Preparing Financially for a New Baby

Congratulations! You’ve just gotten the positive pregnancy test results and you’re breathless with excitement — and nerves. Or maybe you’re a few months along, and the mild panic is growing right along with the baby bump. Regardless, a baby means big changes, and some of those changes bring many new expenses. How will you pay for it all?

Whether you’re only thinking about having a baby, or your due date is fast approaching, there’s no need to stress about finances. By taking the necessary measures today, you can learn to cover these new expenses without falling into debt.

Here are some steps you can take to prepare financially for a new baby:

Pay down debt

There’s more than just a nursery to set up before your baby’s arrival. It’s best to get your finances in order to make it easier to manage all new expenses and prepare for your child’s future. If this involves getting rid of a mountain of debt, you can choose between these two debt-kicking plans:

The snowball method involves maximizing your payments toward your smallest debt balance first. Once it’s paid off, move on to the next-smallest debt, “snowballing” the payment from your previous debt into this one until it’s paid off, and repeating until you’re completely debt-free.
The avalanche method involves maximizing payments toward the debt with the highest interest rate and then moving on to the one with the second-highest interest rate until all debts are paid off.

Adjust your monthly budget

Babies don’t come cheap. When your little one arrives, you’ll need to spring for baby gear and furniture, a new wardrobe, diapers and possibly child care as well. According to the USDA’s most recent report on the cost of raising a child, the average middle-income family will spend approximately $12,350-$13,900 on child-related expenses before their baby’s first birthday.

Most of these expenses will be ongoing, and it’s best to make room in your budget for these new items before the baby is born. Spend some time reviewing your monthly budget to look for ways to cut back on spending and give you that wiggle room to cover baby-related expenses.

Set up a baby account

All those baby expenses can be overwhelming, but if you break them down into bite-sized pieces, they’ll be easier to manage. You can do this by putting away some money for baby costs as soon as you plan on having a baby or find out you’re expecting. Consider setting up a new savings account at Advantage One Credit Union for all baby expenses to keep this money separate from other savings. You may also want to automate these savings by setting up a monthly transfer from your payroll or checking account to your “baby account.”

Estimate prenatal care and delivery costs

While exact amounts vary by state and by insurance provider, prenatal care and delivery can cost thousands of dollars. This includes out-of-pocket expenses, co-pays and insurance deductibles. Be sure to prepare for these expenses by saving up for them or by allocating a large windfall, such as a tax refund or generous work bonus, to be used for paying for prenatal care and delivery.

Start saving for college

Hard as it may be to believe, your little one will one day be all grown up and ready to go to college. With college tuition now averaging $41,411 at private colleges, $11,171 for state residents at public colleges and $26,809 for out-of-state students at state schools, according to data reported by U.S. News and World Report, this can mean paying a small fortune to give your child an education. In addition to spreading the costs over nearly two decades, starting to save for your child’s college education now will give those savings the best chance at growth.

Consider opening a 529 plan before your child is born where your college savings can grow tax-free.

Write a will

No one wants to think about their own death when preparing for a birth, but writing a will — and purchasing life insurance if you haven’t already done so — can be the best gift for your child in case the unthinkable happens.

Welcoming a new baby is a life-altering experience, and can mean big changes for your finances. Follow our tips to ensure you’re financially prepared for your new baby’s arrival.

Your Turn: What steps are you taking to prepare financially for a new baby? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
nerdwallet.com
mint.intuit.com
thepennyhoarder.com

The Comprehensive Guide to Insurance Coverage

Insurance premiums can take a big bite out of a monthly budget, but not having enough coverage can be even more costly.  Let’s take a look at the five primary insurance types and the most important information to know about each one.

1. Health insurance

What is it? 

Health insurance is coverage that typically pays for medical, surgical and prescription drug expenses in exchange for a monthly premium. Many states mandate health insurance coverage and will collect fees, along with state taxes, from taxpayers who do not have sufficient coverage.

Types of health insurance plans

Health insurance plans are divided into two primary categories: public and private.

Public health insurance is provided at low or no cost through the federal and/or state government. The most common public insurance plans are:

  • Medicaid – Public insurance plan for low-income families and individuals. Eligibility requirements vary by state.
  • The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – A federal and state program designed to cover children below the age of 18 whose families have incomes above the qualifications for Medicaid, but are too low to afford private health insurance.
  • Medicare – A federal health insurance program for Americans age 65 and older.

Private health insurance may be provided through an employer or purchased privately from the insurance provider, or through a broker.

These are the most common private health insurance plans:

  • HMO: Health Maintenance Organization – The most restrictive plans that only work with a network of healthcare providers. The insured must choose a primary care physician (PCP) who is in the network to benefit from coverage. To see an out-of-network specialist, the insured will need a referral from their PCP. HMOs tend to have cheaper premiums than other health insurance plans.
  • PPO: Preferred Provider Organization – The most flexible health insurance plans, which allow the insured to choose an in-network doctor at a lower cost, or an out-of-network doctor at a higher cost. There is no referral necessary to see a specialist. Premiums are generally more expensive than other plans.
  • EPO: Exclusive Provider Organization – A blend of HMO and PPO plans, EPOs do not cover out-of-network physicians, but do not require referrals for specialists. Premiums on EPOs fall between HMOs and PPOs.
  • POS: Point of Service – Another blend of HMO and PPO plans, POS plans will require a PCP on an HMO-style network, while also allowing out-of-network options at a higher cost. A referral is required for specialists. Premiums are generally more expensive than HMO plans but less expensive PPOs.

2. Life insurance

What is it?

Life insurance is a contract between an insurance company and a policyholder that guarantees a sum of money to the policyholder’s designated beneficiaries when the policyholder dies, in exchange for monthly premiums paid during the insured’s lifetime.

Types of life insurance

These are the five most common kinds of life insurance plans:

  • Term insurance – The most basic form of life insurance, with a predetermined term, usually ranging from one to 10 years. Plans are renewable at the term’s end, but the premiums will increase with each renewal. Term policies generally have the cheapest premiums, but no cash value.
  • Whole life insurance – Offers policyholders a cash-value component coupled with increased protection. Premiums can be locked in throughout the term, and a portion of premiums goes toward the policy’s cash value. The insured can borrow up to 90% of the cash value, tax-free, but loans reduce the policy’s death benefit.
  • Universal life insurance – Offers increased flexibility for policyholders. Premiums can go up or down, or even be deferred within certain limits. Cash values can be accessed and withdrawn, though this directly decreases the death benefit. Face values can be modified as well.
  • Variable life insurance – Fixed premiums and investment options make this policy the choice for true risk-takers. The policyholder’s cash value will be invested in the insured’s choice of stock, bond or money market portfolio. Cash values and death benefits will fluctuate along with the investments’ performance. These policies usually have higher fees than universal life insurance, but all cash value accumulation grows tax-free.
  • Universal variable life insurance – A blend of universal and variable life insurance, these policies offer flexible premiums and the ability to modify face values, along with investment options.

3. Auto insurance

What is it? 

Auto insurance is a contract between a policyholder and insurance company, protecting the policyholder from financial loss in the event of an auto accident or theft. The coverage is provided in exchange for a monthly premium. Some form of auto insurance is required in all 50 states.

Types of auto insurance policies

These are the primary categories of auto insurance coverage:

  • Liability coverage – Includes coverage for bodily injuries, property damages or auto damages to another motorist if the policyholder is at fault.
  • Comprehensive coverage – Pays for damages and losses to the car that were not caused by another driver.
  • Personal injury protection – Covers medical bills for the policyholder and their passengers in the event of an accident.
  • Collision insurance – Covers damages to the policyholder’s car if it’s involved in an accident.
  • Uninsured/under-insured motorist protection – Pays for damages caused by another motorist who does not have sufficient (or any) coverage.
  • Gap insurance – Pays the difference between what the policyholder owes on a financed or leased vehicle and what it is valued at when there’s a total loss of the vehicle.

4. Long-term disability insurance

What is it?

Long-term disability insurance is an insurance policy that provides income replacement for workers if they are unable to work due to a debilitating illness or injury.

Types of long-term disability insurance

There are two primary types of long-term disability insurance policies:

  • Own-occupation disability insurance defines a disability as an inability to work at your regular occupation. Benefits are paid even if the policyholder can work at another job.
  • Any-occupation disability insurance defines a disability as an inability to work at any occupation. These plans are generally cheaper, but claiming benefits can be more difficult.

5. Homeowners/renter’s insurance

What is it?

Homeowners insurance is a policy designed to protect homeowners and their families from liability and financial loss in case of damage to their home and belongings in exchange for monthly premiums. Renters insurance is purchased by tenants and only covers damage or theft of their personal property.

Types of homeowners insurance policies

  • HO-2 – A policy that only protects against 16 specified perils.
  • HO-3 – A broad policy protecting against all perils other than those excluded in the policy.
  • HO-5 – A premium policy that usually protects newer homes and covers all perils, except the few excluded in the policy.
  • HO-6 – Insurance for co-ops/condominiums, which includes personal property coverage and liability coverage.

Each plan type will also include some extent of liability coverage. Most policies will only cover events if they are sudden and accidental. Some natural disasters, like earthquakes and floods, require a separate policy for coverage.

Types of renters insurance policies

Renters insurance policies will generally fall within either:

  • Replacement-cost plans – Will pay for the full cost of replacing your damaged or stolen belongings up to a predetermined cap. This plan offers more robust coverage, but premiums are generally higher.
  • Cash-value plans – Will only offer payouts to cover what the damaged item was worth at the time of the disaster.

Insurance is a big part of financial responsibility. Use our guide to help you make the right choices in all major types of insurance coverage.

Your turn: What are your best tips for buying insurance?

Learn More:
policygenius.com
smartasset.com
iii.org
allstate.com
nerdwallet.com
investopedia.com

Your Complete Guide to Retiring Alone

Saving for retirement involves lots of planning and calculations for every adult; however, if you are not married and don’t have children, you’ll need special strategies for retirement saving and planning.

If you are anticipating a single retirement, you are not alone. According to the U.S. Census, approximately half of all American adults are married. In addition, close to one-third of baby boomers don’t have children. Others may age alone due to the death of a spouse, a divorce or estranged or unavailable children.

Here’s what you need to know about retiring alone:

Create your own support system

One of the greatest challenges of retiring alone is not having a built-in support system through a spouse and children. Isolation and feelings of loneliness can be one of the strongest factors in early aging and general unwellness, so it’s a good idea to build your own support system if you’re planning on retiring single. This can take the form of a close group of friends who live near your home and are happy to join you for fun outings or occasional errands. If you don’t have this group of friends, make new ones by attending local social events through Meetup.com, befriending your neighbors in your community, or spending time at a senior center for active adults.

Identity your most trusted friend

It’s a good idea to choose one friend to serve as your emergency contact and to make decisions on your behalf in case you become incapacitated for any reason. Failure to appoint this person can mean decisions about your health and welfare can be relegated to your closest living relative, which may be someone with whom you have no relationship at all.

Choose your trusted contact and draw up a medical power of attorney so they can make decisions for you if the need arises. Save this person’s contact info in your phone, titled “In Case of Emergency,” or “ICE”, so someone can easily find this number in your contacts should the need arise.

Get creative about your housing options

When looking for a place to retire alone, there are loads of options to consider:

Move abroad to a country with a low cost of living where you can check out the sights, get to know the culture, and experiment with the cuisine.
Team up with a friend or two for built-in companionship and shared living expenses.
Choose a retirement community with senior-friendly amenities and walkable conveniences.

Consider long-term care insurance

Did you know that most adults turning age 65 will need long-term care at some point in their lives?

Long-term care can be expensive. As a single retiree, you’ll likely feel more secure knowing you have coverage for a long-term care facility or at-home care should the need arise. A long-term care policy may not be cheap, but may be worth the security it brings you.

Know your Social Security claiming options

If you have never been married, or have never had a marriage that lasted 10 years or more, your Social Security claiming options are simple. You are likely best waiting until age 70 to claim, unless you believe your life expectancy will be shorter than average. If you do claim your benefits before reaching full retirement age, and you continue working, make sure your income does not exceed the Social Security earnings limit at the time, or you may end up owing money.

If you have a previous marriage that lasted 10 years or longer, you may be able to claim a spousal benefit based on your ex’s earnings record and switch over to your own benefit amount when you reach full retirement age. If your spouse is deceased, you may be eligible for a widow/widower benefit based on your late partner’s earnings record.

Be sure to review your options carefully before making your choice.

A single retirement may look a bit different than a retirement shared with a life partner, but by planning ahead and following the tips outlined above, these can be the best years of your life.

Your Turn: Are you planning for a single retirement? Share your best tips and ideas with us in the comments.

Learn More:
snugsafe.com
kiplinger.com
forbes.com
thebalance.com

What is Credit Card Interest and How Does it Affect Me?

Getting your first credit card is super-exciting. That small piece of plastic is a gateway to adulthood, and when used responsibly, it can be your first concrete step toward establishing sound financial habits to last a lifetime. Unfortunately, though, many teenagers and young adults don’t know enough about credit card interest when they open their first credit line (such as with a credit card) and end up deeply in debt — and quickly.

Don’t let this be you! Be sure to learn all you need to know about credit card interest and how it works before you apply for your first credit card.

What is credit card interest?

Interest on a line of credit is money the credit card issuer charges to the cardholder for borrowing money every time they use their credit card. The interest is generally set at an annual rate known as the annual percentage rate, or the APR. Credit card companies use the APR to calculate the amount of daily interest the cardholder is charged for purchases as well as the unpaid balance on the line of credit associated with the card.

Important credit card terms to know

Before learning how credit card interest is charged, you’ll need to know some basic credit card billing terms:

  • A credit card billing cycle is the period of time between credit card billings. Billing cycles can range from 20 to 45 days, depending on the credit card issuer. During that time frame, any purchases, credits and interest charges will be added to or subtracted from the balance.
  • When the billing cycle ends, you’ll receive your credit card statement, which will reflect  all unpaid charges and fees for this period of time.
  • The statement will also highlight the payment due date, which tends to be approximately 20 days after the end of the billing cycle.
  • The time frame between the end of the billing cycle and the payment due date is known as the grace period. If you neglect to pay your bill in full before the grace period ends, the outstanding balance will be subject to interest charges.

Calculating interest charges

To calculate your interest charge for a billing cycle, follow this formula:

Step 1:  Divide your APR by the number of days in a year to get your daily periodic rate, or the amount of interest your credit card issuer charges cardholders during each day of the billing cycle.

For example, if your APR is 18.5%, you’ll divide that by 365 to get your daily periodic rate of .0005%. (0.185 / 365 = .0005)

Step 2: Multiply the daily periodic rate by your average daily balance, or the balance you carry during each day of your credit card’s billing cycle, to get your daily interest charge. To find your average daily balance, look on your credit card bill. You can also determine your average daily balance by taking the sum of the balances at the end of each day in the billing cycle, and dividing that number by the total number of days in your billing cycle.

Using the numbers in the above example, if your average daily balance is $1,200, you’d multiply this number by your daily periodic rate (.0005%) to get a daily interest charge of $0.60. (0.0005 * 1,200 = 0.60)

Step 3: Multiply your daily interest charge by the number of days in your billing cycle.

Staying with the above example, if your billing cycle is 30 days, you’d multiply $0.60 by 30 to get an interest charge of $18 for this billing cycle. (0.60 * 30 = 18)

Avoid paying interest

Credit card issuers will only charge interest if you carry a balance from one month to the next. If you pay your balance in full before the grace period ends, there will be no interest charged. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the payment due date on your credit card billing cycle and to set a reminder to pay your bill before it’s due whenever possible.

If you have a large outstanding balance and paying it in full at the end of the billing cycle is not possible, at the very least try to pay more than just the minimum payment each month. It’s also a good idea to avoid charging more purchases to your card if there is already an unpaid balance. Remember: A credit card purchase that is not paid off before the payment due date can mean paying for that purchase for months, or even years, to come.

Credit cards are a necessary part of life. Building a strong credit history can open the door to long-term loans and other financial opportunities, but neglecting to learn how credit card interest works can lead to a spiral of debt. Before opening your first credit card, brush up on your knowledge of how credit card interest works and how it affects you as a cardholder.

Your Turn: Have you recently opened your first credit card? Share your beginner tips for responsible credit card use in the comments.

Learn More:
magnifymoney.com
investopedia.com
finder.com
credit.org

What You Didn’t Know About Home Loans

A home loan, otherwise known as a mortgage, enables you to purchase a house without paying the full price out of pocket at the time of the purchase.

For most people, buying a home is the biggest financial transaction of their lifetime. For that reason, if you’re in the market for a new home, it’s best to learn all you can about home loans and how they work before you get too deep into the process.

Here are some things you may not know about home loans:

Rates fluctuate daily

Borrowers who are eager to secure a home loan with a low interest rate may get into the habit of checking mortgage rates as often as some people check the weather. Interest rates fluctuate every day, which means the rate you see today may be different than the one you see when you actually are approved for the loan.

The cheapest interest rate does not guarantee the cheapest loan

When choosing a lender, borrowers will often choose the one offering the lowest interest rate, but this can actually be to their detriment. There are other factors to consider, including closing costs and the lender’s policy on releasing equity for a line of credit or a loan. Also, in adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM), the loan featuring the lowest interest rate may not have the lowest rate a few years down the line and may actually cost more in the long run.

A fixed-interest rate mortgage can ultimately cost you more

When interest rates are low, many home-buyers choose a mortgage with an interest rate that is fixed throughout the life of the loan, believing it is the most cost-effective choice. This may or may not be correct. A fixed-rate mortgage might comes with higher exit fees, or fees paid to the lender when the loan is repaid. Also, if rates drop further throughout your loan’s term, you won’t be able to take advantage of the new rates unless you refinance. Finally, interest rates on fixed-term mortgages are generally higher than the initial rate on ARMs.

A lower credit score can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in interest

Most people know that a higher credit score is generally awarded with a lower interest rate, but not many people know to what extent this is true. A high credit score can translate into tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments over the life of a home loan. A credit score difference of 100 points can increase a monthly mortgage payment by $150 or more, depending on the size of the loan and the interest rate.

If you’re thinking of applying for a home loan soon and your credit isn’t in the “very good” category (higher than 740), it may be worthwhile to spend a few months working to boost your score before you apply for a mortgage.

The housing market impacts rates

While the federal funds rate will have the greatest impact on the rise and fall of interest rates, the state of the housing market will affect it, too.  Lenders need to turn a profit from their loans, which means the higher the volume of loans they process, the less they need to earn from each one to remain profitable. Consequently, when the housing market is booming and lenders are granting loans on a frequent basis, they will be more inclined to offer lower interest rates to borrowers.

You can have your mortgage payments automated

Your home loan payments will likely be your largest monthly bill, and missing a payment or paying it late can have serious consequences. Fortunately, you can avoid these scenarios by signing up to have your monthly mortgage payments automatically deducted from your checking account. Most lenders provide this service; check with yours to see if this is an option they offer.

Buying a home will likely be the biggest purchase you ever make. Be sure to find out all there is to know about mortgages and their interest rates before applying for a home loan.

Your Turn: Do you have another lesser-known fact about home loans to share? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
kloze.com
wyndhamcapital.com
binvested.com
bankrate.com

Tips for Empty Nesters Downsizing

Quiet. Calm. Clean.

And empty.

These are just a few of the adjectives that may come to mind when you return home after your youngest child leaves the nest. It’s the beginning of a new stage in life and your home may feel completely different.

No longer are you constantly kicking aside stray sneakers and picking up a trail of school papers. No longer are you sharing your living space with soccer gear and your freezer with boxes of frozen pizza and ice pops. You may even get the TV remote to yourself!

Now that the house has emptied out, it’s a great time to sift through the “stuff” that has piled up over the years. Maybe you’ve even decided to move to a new and smaller home. Whether you’re decluttering because your home has grown emptier or you need to get rid of half your belongings before you relocate, downsizing can be a daunting task.

Here are some tips to help you downsize as an empty nester.

Allow yourself to grieve, but stay positive

It isn’t easy to let go of precious mementos, give away the adorable baby outfits your oldest wore as an infant or say goodbye to the home that watched your family grow. Make these goodbyes a little easier by acknowledging your grief but putting a positive spin on your new stage. Yes, you are saying goodbye to playdates and PTA meetings, but you are entering a phase in life that will open up new vistas and opportunities you’ve never had before.

Clear out your closets

If your closets have not been purged since AOL CDs cluttered mailboxes, you might be looking at a mountain of outdated clothing to sort through and organize. Here’s how to make this job easy.

Set up four boxes near your closet. Mark one “giveaways,” one “keepers,” one “sell” and the last “dump.” As you sort through grunge tops from the ‘90s and neon jeans from the ‘80s, consider each item: Can you donate this, keep it, sell it or is it destined for the dump? Place each item in its designated box until you’ve gone through the entire pile.

When you’ve finished sorting through all your clothing, return the items in the “keepers” box to the closet, toss the junk, bring the giveaways to a clothing donation drop-off spot and sell what’s left on Poshmark.

Sell your spare furniture

Whether you’re relocating or staying put for now, your furniture needs will change when the kids have left home. Create space and earn some extra pocket money by hosting a garage sale for your unused furniture pieces. You can also sell spare drawer chests, desks and more on OfferUp or Craigslist.

Sift through your files

In the world before everything was digitized, important papers in a household could pile up like snow in a blizzard. The good news is you likely don’t need most of the papers you’ve been saving all these years. It’s time to clear out the pile!

Each of your files will likely fall into one of three categories.

The important paperwork includes personally identifying info and sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and Social Security cards for each child. Of course, you’ll need to save the original copies of these documents in a safe place.

On the other end of the spectrum are saved files that serve no purpose now, such as electricity bills from 1995 and pay stubs from your first post-college job. These can go straight into the shredder.

Finally, you’ll have documents that fall somewhere in between these two categories, such as medical records, tax returns and your children’s report cards. You can choose to keep some of these, or, if you’re short on space, scan each document and upload it to cloud storage.

Rethink your bedrooms

With all the kids out of the house, you can rethink the way you use your bedrooms. Have you always dreamed of a designated sewing room? How about using the space to indulge in your model train hobby? You can finally have that hobby room you’ve always wanted when the kids were growing up!

If you need to save some sleeping room for the kids when they come home to visit, you can keep a daybed in any converted bedroom for that purpose.

It’s a new stage in life, and it’s time to sift through the piles of junk that have accumulated over the years. Follow our tips for downsizing made easy!

Your Turn: What are your best downsizing tips? Share them with us in the comments.

Learn More:
emptynestblessed.com
smartstopselfstorage.com
fidelity.com
homelight.com

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.