Do you Know Your Banking Basics?

With all the banks and credit unions as well as a growing number of other banking options to choose from, how do you choose which is best for you?

Type of Bank

Benefits

Disadvantages

 Commercial Bank
  • Full range of services (including online)
  • Many branches with ATMs
  • High fees
  • Less personal service
 Credit Union
  • Low fees
  • You have a say in setting policy
  • Need to meet membership requirements
  • Limited access to ATMs
 Savings and Loan
  • Lower fees than commercial banks
  • Personal service
  • Some weekend hours
  • Fewer branches than commercial banks
  • Limited ATM access
 Virtual Bank
  • Higher interest on deposits
  • Banking at your own convenience
  • No personal contact
  • Mail non electronic deposits
  • Fees to use ATM
 Brokerage Firm, Mutual Fund, or Insurance Company
  • Low cost or free checking
  • May provide loans against investment balances
  • May require high minimum balances
  • High fees

Most of these institutions offer the same basic services; the key things to consider when you make your choice are the costs of banking, the hours and locations most convenient for you, and customer service.

Source: Morris, A Woman’s Guide to Personal Finance

Guiding Parents with Dignity

Your Parents are Aging, What Questions Should You Be Asking Them?

As you age, you may find your parents struggling with illness as they age as well. As their daughter, you may be responsible for their care. The emotional and financial strain can be exhausting and the commitment may compromise your career. It can be difficult know where to start when helping your aging parents. Here are some questions to ask yourself to get started:

  • What institutions hold your assets?
  • Ask your parents for a list of their bank, brokerage, and retirement accounts, including account numbers and online usernames and passwords, if applicable.
  • You should also know where to find their insurance policies (life, home, auto, disability, long-term care), Social Security cards, titles to their house and vehicles, outstanding loan documents, and past tax returns. If your parents have a safe-deposit box or home safe, make sure you can access the key or combination.
  • Do they currently work with any financial, legal, or tax advisors? If so, get a list of names with contact information.
  • Do they have a durable power of attorney? A durable power of attorney is a legal document that allows a named individual (such as an adult child) to manage all aspects of a parent’s financial life if he or she becomes disabled or incompetent.
  • Do they have a will? If so, find out where it’s located and who is named as executor. If it’s more than five years old, your parents may want to review it to make sure their current wishes are represented. Ask if they have any specific personal property disposition requests that they want to discuss now.
  • Are their beneficiary designations up-to-date? Designated beneficiaries on insurance policies, pensions, IRAs, and investments trump any instructions in your parents’ wills.
  • Do they have an overall estate plan? A trust? A living trust can help manage an estate while your parents are still living.

(Questions from 360 degrees of financial literacy)

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Financially Savvy Women are educated about investments

3 Simple Steps to Becoming More Confident with Your Money

Women are notorious for putting off making important financial decision or even facing their financial life, why? The most common answer is “I don’t know enough” or “I don’t understand it all.”

As a result they hold off and procrastinate until a crisis forces change (not a great strategy).

So how much do you really have to know in order to make progress with your investment?  It really all starts with three simple steps:

  1. Know how to read your statements: Come to us and we will gladly coach you through these statements so that each month you are crystal clear as to what your money is doing for you.
  1. Know what returns you are trying to achieve:  We have determined a number of factors that can help you achieve financial independence, one of those factors is your “Average rate of return” If you can’t remember this number ask us.  This number should be your guide as to how well you are doing because it’s really all about you achieving your goals.
  1. Know the function of each of your investments: You don’t necessarily have to understand the inner workings of the investment but you should know whether the investment is designed to protect your principle, generate income, grow at a steady pace, reduce risk or provide tax deferred growth.

Are You Prepared For Change?

You love enjoying your financial security; you’ve established your career, you earn a nice income, and you’ve already paid for a home and college tuition’s. However, drastic changes like disability, illness, job loss, divorce, or aging parents can blindside you and your finances. You need to prepare yourself for unexpected changes to protect the financial security you already worked hard for.

Facing Disability, Illness, or Job Loss:

The greatest costs you retain when you become disabled or ill are medical provider charges. These charges include hospital, doctor, and medication bills. It pays to have health insurance especially if you can obtain reduced rates through your employer’s group plan. You may consider disability insurance if it pertains to you. Researching and picking the right insurance for you will provide the coverage that will protect you from paying high medical bills out of pocket.

Losing a job is always a drastic and immediate change. You need to develop some risk management like setting up an emergency fund that will cover all expenses while you are between jobs. Also, think POSITIVE. A job loss can lead to a new career, or a better position in your field of expertise. You may also decide to take some time off to travel, spend time with your family, or try out a new hobby during this time.

(Morris, A Woman’s Guide to Personal Finance)

Mature Woman Executive

Are Women Too Focused on the Short-Term?

Women, Money and The Long-Term

How many short-term financial decisions do you make each week? You probably make more than a few, and they may feel routine. Yet in managing these day-to-day issues, you may be drawn away from making the long-term money decisions that could prove vital to your financial well-being.

How many long-term financial decisions have you made for yourself? How steadily have you saved and planned for retirement? Have you looked into ideas that may help to lower your taxes or preserve more of the money you have accumulated?

In a 2014 Prudential survey of 1,250 American women, 86% of those polled felt that they lacked knowledge when it came to choosing investment or insurance products, yet 95% of the respondents identified themselves as the financial decision-makers in their households.1 Does this describe you? Perhaps it’s time to work toward gaining more confidence and control over your financial picture.

Start by taking inventory. Look at your investments and savings accounts: their balances, their purposes. Then, look at income sources: yours, and those of your spouse or family if applicable. Consider your probable or possible income sources after you retire: Social Security and others.

This is a way to start seeing where you are financially in terms of your progress toward a financially stable retirement and your retirement income. It may also illuminate potential new directions for you:

  • The need to save or invest more (especially since parenting or caregiving may interrupt your career and affect your earnings)
  • The need for greater income (negotiate for a raise!) or additional income sources down the road
  • Risks to income and savings (and the need to plan greater degrees of insulation from them)

Devoting even just an hour of attention to these matters may give you a clear look at your financial potential for tomorrow. Proceed from this step to the next: follow with another hour devoted to a chat with an experienced financial professional.

1 – http://corporate.prudential.com/media/managed/wm/WM-womens-research-summary.html

Getting Your Household Cash Flow Back Under Control

Developing a better budgeting process may be the biggest step toward that goal.

Where does your money go? If you find yourself asking that question from time to time, it may relate to cash flow within your household. Having a cash flow management system may be instrumental in restoring some financial control.

It is harder for a middle-class household to maintain financial control these days. If you find yourself too often living on margin (i.e., charging everything) and too infrequently with adequate cash in hand, you aren’t the only household feeling that way. Some major economic trends really have made it more challenging for households with mid-five-figure incomes. By many economic standards, today’s middle class has it harder than the middle class of generations past. Some telling statistics point to this…

*In 81% of U.S. counties, the median income is lower today than it was in 1999. Even though we are in a recovery, much of the job growth in the past few years has occurred within the service and retail sectors. (The average full-time U.S. retail worker earns less than $25,000 annually.)

*Between 1989 and 2014, the American economy grew by 83% (adjusting for inflation) with no real wage growth for middle-class households.

*In the early 1960s, General Motors was America’s largest employer. Its average full-time worker at that time earned the (inflation-adjusted) equivalent of $50 an hour, plus benefits. Wal-Mart now has America’s largest workforce; it pays its average sales associate less than $10 per hour, sometimes without benefits. 1,2

Essentially, the middle class must manage to do more with less – less inflation-adjusted income, that is. The need for budgeting is as essential as ever.

Much has been written about the growing “wealth gap” in the U.S., and that gap is very real. Less covered, but just as real, is an Achilles-heel financial habit injuring middle-class stability: a growing reliance on expensive money. As Money-Zine.com noted not long ago, U.S. consumer debt amounted to 7.3% of average household income in 1980 but 13.4% of average household income in 2013. 3

So how can you make life more affordable? Budgeting is an important step. It promotes reliance on cash instead of plastic. It defines expenses, underlining where your money goes (and where it shouldn’t be going). It clears up what is hazy about your finances. It demonstrates that you can be in command of your money, rather than letting your money command you.

Budget for that vacation. Save up for it by spending much less on the “optionals”: coffee, cable, eating out, memberships, movies, outfits.

Buy the right kind of car & do your cash flow a favor. Many middle-class families yearn to buy a new car (a depreciating asset) or lease a new car (because they want to be seen driving a better car than they can actually afford). The better option is to buy a lightly used car and drive it for several years, maybe even a decade. Unglamorous? Maybe, but it should leave you less indebted. It may be a factor that can help you to…

Plan to set some cash aside for an emergency fund. According to a recent Bankrate survey, about a quarter of U.S. households lack one. Imagine how much better you would feel knowing you have the equivalent of a few months of salary in reserve in case of a crisis. Again, you can budget to build it – a little at a time, if necessary. The key is to recognize that a crisis will come someday; none of us are fully shielded from the whims of fate. 3

Don’t risk living without medical & dental coverage. You probably have both, but some middle-class households don’t. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, 108 million Americans lack dental insurance. Workers for even the largest firms may find premiums, out-of- pocket costs and coinsurance excessive. This isn’t something you can go without. If your employer gives you the option of buying your own insurance, it could be a cheaper solution. At any rate, some serious household financial changes may need to occur so that you are adequately insured. 3

Budgeting for the future is also important. A recent Gallup poll found that about 20% of Americans have no retirement savings. You have to wonder: how many of these people might have accumulated a nest egg over the years by steadily directing just $50 or $100 a month into a retirement plan? Budgeting just a little at a time toward that very important priority could promote profound growth of retirement savings thanks to investment yields and tax deferral. 3

Turning to the financial professional you know and trust for input may help you to develop a better budgeting process – and beyond the present, the saving and investing you do today and tomorrow may help you to one day become the (multi-)millionaire next door.

Citations.

1 – http://washingtonpost.com/sf/business/2014/12/12/why-americas-middle-class-is-lost

2 – http://tinyurl.com/knr3e78

3 – http://wallstcheatsheet.com/personal-finance/7-things-the-middle-class-cant-afford-anymore.html/?a=viewall

Building Wealth image

What are an Investor’s Best Friends’?

Meet diversification, patience and consistency.

Any investor would do well to call on three friends during the course of his or her financial life: diversification, patience and consistency. Regardless of how the markets perform, they should be a part of your investment philosophy.
Diversification. The saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has real value when it comes to investing. In a bear market, certain asset classes may perform better than others. Ditto for a bull market. If your assets are mostly held in one kind of investment (say, mostly in mutual funds, or mostly in CDs or money market accounts), you could be hit hard by stock market losses, or alternately lose out on potential gains that other kinds of investments may be experiencing. So there is an opportunity cost as well as risk.

This is why asset allocation strategies are used in portfolio management. A financial advisor can ask you about your goals and tolerance for risk and assign percentages of your assets to different classes of investments. This diversification is designed to suit your preferred investment style and your objectives.
Patience. Impatient investors obsess on the day-to-day doings of the stock market. Have you ever heard of “stock picking” or “market timing”? How about “day trading”? These are all attempts to exploit short-term fluctuations in value. These investing methods might seem fun and exciting if you like to micromanage, but they will add stress and anxiety to your life, and they are a poor alternative to a long-range investment strategy built around your life goals.
Consistency. Most people invest a little at a time, within their budget, and with regularity. They invest $50 or $100 or more per month in their 401(k) and similar investments through payroll deduction or automatic withdrawal. In essence, they are investing on “autopilot” to help themselves build wealth for retirement and for long-range goals. Investing regularly (and earlier in life) helps you to take advantage of the power of compounding as well.
Are diversification, patience and consistency part of your investing approach? Make sure they are. If you don’t have a long-range investment strategy, talk to a qualified financial advisor today. Please let us know by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

4 Money Blunders That Could Leave You Poorer

A “not-to- do” list for the new year & years to follow.

How are your money habits? Are you getting ahead financially, or does it feel like you are  running in place?

It may come down to behavior. Some financial behaviors promote wealth creation, while others lead to frustration. Certainly other factors come into play when determining a household’s financial situation, but behavior and attitudes toward money rank pretty high on the list.

How many households are focusing on the fundamentals? Late in 2014, the Denver-based National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) surveyed 2,000 adults from the 10 largest U.S. metro areas and found that 64% wanted to make at least one financial resolution for 2015.

The top three financial goals for the new year: building retirement savings, setting a budget, and creating a plan to pay off debt. 1

All well and good, but the respondents didn’t feel so good about their financial situations.

About one-third of them said the quality of their financial life was “worse than they expected it to be.” In fact, 48% told NEFE they were living paycheck-to- paycheck and 63% reported facing a sudden and major expense last year. 1

Fate and lackluster wage growth aside, good money habits might help to reduce those percentages in 2015. There are certain habits that tend to improve household finances, and other habits that tend to harm them. As a cautionary note for 2016, here is a “not-to- do” list – a list of key money blunders that could make you much poorer if repeated over time.

Money Blunder #1: Spend every dollar that comes through your hands. Maybe we should ban the phrase “disposable income.” Too many households are disposing of money that they could save or invest. Or, they are spending money that they don’t actually have (through credit

You have to have creature comforts, and you can’t live on pocket change. Even so, you can vow to put aside a certain number of dollars per month to spend on something really important: YOU. That 24-hour sale where everything is 50% off? It probably isn’t a “once in a lifetime” event; for all you know, it may happen again next weekend. It is nothing special compared to your future.

Money Blunder #2: Pay others before you pay yourself. Our economy is consumer-driven and service-oriented. Every day brings us chances to take on additional consumer debt. That works against wealth. How many bills do you pay a month, and how much money is left when you are done? Less debt equals more money to pay yourself with – money that you can save or invest on behalf of your future and your dreams and priorities.

Money Blunder #3: Don’t save anything. Paying yourself first also means building an emergency fund and a strong cash position. With the middle class making very little economic progress in this generation (at least based on wages versus inflation), this may seem hard to accomplish. It may very well be, but it will be even harder to face an unexpected financial burden with minimal cash on hand.

The U.S. personal savings rate has averaged about 5% recently. Not great, but better than the low of 2.6% measured in 2007. Saving 5% of your disposable income may seem like a challenge, but the challenge is relative: the personal savings rate in China is 50%. 2

Money Blunder #4: Invest impulsively. Buying what’s hot, chasing the return, investing in what you don’t fully understand – these are all variations of the same bad habit, which is investing emotionally and trying to time the market. The impulse is to “make money,” with too little attention paid to diversification, risk tolerance and other critical factors along the way. Money may be made, but it may not be retained.

Make 2016 the year of good money habits. You may be doing all the right things right now and if so, you may be making financial strides. If you find yourself doing things that are halting your financial progress, remember the old saying: change is good. A change in financial behavior may be rewarding.

Citations.

1 – http://denverpost.com/smart/ci_27275294/financial-resolutions-2015-four-ways-help-yourself-keep

2 – http://tennessean.com/story/money/2014/12/31/tips-getting-financially-fit/21119049/

Man and woman

Understanding Men, Women, and Money

For most people, money is never just money; it is a tool to accomplish some of life’s goals. It is love, power, happiness, security, control, dependency, independence, freedom and more. When two individuals form an enduring relationship with each other, money is always a partner, too.

Men and women vary in their idea of personal boundaries because they are both raised largely by women. Men have to psychologically disconnect more from women because of the sex difference; women do not have to separate so rigidly, and therefore can afford less distinct boundaries.

Second, men are raised to see the world as hierarchical and competitive. Women see the world as cooperative and democratic; they share. In addition, it is accepted that women are needy and vulnerable, while men are discouraged from such display.

When men make more money than their spouse, they believe their superior earnings entitle them to greater power in decision-making. By contrast, women who make more than their mates almost always desire democratic decision-making.

Money issues are different from other problems in a relationship. These problems are significantly more difficult to talk about and harder to resolve because of our extensive cultural conditioning. The most important thing in communication is empathy. It’s more important to be heard and understood than to have a partner agree with what you say without listening.

Mellan, Men, Women, and Money

What do you think? Can you relate? Or, is your situation different? Please let us know what you think by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

Boomer Couple in Front of Their Beach House

Women and Financial Power

Too many women lack the confidence necessary to take control of their financial lives. Women fear making investments, managing their finances, planning and monitoring their spending, managing investments, and increasing their wealth.

Why aren’t women more confident with their finances?

The answer is that women are stopping themselves from being assertive. Many women leave their financial lives to their husbands, boyfriends or parents, and because of this way of thinking, they lack financial power. Financial empowerment must come from within. Women must seize it with fervor, reflecting an unshakable determination to take control of their financial lives. You must tell yourself that you can become empowered, and that you will not let outdated notions of gender hinder your success. Keep “EMPOWER” in your mind as an acronym representing these concepts:

Education is critical
Motivation inspired by your values
Protection against risk
Ownership of your future
Work — claiming what is yours requires effort
Emotions should be kept out of decisions
Responsibility to yourself

Do you use any acronyms to motivate you with your finances? I’d love to learn about yours! Please let us know what you think by posting your comments on our Financially Savvy Women Fanpage.

Gibbons, EmpowHer! Why more women are taking the financial lead