Archive for August, 2009

Successful Saving Starts with Making It a Priority
August 26, 2009

At a financial education workshop conducted by a member of the Essential Knowledge team, our representative met Shonda, a young woman who said she couldn’t ever save money.

Every time she saved an amount, said Shonda, she ended up having to spend that money on bills. She was certain that she would never be able to save anything for the future. She believed it, too. She had a whole list of reasons to support her belief. Even though she was sitting in a presentation titled “saving strategies,” she was there to prove it wasn’t possible. Our team hears this perspective often.

Spenders usually have great excuses. I even find myself believing them at first.  These arguments can be very convincing.

** I will save more when I get my debt paid off.

** I will start saving when I have money left over at the end of the month.

** I don’t make enough money.

Will there ever be extra money left over? Are you really motivated to pay off your debt to start saving?  For almost everyone there is always something that needs to be purchased or fixed. Putting saving at the end of the list means you might as well leave it off the list completely. It just becomes one of those wishes and dreams that you hope to get around to doing one day.

So what makes a successful saver?  Someone who has stopped putting energy into why saving can’t work and is focused on how to make it happen.

Successful savers know that saving must be a priority. Consider Lyndsey, who comes from a family of spenders. Her husband, on the other hand, comes from a family of strong savers. They went through our financial education program and discussed their shared saving goals. Now, when she feels like indulging in retail therapy, she reminds herself of their plans.

Save the excuses. That’s the best way to become a great saver. Stop justifying bad behavior, and make a change. Excuses interfere with our ability to accomplish any goal in life, including saving. Even before you go through the act of putting money into a savings account, you must decide that your desire to build your savings is stronger than your desire to spend.

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Credit Card Changes in Effect Today
August 20, 2009

In May, President Obama signed into effect the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Protection Act. The act was passed to protect current and future cardholders against unfair practices, and to standardize the industry. The first of three phases takes place today.

Billing – Prior to today, credit card companies were required to bill within 14 days of a payment due date. Now, cardholders are billed 21 days before the due date. This is good news for cardholders, especially if you travel or use online bill pay. You now have more time to get that payment in.

Rate Changes – Instead of 15 days to notify you of a rate change (which was sometimes retroactive), companies now must give you 45 days notice. I can’t tell you how important this is, based on scenarios I have seen in some families. For those that struggle to make the minimum payment, it is a real tragedy when the rate goes up drastically, because it increases that minimum payment.  Many have been forced into default. Now, the extra time gives consumers the ability to try to negotiate that rate, switch a balance to another card, or to pay off the balance.

Even better, if you disagree with the rate change, you now have the option to freeze your current rate. Your account will be closed to new charges, but you will have five years to pay off the balance.

What this means to you:

As a cardholder you are being given more time to deal with your creditor. However, don’t take this as a free pass to procrastinate. It is just as important to get those payments in on time, and to take action on rate increases. Use your time to your advantage and make decisions with your wallet.

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7 Saving Tips for Back to School
August 11, 2009

So, school is right around the corner. If you are like most parents, you are probably trying to stretch your budget to get everything you need. Here are my 7 tips for saving money for back to school.

Shop at home: It wasn’t so long ago that school just ended. Chances are, your child brought home a hodgepodge of supplies at the end of the year. Comb your home to see what you already have on your school’s list. Check those junk drawers, and you will be surprised how many things you have already.

Shop early or shop late: These are the best times to save money. Now that school is upon us, you can find items moved for clearance. Prices will continue to go down until and after school begins. Although the must have brand name items may be gone, what’s left will be cheap.

Stick to the list: Your child will want specialty items. Keep to the essentials.

Set a budget: You can typically get everything you need for $25. If your child wants a higher priced item, negotiate on another item to stay in budget.

Don’t buy fall clothes: The stores may have jeans and sweaters on display, but you won’t need those items for several months. By then, they will be on sale. Remember clothes are seasonal: Don’t get sucked into a new fall wardrobe just yet. We won’t feel cool or cold weather for awhile.

Buy summer clothing cheap: Pick up clearance summer items in a size that your child could also wear next spring.

Save on the basics: Now is the time to get deals on short sleeve t-shirts and other basics that can transition to fall. These items are close to the cheapest they will be all year.

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Feeling Fear about the Future of Your Money?
August 4, 2009

Essential Knowledge interacts with many people through our programs. Fear is everywhere. It is in the air we breathe and the water we drink. As a result, people are jumping to some pretty crazy decisions. Recently, one of our team members shared this personal rule she sticks to:

In times of great change, change as little as possible. What does this mean? When craziness is all around you, do not hit the panic button. Sure you should look at your overall financial picture, but be smart about it.

This means not to give in to Money Madness. Here are three ways to avoid doing so…

Do NOT put your money in your mattress! Now is not the time to take money out of your bank and keep it at home, unless your bank is not FDIC insured. Despite the rumors, banks will continue to be the best way to house your money for checking and savings.

Do NOT withdraw your money from your investments completely. Too many people are concerned that because the stock market is shrinking, that they are better off holding onto their money in a savings account or at home. This is a simple question of math. If you have five years or more until retirement, your best bet is to keep that money invested. The taxes and penalties to withdraw those funds will most likely never be made up in the interest on a savings account. You may want to visit with your advisor to talk about your risk tolerance and make changes along those lines.

Do NOT be late paying your bills. Now, if you are unemployed, this statement may not apply to you. However, if you are gainfully employed, make sure that your payments are made on time. Most major credit card companies are increasing interest and fees to make up for default losses. Do not give your creditors an excuse to rack up additional charges on your accounts. Need to make a budget? Go to www.essentialknowledge.com/resources.

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