Are You the Bank ATM for Your Kids?

August 1, 2016

It’s mid-summer…with plenty of opportunities for kids to spend money at every turn. Instead of feeling like your kids’  ATM and dispensing cash for entertainment, snacks or vacation trinkets, why not use those “Dad, can I have…” moments for mini money lessons?

Instead of handing out money for the “want of the day,” why not give kids an amount to manage and make some choices? Kids don’t have to handle large amounts—whether it’s your money or theirs—to get plenty of financial experience. Even those seemingly insignificant financial choices give kids of all ages a better chance to succeed with important ones later. Kids who manage money for their wants/needs often don’t spend as much, or they make different buying choices.

Do you dismiss those small and relatively unimportant choices, like…

  • Not bending down to pick up a penny or a nickel off the ground?
  • Leaving coins at the concession counter so you don’t have heavy pocket change?
  • Choosing a name brand snack over a less expensive store or regional brand?
  • Buying a $3 water and leaving the nearly full bottle in your seat at the stadium?
  • Buying a few $1.99 mobile apps that get little use?
  • Developing a nightly takeout habit?
  • Not putting part of a small summer paycheck into a savings account – because it isn’t earning much interest anyway?

Choices quickly become habits, habits become a lifestyle…. that usually lasts a lifetime. Take a few minutes this summer to help your kids develop a saving mentality, no matter how small the amounts. Just like spending habits, good savings habits are hard to break. Which do you want to cultivate?

Find ideas for saving and free downloads on websites like this one or Feed the Pig by the American Institute for CPAs.


Freeze Your Credit or Use Fraud Alert?

July 2, 2016

Freeze your credit report if you are worried about someone opening new accounts with your name or you want to limit companies that can access your credit information.

Your freeze remains in place unit you ask the credit reporting bureau to remove it or temporarily lift it. Usually, it costs you to stop the freeze. The fees for a “thaw” range from $5-10, based on where you live.

To place a freeze, you must contact and provide your basic information to all three of the credit reporting bureaus. Be sure to ask how would lift the freeze and the fee to do so.

Equifax – 800.349.9960

Experian – 888.397.3742

TransUnion – 888.909.8872

A credit freeze does not affect your credit score, nor does it prevent you from getting your free annual credit report. No one can open new accounts in your name or access your credit, however, a credit freeze does not stop companies from sending you credit offers based on prescreening your credit either. To stop those frequent offers, contact 888-5OPTOUT or http://www.optoutprescreen.com.

Another way to foil an identity thief from opening new credit accounts in your name is to request a fraud alert. This doesn’t lock your credit report, but creditors must take steps to verify your identity. To place a fraud alert (which is typically free), contact just one of the credit bureaus above and the others will be notified as well.

 

 

 

 

 


Are You De-Sensitized?

June 6, 2016

As identity thieves and data breaches become more common, consumers become more complacent.

Experian’s 2015 report revealed that almost one third -32% – of consumers do nothing if a bank or retailer reports that data may have been compromised. Don’t ignore those warnings! Take steps to monitor your credit regularly.

Review Credit History. Get your credit report annually from the three major credit bureaus that track your credit use. You can order your credit report from each credit bureau once every 12 months by completing the request form at http://www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877.322.8228. You can order all three at one time or you may choose to stagger the throughout the year. (You get your credit history, not your credit score.)

Several other entities advertise free credit reports or free credit scores, but they are not part of the legally mandated program, and there could be strings attached. So be aware of who you are asking.

Fix Errors. What if you find errors in your report?  It’s not uncommon, so take these steps to fix those errors:

1)  Contact in writing the lender or debt collector that reported the wrong information and ask for a correction.

2)  Contact the three major credit reporting bureaus to report the wrong information.

3)  Send a written copy of a dispute to the credit bureaus. They are required to investigate and tell you the results.

The procedures for reporting errors  can be found on the credit bureau websites:

http://www.Equifax.com

http://www.TransUnion.com

http://www.Experian.com

Keep Up with the News. Read your mail! When you are notified about a data breach from your credit card issuer or bank, follow their advice or contact them for more information. There may be other steps to take – like getting a  new card – to avoid compromising your credit.


Be A Millionaire Day is May 20

May 4, 2016

You know, they have a national holiday for everything…and yes, there’s one for aspiring millionaires too. May 20 is Be A Millionaire Day, a day for you to be motivated to make some financial plans.

It’s not all that complicated to accumulate a million dollars. Simple, yes. But not easy for most of us. Spending is easy, saving is not. Isn’t there always something we need to pay for or buy? Of course. The typical American spends $1.22 for every dollar he/she earns, so it’s a paycheck-to-paycheck existence for many.

Several surveys indicate a majority of Americans have saved nothing, or very little, for things like an emergency expense, college/education, or retirement. In fact, the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s annual Retirement Confidence Survey indicates 6 out of 10 Americans have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.

What’s holding you back from saving a million? Chances are, it’s your lifestyle.

Very few of us make one major financial decision that sets up success or failure to be a millionaire. Instead, it’s our ordinary, day-to-day choices of how we spend a dollar. Choices quickly become habits, habits become a lifestyle. So, why not resolve to change a spending habit on “Be A Millionaire Day” and feather that savings nest egg? Here are a few habits to get started:

• Add to a savings account every month via an auto-deduction from your checking account. Pick an amount that works in your budget. No budget? Build a budget, baby…even small amounts add up! Check out several budgeting tools here.

• Open an investing account if you don’t have one. Review investments that make sense for you. Developing an investing habit puts you on the path to accumulate a bigger nest egg. Learn about investing and find good educational tools at iInvest.org.

• Start or add to a tax-deferred account like a 401k, Roth IRA or IRA (Individual Retirement Account). To decide if a Roth IRA or traditional IRA is for you, consider the pros and cons here.

• Pay off some debt, particularly student loans and/or credit cards. Eliminating some of the interest you pay on revolving debt is a great savings strategy. See more tips at the Feed the Pig site by the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants).

• Build a financial team. If you don’t have a financial advisor, start looking for one you can trust. Pay attention to all those initials and designations on an advisor’s resume, and match the expertise to your needs. A good place to check out an advisor is Broker Check.

Start taking control of your finances today….Happy “Be A Millionaire Day!”


When Will Your Tax Refund Arrive?

April 6, 2016

If you have filed your income taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you can quickly check when you will get your refund here or with the smart phone app, IRS2Go.

You need your Social Security number, filling status and the exact amount of your refund when accessing the site. Those without internet access can call 800-829-1954, which is available 24/7. Typically your tax information will be available within 24 hours after an e-filed return or four weeks after a mailed return.

So far, taxpayers have used this site more than 231 million this year, according to the IRS.

If you haven’t filed your taxes yet, you have until April 18 this year. Learn more at IRS.gov.


Governor signs proclamations for financial literacy

March 24, 2016

There’s never been a better time to be financially literate! Join us for Money Smart Week 2016 – April 23-30. Check it out at http://www.MoneySmartWeekIowa.com

Iowa Jump$tart

MSWProclamationSigningSMOn March 24 Governor Terry Branstad signed two proclamations promoting financial literacy awareness in Iowa, and members of the Iowa Jump$tart Coalition attended the signing ceremony. One proclamation declared April 23-30 Money Smart Week in Iowa. Another proclamation declared the month of April as Financial Literacy Awareness Month in Iowa. Click here to view the Financial Literacy Awareness Month proclamation.

Looking for ways to get involved in financial literacy during Financial Literacy Month or during Money Smart Week? Be sure to review the Iowa Jump$tart website for the latest updates on financial literacy activities. Also visit the Money Smart Week website for more information about Money Smart Week.

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How to Get Ahead – Building a Financial Base

March 5, 2016

Most of us don’t make one big financial decision that makes us a success or failure.  Instead, it’s those daily decisions on spending that put us on that path.

This list of financial secrets is a great roadmap…because if you know where you’re going, it’s easier to get there.

1. Build a budget, baby – Be frugal!

2. Borrow less -And pay off college loans ASAP.

3. Pay total credit card bills monthly – Avoid carrying over a balance.

4. Build an emergency day stash – You never know when you need one.

5. Find money to invest – Small amounts add up, so it regularly.

6. Fund an IRA -make the maximum contribution annually.

7. Get your 401(k) employer match – And, do it every year.

8. Buy a place – To live in, not necessarily to build wealth.

9. Choose term insurance if you need life insurance.

10. Get a financial team you trust – Two (or three) heads are better than one.

11. Make a will – You will thank yourself later.

12. Build your net worth – Diversify as you go.

Want to add to this list? Send your suggestions.


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