5 Reasons We Overspend (and How to Overcome Them)

We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s that I-gotta-have-it urge that overtakes us when we see a pair of designer jeans. Maybe it’s that shrug as we reach for the $6 cup of overrated coffee that says “I deserve this.” Or maybe it’s that helpless feeling as the end of the month draws near and we realize we’ve outspent our budget — again.

What makes us overspend? Let’s take a look at five common reasons and how we can overcome them.

1. To keep up with the Jones’s

Humans are naturally social creatures who want to blend in with their surroundings. When people who seem to be in the same financial bracket as we are can seemingly afford another pair of designer shoes for each outfit, we should be able to afford them, too, right?

The obvious flaw in this line of thinking is that nobody knows what’s really going on at the Jones’s’ house. Maybe Mrs. Jones’ expensive taste in shoes has landed the family deeply in debt and they are in danger of losing their home. Maybe her Great Aunt Bertha passed and left her a six-digit inheritance. Maybe all of her Louboutin’s are cheap knockoffs she bought online for $23 each.

Break the cycle: Learn to keep your eyes on your own wallet and to ignore how your friends or peers choose to spend their money. Develop a self-image that is independent of material possessions. Adapt this meme as your tagline when you feel that urge to overspend as a means to fit in: Let the Jones’s keep up with me!

2. We don’t have a budget

A recent survey shows that 65% of Americans don’t know how they spent their money last month.

When all of our spending is just a guessing game, it can be challenging not to overspend. We can easily assure ourselves that we can afford another dinner out, a new top and a new pair of boots — until the truth hits and we realize we’ve overspent again.

Break the cycle: Create a monthly budget covering all your needs and some of your wants. If you’d rather not track every dollar, you can give yourself a general budget for all non-fixed expenses and then spend it as you please.

3. To get a high

Retail therapy is a real thing. Research shows that shopping and spending money releases feel-good dopamine in the brain, just like recreational drugs. David Sulzer, professor of neuro-biology at Columbia, explains that the neurotransmitter surges when people anticipate a reward — like a shopper anticipating a new purchase. And when we encounter an unforeseen benefit, like a discount, the dopamine really spikes!

“This chemical response is commonly called ‘shopper’s high,’” Sulzer says, likening it to the rush that can come with drinking or gambling.

This explains the addictive quality of shopping that can be hard to fight. When life gets stressful, or we just want to feel good, we hit the shops or start adding items to our virtual carts.

Break the cycle: There’s nothing wrong with spending money to feel good, so long as you don’t go overboard. It’s best to put some “just for fun” money into your budget so you can make that feel-good purchase when you need to without letting it put you into debt.

4. Misuse of credit

Credit cards offer incredible convenience and an easy way to track spending. But they also offer a gateway into deep debt. Research shows that consumers spend up to 18% more when they pay with plastic over cash.

Break the cycle: When shopping in places where you tend to overspend, use cash and you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. You can also use a debit card with a careful budget so you know how much you want to spend.

5. Lack of self-discipline

Sometimes, there’s no deep reason or poor money management behind our spending. Sometimes, we just can’t tell ourselves — or our children — “no.”

Scott Butler, a retirement income planner at the wealth management firm Klauenberg Retirement Solutions in Laurel, MD, explains that it takes tremendous willpower to say no to something we want now.

“One of the big reasons people overspend is that they don’t think ahead,” Butler says.

Too often, we allow our immediate needs to take precedence over more important needs that won’t be relevant for years — such as a retirement fund or our children’s college education. We simply lack the discipline to not exchange immediate gratification for long-term benefit.

Break the cycle: Define your long-term financial goals. Create a plan for reaching these goals with small and measurable steps. While working through your plan, assign an amount to save each month. Before giving in to an impulse purchase or an indulgence you can’t really afford, remind yourself of your long-term goals and how much longer your time-frame will need to be if you spend this money now.

Your Turn: What makes you overspend? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
thebalance.com
thedollarstretcher.com
hermoney.com
money.usnews.com
elle.com

All You Need to Know About Share Certificates

No one wants to play around with their savings. Whether you’ve just received a lump sum through a work bonus, inheritance or other unexpected windfall, or you’ve been saving for a while until you’ve built a sizeable nest egg, you likely want to park your savings in a place that offers your money its biggest chance at growth without risking a loss.

Lucky for you, as a member of Advantage One Credit Union, you have access to an abundance of secure options for your savings, including savings accounts, [and] money market accounts, [health savings accounts, holiday clubs and vacation clubs].

Another excellent option we offer our members to help their savings grow is our share certificates. Sometimes known as savings certificates, and referred to by banks as CDs, these unique accounts blend higher growth potential of a stock investment with the security of a typical savings account.

Let’s take a closer look at this savings product and why it might be the perfect choice for you.

What is a share certificate?

A share certificate is a [federally] insured savings account with a fixed dividend rate and a fixed date of maturity. The dividend rates of these accounts tend to be higher than those on savings accounts and there is generally no monthly fee to keep the certificate open.

Aside from the higher dividend rate, share certificates differ from savings accounts in the more limited accessibility of the funds within the account. A typical certificate will not allow you to add any money to the certificate after you’ve made your initial deposit. You also won’t be able to withdraw your funds before the maturity date without paying a penalty. [However, at Advantage One Credit Union, we do offer more flexible options than the typical share certificate].

Terms and conditions of certificates

You’ll need to meet some basic requirements before you can open a certificate including a minimum opening balance and a commitment to keep your money in the account for a set amount of time.

The minimum amount of funds you’ll need to deposit to open a certificate will vary in each financial institution. It also depends upon the term you choose. Some institutions will accept an initial deposit as low as $50 for a certificate. Others, such as a “jumbo” certificate, will require an opening balance of $100,000 or more. In general, the more money you invest in a certificate, the higher rate of interest it will earn. At Advantage One Credit Union, you can open a certificate with as little as [$X] at an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of [X%].

Certificate term lengths also vary among financial institutions, with most offering a choice of certificates that run from three months to five years. Typically, certificates with longer maturity terms will earn a higher rate. Here at Advantage One Credit Union, we offer our members certificates that can be opened for just [X] months or as long as [X] years. Our dividend rates start at [X%APY*] for short-term certificates, and going up to [X%APY*] for our long-term options.

Is a share certificate for everyone?

While keeping your savings in a certificate can be an excellent option for your money, it is not for everyone. Before you move forward with opening a certificate, be sure you won’t need to access the funds before the certificate’s maturity date. It’s best to have a separate emergency fund set aside to help you through an unexpected expense.

Why keep your money in a certificate?

Here are some of the reasons people choose to open a certificate:

  • Low risk. With each Advantage One Credit Union certificate insured by [the National Credit Union Administration] up to $250,000 [and independently insured up to $XXXX by XXXX], you can rest easy, knowing your money is completely secure.
  • Higher dividend rates. Certificates offer all the security of savings accounts with higher yields.
  • Locked-in rates. There’s no stressing over fluctuating national interest rates with a certificate. The APY is set when you open the account and is locked in until its maturity date. This means you can calculate exactly how much interest your money will earn over the life of the certificate the day you open it.

If a certificate sounds like the perfect choice for you, stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to learn more. We’re committed to giving your money its best chance at growth.

* APY=Annual Percentage rate and rates are current as of [XX/XX/XXXX].

Your Turn: Have you chosen to keep your savings in a share certificate? Tell us why you chose this option in the comments.

Learn More:
investopedia.com
thebalance.com
businessinsider.com

Simple Steps to Start Saving

Everyone knows how important it is to regularly put money into savings, but research shows that 25% of Americans have no emergency savings at all.

Don’t let this be you! If you’re ready to start saving, but you don’t know where to begin, Advantage One Credit Union can help. Here are seven simple steps that can get you on the fast track to building your nest egg today:

Step 1: Set a goal

It’s always a good idea to work backward when setting up a plan.

Take a few minutes to think over your long-term and short-term savings goals. These can include saving for retirement, a dream vacation or covering a large purchase like a recreational vehicle or a new phone. Make sure to assign a dollar value for each goal.

It’s important to note that, when you actually start putting money into savings on a regular basis, it’s best to start with building an emergency fund that includes three to six months’ worth of living expenses before moving on to other saving goals.Outlining your more personal goals before you get started will help motivate you on your journey toward saving.

Step 2: Start tracking your expenses and income

Determine exactly how much money you need to get through each month. For three months, keep a paper or digital record of each of your expenses and all streams of income.

As you complete this step, be sure to include seasonal and occasional expenses. Calculate an estimated annual expense amount for these costs and then divide it by 12. Add this value when factoring your monthly expenses.

At the end of the three-month period, review your expenses and income to see how much money you really require to live on each month.

Step 3: Trim your expenses

If you find that your income exceeds your expenses by a generous amount, you’re in a good place and you can skip to the next step.

If your expenses are greater than your income or the numbers are too close for comfort, it’s time to scale back. Look for ways to trim your expenses without feeling the pinch. Start with your biggest non-fixed expense, and move from there, cutting costs wherever you can.

The money you trimmed from your expenses can be used for savings.

Step 4: Create a budget

With your newly trimmed expenses, you’re ready to create a monthly budget. Using your list of monthly expenses and income, designate an appropriate amount for each monthly expense. Be sure to include savings in your budget — as if it were actually an expense.

When working through this step, you can go the old-fashioned route and use pen and paper for a detailed budget, or use a budgeting app, like Mint or YNAB.

Step 5: Choose your savings tools

With your numbers all worked out, you can move on to choosing a place to park your savings.

It may be a good idea to choose a separate location for your long-term and short-term saving goals.

For long-term savings, look for a savings option that offers an attractive interest rate, like a share certificate at Advantage One Credit Union or an IRA for retirement savings. Keep in mind that you may not be able to open a long-term savings account immediately if you don’t have the amount of funds required for your minimum initial deposit.

Short-term savings are better off in an account that allows for easy access and some monthly transactions if needed, like a checking account or money market account at Advantage One Credit Union.

Step 6: Make it automatic

You’ve got your numbers worked out, and if all goes well, your savings should start growing today.

Unfortunately, though, impulses can sometimes get in the way of our best intentions, holding us back from reaching our goals. Keep this from happening to your savings by making them automatic. Ask us about setting up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account so you never forget to feed your savings again.

Step 7: Review and adjust as necessary

Your savings plan is good to go! Remember, the earlier you start, the more interest your funds will accrue.

While you may have automated your savings, that doesn’t mean you can set it and forget it. Be sure to review your budget every now and then and to check whether you should adjust the amount allocated for savings.

Your Turn: What are your saving tips for beginners? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
thebalance.com
nerdwallet.com
lifeandabudget.com

Rewire for Wealth: Three Steps Any Woman Can Take to Program Her Brain for Financial Success

Title: Rewire for Wealth: Three Steps Any Woman Can Take to Program Her Brain for Financial Success

Author: Barbara Huson

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education

Publishing date:  Jan. 12, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Women who’ve gotten a harsh financial wake-up call.
  • Women who want to learn about money management to be financially independent.
  • Women who have always been intimidated by money.
  • Women who think they’re just not “wired” to handle money well.

 What’s inside this book?

  • Huson’s story of how the men in her life handled her money and then hung her out to dry when things got tough.
  • A physiological explanation for why men and women often have very different approaches toward money management and wealth growth.
  • Huson’s revolutionary approach toward changing financial habits.

Five lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • How to apply a proven three-step formula ― recognize, reframe and respond differently ― to rewire the brain for a more confident approach to wealth building.
  • Why women often process financial information in a detrimental way.
  • Why every woman needs to know about financial planning.
  • How to eliminate damaging financial behavior.
  • How women can empower themselves to build wealth.

Four questions this book will answer for you: 

  • Why do all the men in my life have such a vastly different approach toward money than I do?
  • Is there a way for me to rewire my brain to process information differently?
  • Will I be stuck in a financial rut forever?
  • Which obstacles are standing between me and financial empowerment?

What people are saying about this book:

  • “If mastering your money feels daunting, you need this book. Barbara expertly exposes what could be holding you back with simple, practical solutions to finally rewire your thinking and truly build a wealthy life.” — David Bach
  • “Barbara Huson is the unequivocal leader in helping women rewire themselves for wealth. This book will go down in history as a total game changer for us.” — Ali Brown
  • “This book will change your life, if you let it.”— Marci Shimoff
  • “Barbara Huson has done it again. By digging into the ways women think about money differently than men do, she is able to chart a path toward lifelong security — and wealth.” — Jean Chatzky

Your Turn: What did you think about Rewire for Wealth? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Five Steps to Take After a Financial Disaster

As we sail into 2021, many Americans are struggling with the aftershocks of financial disaster. Whether it’s due to a layoff, a smaller workload, medical expenses or a change in family circumstances, the financial fallout of COVID-19 has been devastating for people in every sector of the economy.

Recovering from a financial disaster, due to a pandemic or any other reason, is never easy; however, with hard work and the ability to look forward, it can be done. Here’s how.

Step 1: Assess the damage

Take a step back to evaluate exactly how much financial recovery you need to do. Are you thousands of dollars in debt? Do you need to find a new job? Do you have new ongoing costs you will have to cover each month? Are there any other long-term financial implications of the recent disaster, including alimony and IRS liens?

It’s also a good idea to review your overall financial picture at this point, including your current income and ongoing expenses.

Crunching the numbers and putting it all on paper will make it easier to take concrete steps toward recovery.

Step 2: Accept your new reality and stay calm

Shock and denial are valid stages of grief for any major loss or disaster, but in order for recovery to be possible, it’s important to reach a place of acceptance about your new reality. You can vent to a close friend or your life partner, express your feelings in an online journal or a paper-and-pen version, de-stress with your favorite low-cost hobby and then let go. Revisiting the past and constantly harping on what could have been will only drain you of the energy you need to move on.

Tim Essman, a financial professional with West Coast Wealth Strategies and Insurance Solutions in San Diego, also stresses the importance of remaining calm during an economic downturn. Don’t make any rash moves out of panic and fear, he cautions, as the best move in a financial crisis is to keep things stable until you can evaluate the situation and make rational decisions.

Step 3: Outline your goals

Before you get started on the actual recovery steps, define your primary objectives. Are you looking to rebuild a depleted emergency fund? Find gainful employment that will help bring your income back to its previous level? Pay down your medical bills?  Outlining your goals will make it easier to move ahead.

As you work through this step, remember to choose goals that are SMART:

Specific — The goal should be clearly defined.

Measureable — It’s best if there’s a way for you to measure the goal, such as dollar amounts, credit score numbers, etc.

Attainable — Set a goal that challenges you, but is possible to achieve.

Realistic — Your goal should not be completely out of reach.

Timely — A goal without a deadline is just a wish.

Step 4: Create a Plan

You’re now ready to create a full-blown plan to help you reach your goal. Your plan should consist of consecutive steps that lead to a life of complete financial wellness.

Here are some steps you may want to include in your plan:

  • Trim your spending until you can consistently spend less than you earn.
  • Build a small emergency fund to help get you through an unexpected expense.
  • Seek new employment or new income streams, as necessary. Consider moonlighting, blogging or selling stuff online for extra cash.
  • Start paying down debts. You may want to consolidate your debts with an unsecured loan to make this step easier.
  • Save more aggressively, with an eye toward your retirement and another toward a large emergency fund with up to six months’ of living expenses.

Step 5: Make it Happen

It’s time to put your plan into action. If you were careful to set goals that are SMART, you should be able to take the first steps in your plan immediately.

Be sure to review your plan occasionally and adjust it if any changes are needed.

Times are hard, but with a forward-thinking attitude and the willingness to work hard, we can all recover.

Your Turn: What steps have you taken toward financial recovery after COVID-19? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
www.thesimpledollar.com
financialmentor.com
blog.massmutual.com

Products for Managing and Tracking Business Expenses

Running a flourishing business means overseeing a constant flow of money. There’s revenue, payroll, suppliers, lease payments, taxes and so much more. It’s a lot to keep track of!  Luckily, though, there are lots of products on the market that can help you cover, manage and track your business expenses effectively and smoothly. Let’s take a look at some of these products and share some tips for choosing those that are the best fit for your business.

Business checking accounts

A designated business checking account makes a company look credible and professional while enabling it to manage and track expenses, taxes and revenue. Separate accounts also protect business owners from losing their personal assets if legal action is taken against the company. Business owners can use their checking accounts to deposit checks made out to their company and to cover business expenses, such as payroll or payments to suppliers.

Here’s what to look for in a business checking account:

  • Generous cash-deposit limit per transaction
  • Generous monthly transaction limit
  • Low or no maintenance fee and other costs
  • Online and mobile banking
  • Possible dividend rate

[If you’re looking to open a business checking account, a Advantage One Credit Union Business Checking Account can be a great choice. Our business checking account has [a low maintenance fee of $xx/month/ no maintenance fees] and convenient features like [XXX]. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union to learn more.]

Business savings account

A business savings account is an account designated for funds to be used in cases of emergency or for future business expenses. The money in this account will grow at a greater rate, but access to these funds will be more limited.

Business owners can use a savings account to build a cash cushion for slower seasons, prepare for unexpected expenses or to save up for new equipment, tax payments or an expansion.  Many financial institutions also offer rewards and incentives for businesses opening a business savings account, such as cash-back programs, increased dividend rates for larger deposits and reduced fees.

Here’s what to look for in a business savings account: 

  • High dividend rates
  • Low fees and a transparent fee structure
  • Rewards and perks
  • Online and mobile banking

[Opening a Advantage One Credit Union Business Savings Account will provide you with a favorable rate of [x.x%], generous terms, and convenient features like [XXX]. If you’re ready to open a business savings account, call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today.]

Business credit card

A business credit card provides small business owners with easy and unsecured access to a revolving line of credit. Business owners can use the credit to withdraw cash as necessary, cover large expenses, make purchases, fund an expansion or meet their monthly bill payments.

In comparison to a business loan, a business credit card is easier to qualify for, but it will nearly always come with a higher interest rate. If business owners are careful only to use the credit card when it is absolutely necessary and pays the bill before it’s due, interest will not accrue. A generous line of credit can be a convenient way to increase a business owner’s purchasing power without risking any assets. Credit debt that is managed well will also build the company’s credit score and may provide the business with rewards and incentives.

Here’s what to look for in a business credit card: 

  • A low interest rate
  • Generous perks and rewards
  • A low or no annual fee
  • Interest-free introductory period
  • Purchase protection and insurance

[If you’re looking to open a business credit card, look no further than Advantage One Credit Union. Our Business Credit Cards feature a generous credit limit, easy qualifying terms, and great perks. Call, click, or stop by Advantage One Credit Union today to learn more.]

Tax software

Tracking business expenses and marking which of them can be deducted from a company’s tax liability can be super-challenging. Tax software designed for businesses makes this task easy. Business tax software, like H&R Block, TaxAct and TaxSlayer, can track all the expenses of a business and help owners file taxes efficiently and easily. The software allows businesses to upload all relevant tax documents, provides online support from tax specialists and helps the business calculate federal — and sometimes also state — tax liability. Businesses will need to pay a fee to download most tax software programs, but the cost is more than offset by the time and money the software can save a business.

Here’s what to look for in tax software for businesses:

  • Online tax filing
  • Low monthly cost
  • Assistance with filing federal and state taxes
  • Compatibility with your devices
  • Money-management apps

Managing expenses for a small business isn’t easy. There’s payroll, suppliers, monthly bills and so many other ongoing expenses that need to be covered. Fortunately, there’s an app for that! Money management apps like Mint, Truebill and ZohoBooks allow businesses to track and review all their expenses in one convenient location. Chart expenses on colorful graphs to visualize cash flow, see where the business money is going, categorize expenses for easier tax-filing and link accounts for automatic syncing of expenditures and income. Tracking business expenses on an app also makes for easy monitoring the business via mobile device.

Here’s what to look for in a money-management app: 

  • Manageable monthly cost
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Synchronization across multiple devices

Your Turn: How do you manage your business expenses? Tell us about the products you use in the comments.

Learn More:
entrepreneur.com
investopedia.com
nerdwallet.com
patriotsoftware.com
brex.com

Pass It On: Transferring Wealth, Wisdom, and Financial Smarts to Future Generations

Title: Pass It On: Transferring Wealth, Wisdom, and Financial Smarts to Future Generations

Authors: Lori B. Gervais and Roger G. Gervais

Paperback: 268 pages

Publisher: Lioncrest Publishing

Publishing date:  Oct. 9, 2020

Who is this book for?

  • Parents planning for their children’s financial futures
  • Those wanting to further their own financial knowledge and skills
  • Readers who are or will soon be starting a family

What’s inside this book?

  • Clients’ stories of talking to children about managing wealth
  • Tips on how to begin the conversation about preserving the family fortune
  • Lessons on transferring family values, as well as transferring wealth
  • Instructions on preparing children to inherit responsibility as well as money
  • The authors’ personal experiences both in growing up and in raising their own children

Lessons you’ll learn from this book: 

  • How to speak to children about preserving your family’s wealth
  • How to ensure your personal values concerning your money are maintained
  • How to instill responsibility
  • How to use money for creating a great positive effect on your community and future generations
  • How and why financial literacy must be addressed within the family

Questions this book will answer for you: 

  • How do I prepare my children to manage their inheritances?
  • How can I maintain my family values while also transferring family wealth?
  • How do I introduce the topic to my family?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Managing money and finances can be some of the most challenging concepts for any family to navigate. I love the way the authors break it down and give us ways to help not only as a couple managing finances…more importantly equipping us with tools to help educate our family, setting us up for success for the future.” — Tara Gundrum

“…Pass It On, provides a financial framework that all of us can customize to meet our financial and life objectives. It goes well beyond wealth management or estate planning, providing clear, practical and actionable guidance we can all apply to virtually any financial matter. A must read.” — H. Edward Wynn, author of We the People: Restoring Civility, Sanity and Unifying Solutions to U.S. Politics

“Many parents fear leaving their kids’ substantial wealth. It can be difficult to know if they will be good stewards of what you leave them. If you are looking to learn a path and framework for passing on wealth and wisdom to those you care about, you will want to check out this book.” — Timothy J. McNeely, CFP CIMA

Your Turn: Tell us how you’ve used the advice of “Pass it On” in your own life.

What’s a Recession Anyway?

Unless you’ve been living in a bunker for the last several months, you’ve likely caught the term “recession” thrown around on the news more than once. Hearing this word being used to describe the state of the U.S. economy can trigger a range of reactions from mild anxiety to a full-blown stuffing-money-under-the-mattress panic.

For many people, though, part of their angst surrounding the state of the economy is the vast amount of unknown: What is the exact definition of a recession? How is it different from a depression? How long do recessions usually last? What causes a recession?

So many questions — but we’ve got answers! Here’s all you need to know about recessions, the current state of the U.S. economy and what all of this means to you as a private consumer.

What is a recession? 

A recession is a widespread economic decline in a designated region that lasts for several months or longer. In a recession, the gross domestic product (GDP), or the total value of all goods and services produced in the region, decreases for two consecutive quarters. A healthy economy is continually expanding, so a contracting GDP suggests that problems are brewing within the economy. In most recessions, the GDP growth will slow for several quarters before it turns negative.

What’s the difference between a recession and a depression?

A depression has criteria similar to that of a recession, but is much more severe. For example, in both a recession and a depression the unemployment rate rises; however, during the Great Recession of 2008, the worst recession in U.S. history to date, unemployment peaked at 10%, while during the Great Depression, unemployment levels soared to 25%. Similarly, during the Great Recession, the GDP contracted by 4.2%, while during the Great Depression it shrank by 30%.

Depressions also last a lot longer than recessions. The Great Depression officially lasted for four years but continued to impact the economy for more than a decade. In contrast, recessions generally last only 11 months, according to data from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

There have been 47 recessions in U.S. history, and a total of 13 recessions since the Great Depression. There has only been a single recorded depression in our country’s history.

What causes a recession? 

A recession can be triggered by a variety of factors:

  • A sudden economic shock that causes severe financial damage.
  • Excessive debt carried by consumers and businesses, leading to debt defaults and bankruptcies.
  • Asset bubbles, or when investors’ make irrational decisions, overbuy stocks and then rush to sell, causing a market crash.
  • Excessive inflation and rising interest rates, which triggers a decline in economic activity.
  • Excessive deflation, which sparks a decrease in wages, further depressing prices.
  • Technological changes, including outsourcing jobs to machines or other technological breakthroughs that alter the way entire industries operate.

Why the COVID-19 recession is unlike any other?

In June 2020, the NBER  announced that the U.S. economy had been in recession since February.

The COVID-19 recession, also known as the coronavirus recession, the Great Shutdown, the Great Lockdown or the Coronavirus Crash, is unique because it was sparked by an unforeseen pandemic and not by any inherent problem within the economy.

Another anomaly of the coronavirus recession is the super-healthy state of the economy before it hit. In February, unemployment levels were at a 50-year low, stock markets were at a record high and the U.S. economy had enjoyed 126 months of growth,  its longest period of uninterrupted expansion in history.

The unusual triggers and the explosive start of the current recession may be good news for its eventual end. Economists initially were hopeful that the recession could reverse itself quickly with a V-shaped recovery. Unfortunately, due to prolonged lockdowns and the nationwide failure to keep infection rates down, they have since declared that a rapid rebound is unlikely. There is still hope for a relatively fast recovery. An April Reuters poll  found that nearly half of 45 economists believed the U.S. recovery would be U-shaped: slower and more gradual than a V-shaped recovery, but still fairly quick.

How will this recession affect me?

The coronavirus recession can impact the average consumer in multiple ways.

First, many are struggling with sudden unemployment or will be facing joblessness in the coming months. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the unemployment rate at a staggering 10.2%.

Second, the economic uncertainty has triggered record-low interest rates, which in turn sparked a rush to refinance. If you are currently paying high interest rates on a long-term loan, you may want to consider refinancing and enjoying a lower monthly payment.

Finally, investments in stocks, bonds and real estate may lose value during a recession.

Your Turn: What do you think will be most impacted by the coronavirus recession? Share your thoughts in the comments.

The Importance of Being Financially Fit

Are you ready to stretch those financial fitness muscles? We hope so, because it’s time to get financially fit!

Being financially fit means living a life of complete financial responsibility. The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), also known as the Financial Health Network, defines four basic components of financial health: Spend, Save, Borrow and Plan. These components reference everyday financial activities. As such, every choice you make in terms of these four activities either builds or detracts from your financial fitness. Like physical fitness, you can beef up those fitness muscles a little bit more each day.

Being financially fit is crucial for a well-balanced, stress-free life. Here’s why (and how):

Expand your financial knowledge

A financially fit person is constantly broadening their money knowledge. They read personal finance books and blogs, attend financial education seminars and are aware of the evolving state of the economy. This enables them to make monetary decisions from a position of knowledge and power, leaving much less up to chance or luck.

Stick to a budget

A financially fit person knows that tracking monthly expenses is key to financial health. They are careful to set aside money from their monthly income for all fixed and discretionary expenses and to stay within budget for each spending category.

Minimize debt

A financially fit person is committed to paying down debts and seeks to live debt-free. Constant budgeting, ongoing financial education and planning ahead enables them to make it through the month, and through unexpected expenses, without spiraling into debt.

Maximize savings 

A financially fit person prioritizes savings. In fact, savings is a fixed item on their monthly budget instead of something that only happens if there’s money left over. This allows them to think ahead and build a comfortable nest egg or emergency fund. In turn, having a robust safety net means sleeping better at night knowing there’s money available to cover unexpected expenses or a change in life circumstances.

Maintain complete awareness of the state of your finances

A financially fit person knows exactly how much money they owe, the accumulated value of their assets and the complete sum of their fixed and fluctuating expenses. This awareness takes the stress out of money management, allowing them to make better financial choices.

Maintain a healthy credit score

A financially fit person knows that an excellent credit history and score is a crucial component to long-term financial health. They are careful to pay all bills on time, hold onto their credit cards for a while and to keep their credit utilization low. This enables them to qualify for long-term loans with favorable interest rates, which saves them money for years to come.

Help your money go further

A financially fit person does not waste large sums of money on interest charges for purchases made using borrowed funds via credit cards or loans. They live within their means and only use these resources for purchases they can actually afford, or for large, long-term assets, like a car or a house. This means they have more funds at their disposal to help build their wealth through savings and investments.

Create concrete financial goals

A financially fit person has long-term and short-term financial goals. This enables them to keep their focus on the big picture when making everyday money choices, empowering them to actually realize their financial dreams.

Achieve financial independence

A financially fit person is independent. They don’t rely on loans from friends or family members to get by, and they don’t need to pay with plastic at the end of the month because they ran out of money. Their well-padded emergency fund means they don’t depend on their monthly income to put bread on the table, either. By sticking to a budget, prioritizing savings and maintaining an awareness of their finances, they are strong, secure and completely independent.

Being financially fit means living a life without battling anxiety about getting through the month or stressing about the future. You can achieve financial fitness by committing to making choices in each of the four components of financial health (spend, save, borrow, plan) that are forward-thinking and help to build your financial wellness.

Your Turn: Why is financial fitness so important? Share your reasons with us in the comments.

Learn More:
femcove.com
doughroller.net
moneybites.com
forbes.com
cbsnews.com

What Do I Need to Know About Medicare?

Q: My 65th birthday is approaching and I’m ready to apply for Medicare. What do I need to know before signing up?

A: Medicare offers affordable health care coverage to older Americans, but the application process and the various options can be confusing. We have answers to all your questions about Medicare.

What is Medicare? 

Medicare is a federally funded program that provides health care coverage to Americans over age 65. It is generally also available to younger people with disabilities and people with end stage renal disease.

What are the different kinds of Medicare coverage?

There are two government-funded parts of Medicare:

  • Part A – Hospital Insurance. This coverage pays for inpatient hospital costs, is usually premium-free and is available to anyone age 65 or older who has worked — or whose spouse has worked — and paid Medicare taxes for a minimum of 10 years.
  • Part B – Medical Insurance. Medicare Part B offers coverage for services from doctors and other health care providers, outpatient hospital care, home health care, medical equipment and some preventive services. Part B is not free. Premiums vary by income level but are generally affordable. The standard monthly premium for Part B in 2020 is $144.60

There are also two privately obtained parts of Medicare:

  • Part C – Medicare Advantage. This plan provides extra coverage over Parts A and B and is offered by private insurance companies contracted with Medicare.
  • Part D – Prescription Drug Coverage. Also purchased through a private insurer, Part D offers full or partial coverage for prescription drugs.

Both Part C and Part D have monthly premiums, which vary in cost with each provider. There may be an annual deductible as well. Some people love the low costs and robust coverage of these plans, but some others find that they only cover a limited number of providers and are not worth the cost.

How do I apply for Medicare? 

If you’re ready to sign up for Medicare, you can apply online or in person at the nearest Social Security office. Applicants will need to provide their birth certificate or other proof of birth and proof of United States citizenship or legal residency.

What do I need to know before I apply for Medicare?

Before signing up for Medicare coverage, it’s best to learn these important facts:

  • You have a seven-month window to enroll in Medicare. Medicare eligibility begins at age 65, but applicants can sign up three months before the month of their 65th birthday, and up to three months after their birth month. Benefits are retroactive dating back to the applicant’s 65th birthday.
  • It pays to enroll on time. Signing up for Medicare during the initial enrollment window is crucial. It ensures the applicant has coverage in place should the need for it arise, and it helps the applicant avoid lifelong surcharges on Part B premiums. Otherwise, applicants face a 10% increase on these premiums for each year-long period they were eligible for Medicare but did not enroll.

What if I missed my Initial Enrollment Period (IEP)?

If an applicant has missed their IEP, they’ll need to enroll during the General Enrollment Period, which runs from Jan. 1 through March 31 each year. Applicants can also make changes to their general coverage during this time.

Can I make changes to my Medicare plan?

If you’d like to make changes to your Medicare Advantage or Medicare Prescription Drug plan, you can do so during the annual Medicare Advantage open enrollment period. This year, open enrollment will be from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7, 2020. Any changes made during this period will take effect in January 2021.

Can I sign up for Medicare if I already have health coverage?

Many employees stay on at their jobs past their 65th birthday and will continue to enjoy the health coverage provided by their employer. These employees do not need to sign up for Medicare as soon as they hit 65 — they’ll be given a special enrollment period later on that will allow them to avoid the surcharges of late enrollment.

If an employee wants to keep their employer health coverage and also get coverage through Medicare, that is permitted as an option. In this scenario, Medicare would be used as a secondary insurance and the applicant would sign up for Part A, since that coverage is free and will be used to fill in the gaps of the employer’s insurance plan.

Your Turn: Have you recently applied for Medicare? Share your best tips with us in the comments.