movers, remember to budget for a tip—this is often how the workers make the bulk of their money.
Once you're settled in your new home, wait a couple weeks before purchasing any large furniture or decorative pieces. This will give you time to really assess what you need to make it home sweet home, and can help prevent buyer's remorse from impulse purchases. Happy moving!