April is Financial Literacy Month: How Much Do You Know?

Here’s a resource for downloadable PDFs that you can use to help kids understand the basics of banking. You can even read a children’s book on personal finance to your grands or nieces and nephews, something like The Berenstain Bears’ Trouble with Money.

Both of these resources give kiddos a strong foundation for digesting more complex financial products, like Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) and cryptocurrency. (You can save those for when they’re older.) When children master everyday money tasks, they’re better equipped to navigate life when they leave the nest.

Subscribe to a Blog or Podcast

You can choose personal finances, investing, or whatever you like. Educating yourself about how to make the best use of your money will pay off – and we’re not talking about just cash. You’ll also discover a variety of strategic directions about how to handle future financial issues. A few blogs to check out are Think Save Retire and The Penny Hoarder. Here are a few more. In terms of podcasts, check out Millennial Investing and Ditch the Suits. After you’ve digested some helpful nuggets, share them with your family and friends.

Learn More with Jumpstart Coalition

Jumpstart Coalition is a non-profit organization out of Washington, D.C., that houses a world of info about all things money – a curated database of financial education resources. From tax tips to credit unions, it’s a one-stop shop. Just spend a little time looking around, and you’ll finish smarter than when you started.

Attend Your State’s Financial Literacy Events

While this varies from state to state, be on the lookout in April for an announcement signed by your governor or your state representative. Typically, these are held in your capitol and are free. For example, the Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition holds a piggy bank beauty contest for elementary kids. All you have to do is search (Google, Bing, your choice!) “[State] April literacy month events,” and a list will come up. After you’ve attended, you might even think of creating a seminar of your own.

Go Over Your Monthly Budget

So, after you’ve filled your noggin with all your new money knowledge, you might want to review your finances for the month to see where you can tweak. Money is a fluid situation, as you well know, and applying new tricks and tips can help exponentially.

At the end of the day, and of course, the month, taking time to dive into improving your financial literacy – and spreading the news­ – is well worth it. When you’re fiscally fit, everything else in life seems to fall into place.

Financial Literacy Month 2024: Financial Literacy Activities to Start With | EVERFI

April is National Financial Literacy Month (moneyfit.org)

March Financial To-Do List

helpful page.

Evaluate College Aid Offers

If you have a high school senior, March is the time that they learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to colleges. It’s also the prime time to figure out how much money you’ll need for their education. If your child has been lucky enough to have received a financial aid letter, you’ll want to sit down and calculate how much cash you’ll need to supply or borrow. Generally, the universities include info in their letters about federal loans that you qualify for, so you can start that process. However, if you don’t like the offer that’s been extended, you can appeal it. Some schools may increase their offer.

Consider Buying Flood Insurance

April showers are just up ahead, but there are other forces of nature to contend with in spring: hurricanes, mudslides, and melting snow from freak freezes out of nowhere. All of these weather events breed water – and in some cases, too much of it. Check your homeowner’s insurance first to see if these acts of God are covered. If floods aren’t included, then flood insurance is something to look into. Even if you don’t live in a high-risk area, according to the National Flood Insurance Program, 20 percent of claims come from low- to moderate-risk areas. While annual premiums can run around $700 to 800 a year if you live in a low- to moderate-risk area, this could be less. Usually, there’s a 30-day waiting period before the policy kicks in, so it makes sense to buy it before you really need it.

Score on Deep Discounts

Now that winter is a distant memory, retailers are getting rid of cold weather inventory in March. Think winter coats, cozy clothing, and space heaters, for starters. Replacement windows and air purifiers are also priced low. And to get in the mood for spring cleaning, you may find vacuum cleaners on sale. Look for price cuts on (or around) St. Patrick’s Day, too. If you want to find more deals, you don’t need the luck of the Irish – just Google “March markdowns” and dive in.

Getting organized in March sets a great precedent for the rest of the year. Don’t miss this opportunity to get your financial house in order for the coming months.

Sources

https://www.consumerreports.org/financial-planning/march-financial-to-do-list/

https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/homeowners-insurance/cost-of-flood-insurance/#:~:text=The%20average%20U.S.%20homeowner%20may,on%20your%20individual%20rating%20factors.

Your February Financial To-Do List

Consumer Reports. On this site, you’ll find all the good stuff: cars, home and garden supplies, appliances, electronics, and more.

These are just a few of the items you can put on your financial to-do list. All it takes is carving out some time and getting started. Once you get going, you’ll probably make more progress than you ever dreamed.

Sources

https://www.consumerreports.org/personal-finance/february-financial-to-do-list/

How a No-Spend January Can Kickstart Your New Year

YouGov, this is the most important resolution for American adults. Now, certainly, you can’t not spend money in January (you have to eat), but the idea is to rid yourself of any unnecessary cash outflow so you can kickstart the year with some solid financial habits.

Limit Trips to the Store

Of course, you’ll need food, toiletries, and general household staples, but here’s your chance to step back and make lists, as opposed to running out to Target or Starbucks for a quick adrenaline rush. Plan your trips out. Buy store brands. Check prices. Use those coupons. Set your sights on the long view of the month, if not the year. This is one way to work toward getting fiscally fit.

Eat Everything in Your Pantry

You probably have cans of soup and pasta sitting on your shelves. Maybe even some canned veggies. Google some simple recipes with the items you have, add some spices, and voila, you’ve got a tasty, no-spend meal. Nothing like this can lead to long-term savings.

Forgo Eating Out

Once more, this tip is related to the first two. Truth is, you’ll want to go out to eat a few times – so go – but within reason. The trick is to find affordable spots with delicious grub. Another money-saving idea: split your entrees. You’ll not only save dollars but also calories.

Reevaluate Your Subscriptions

This is something that might creep up on you during the year. While you’ve been scrolling these past months, you might have seen an irresistible product, and you just had to have it – whether it was special vitamins, a hip magazine, or yet another streaming station with all those binge-worthy shows you can’t stop watching. But you might ask yourself: are these expenditures really improving my life? Once you see how much money you’ll be saving, you’ll most likely feel better (new and improved!) already.

Invest the Money You’re Saving

Now that you’ve cut back, you should have a surplus of cash accumulated over the year. So, what to do? One of the best things to do is tuck it away in a high-yield savings account. Just like with regular (traditional) savings accounts, you can withdraw when you want to. But with a high yield, you’ll most likely have a limit to how often you can take money out, which is usually six times per month without a fee. The main difference between a traditional and high-yield savings account is the interest rate. The current national average interest rate for a traditional savings account is 0.64 percent APY. Comparatively, top high-yield savings accounts pay between 4.25 percent and 5.27 percent. You in? Thought so.

Moral of the story? No-spend January is all about starting some new habits for 2024 – and watching them pay off. This way, during the new year, you’re not just working for your money, but allowing your money to work for you.

 

Sources

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/how-no-spend-january-can-kickstart-solid-financial-habits-for-2024/

 

4 Smart Ways to Maximize Your IRA Contributions

7 Smart Saving Strategies for Retirement

Here’s the tool. Once you know where you are, you’ll be able to determine your financial goals.

Catch up on retirement savings. If you’re over age 50, you can make something called “catch-up contributions.” You can increase your 401(k) salary deferrals by up to $30,000 and up to $7,500 in your IRA. Look into this ASAP. The more you contribute, the more you’ll close the gap between what you have and what you’ll need.

Put together a sample budget. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a household run by someone aged 65+ spends on average $4,345 a month, which is about $52,141 a year. Given this fact, it makes sense to take a look at your budget to see where you can cut back. Do you have numerous streaming services or magazine subscriptions? Can you use public transportation instead of driving? Must you buy name brands at the grocery store or would generic suffice? Review several months of expenses and ask yourself these types of questions. You might be surprised at what you discover and how you can save.

Utilize your Health Savings Account (HSA). This is a great tool to help you prep for health care costs when you retire. Once you enroll in Medicare at 65, you can still use your HSA investments, even if you no longer qualify to contribute. But you can get started on this early. Once you’re 55, you can contribute an extra $1,000 to your HSA each year on top of the maximum amount you’re using to catch up.

Consider part-time work. Having some supplemental income is a great idea when you retire. You’ll not only keep busy, which for some is critical, but also generate extra cash. You might even start a small business. What is it that you’ve always wanted to do? What are you passionate about? These questions are worth exploring.

Move to a less expensive city. There are some states that are simply less costly. And when you’re downsizing, which lots of people do when they retire, it makes a difference in your quality of life. For instance, Montana doesn’t have any sales tax, and state taxes are 33 percent less than the U.S. average. Here are a few others to consider.

These are just a few of the things you can do to prepare for one of the most important seasons of your life. No matter when or how you decide to retire, in the long run, it pays to start thinking about it before these years are even on the horizon.

Sources

https://www.bankerslife.com/insights/personal-finance/7-saving-strategies-for-a-secure-retirement/

How to Organize Your Tax Documents

Tax Documents Checklist – Organize Your Papers

https://turbotax.intuit.com/tax-tips/family/sweet-child-of-mine-tax-credits-for-parents/L1DqxZ9mh

https://www.forbes.com/advisor/health-insurance/is-health-insurance-tax-deductible/#:~:text=You%20can%20usually%20deduct%20the,you%20can%20claim%20the%20deduction.

How to Write an Awesome Accounting Bio

Engaging

Yes, attention spans in our world are woefully short, much like that of gnat. You have seconds to grab someone’s attention. Write your bio as if you were looking for an accountant. How would you word it? What would catch your eye? Of course, you’d start with your name and title, but what after that? Spend time thinking about this.

Don’t Use First Person

While social media is all about saying “I this” and “I that,” when it comes to bios, it’s best not to do that, use the third person as if you were talking about someone else. For instance, “John Davis is a CPA at Ernst & Young.” After that, you can launch into telling the world just how awesome you are.

Use Active Voice

And avoid passive voice. An example of this would be something like, “John’s team was involved in the overhaul of the payroll system.” For active voice, you’d write it like this:  “John’s team overhauled the payroll system.” See the difference? You’ve cut out extra words and adjusted your verb to be active. A quick way to check your writing for passive voice is to do a search in your document for an “of.” If you spot these babies, fix them right away.

Update Your Social Media Profiles

While most people use LinkedIn, many others who are looking for a job include their bios on their social media pages. In fact, you might update your bio on your LinkedIn page and then share it on Facebook, Instagram, or other platforms you use. This way, when employers are casually scrolling, you’ll appear in their feed. And if they’re looking for someone, all the better.

End Strong

The abbreviation in the marketing world is CTA, or Call to Action. You see it on nearly every digital ad as a button. But if you reimagine it in terms of the last sentence of your bio, it can leave a lasting impression and, hopefully, trigger a response. You might end your bio with a short, friendly statement, your email, and your phone number: “John is actively seeking employment, can be reached at [FILL IN INFO], and is just a ping or phone call away.” No matter what you choose to end with, it should reflect you and your personality.

If you need a little help to get started, here are two different samples:

Sally Smith is a CPA and a Senior Accountant at ABC Company, a full-service tax and bookkeeping firm in Home Town, USA.

John Jones joined ABC Company in 2000. In his current role, he is a seasoned tax preparer with a focus on international taxes. This involves staying up-to-date with current and future tax regulations for foreigners living and working in the United States and abroad, as well as state tax regulations in California and Florida.

Writing an accountant bio that will stand out from the crowd will take a bit of time, but it is well worth it. You want to present yourself in the best possible light to your audience. When you do this, you’ll get more traction and, in turn, more business.

7 Best Money Moves for 2023

few others. Rates may increase even more with the Federal Reserve’s rate hike announcement on July 27.

Open an HSA account. When you have one of these, it will help you pay for expenses that your health insurance plan doesn’t cover. If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible insurance plan, you and possibly your employer can contribute pre-tax dollars into this account, from which you’ll use funds you’ve stocked away for qualified medical expenses. Whatever money you don’t use will roll over to the next year, unlike FSA accounts.

Consolidate debt. Why pay a bunch of different interest rates on all your credit cards? If you have debt, find one card with a very low-interest rate and do a balance transfer. Some credit cards offer 0 percent APR as an introductory rate, which will be a big savings to get a jumpstart on becoming debt-free. Here are a few good ones: Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card now offers 0 percent APR for 18 months. Discover it® Cash Back offers 0 percent APR for 15 months. Find other great deals here.

Cut how much you pay on car insurance. Have you shopped around lately? We know this might seem like a pain, as it takes a lot of time, but here’s some good news, and it’s called The Zebra. This amazing site has done all the heavy lifting for you. Here, you’ll find dozens of real-time comparisons from many trusted companies.

Max out your 401K. This year, the maximum yearly contribution limit has been raised by $200 to $22,500 (up from $20,500 in 2022). Even better, if you’re over 50, you can set aside catch-up contributions of $7,500, allowing a total contribution of up to $30,000. This allowance lets older workers add as much as they can so that when they retire, they’ll be in a better financial situation.

Update your W-4. No one likes a shock when it comes to paying taxes. That’s why this is such a smart idea. And the IRS actually has a tool that can help you: The Tax Withholding Estimator. Go here to find out if your employer is taking enough money out for taxes. If you’re falling short, you’ll know. Better to learn and fix this before it’s too late.

Create a net worth statement. When you have a realistic idea of your assets and liabilities, you’ll be able to see whether or not you’re on the right track with retirement. This way, you’ll be able to set up new goals for yourself if you feel you need to.

Keeping up with your finances, while time-consuming, really pays off. If you try one (or all) of these hacks, you’ll be better off in no time.

Sources

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/slideshows/15-of-the-best-money-moves-you-can-make-in-2021/

6 Ways to Travel on a Budget

Priceline. Check these when planning so you can snag the best deals.

Be Flexible

Do you have to travel in July? What about August? Are the fall and December holidays out of the question? If you aren’t stuck on a certain time of year, you’ll realize some significant savings. Also, must you leave town on a Friday? What about a Tuesday or Thursday? Choosing to fly on weekdays can dramatically change the price of your ticket. Plus, flights can be less crowded.

Create a budget – and Stick To It

While this is a challenge, it’s not impossible. That’s why it’s important to think about where you want to go. For example, San Francisco and New York City might be a little on the pricey side. Another thing to consider is how long you want to be away. If you’re thinking about a two-week long vacation, you might want to be a little stricter with how much you spend each day. That said, don’t be too strict! The whole idea of a holiday escape is to kick back and dive into the culture of a new place.

Choose a Budget-Friendly Destination

As mentioned above, choosing a vacation destination that won’t break the bank is a strategic way to cut costs. Southeast Asia and South America are great places to start. If you’ve decided you must go to Europe, you might want to stay away from the Scandinavian countries. Although they’re crazy beautiful, they have some of the highest cost of living index scores. One way to get ahead of what you might spend is to check out cost of living sites, where you’ll find current stats, estimates, and calculations of how much you might spend each day.

Don’t Overpack

While it’s probably irresistible to overpack (I want to have choices!), if you can travel light, you’ll save on bag fees big time. Even better, if you can limit what you’re taking to just a carry-on, you’ll really avoid those pesky charges, plus it’ll give you the ability to breeze on and off the plane in no time. In terms of what you bring, this also requires some forethought. While packing multiple bathing suits and shorts (if you’re going somewhere tropical) is fun, these fashionable items might be taking the place of necessary gear like a raincoat, a warm hoodie or even a sweater. So take a breath, think through your days and get packing – judiciously, that is.

Find Free Activities

Before you head out on your adventure, let your fingers do the walking over to your favorite search engine and get going. Search “free stuff to do” (or the like) at your intended destination. You’ll find things like free museums, parks, gardens, and festivals. Then let your feet do the walking! Getting outside, weather permitting, and strolling is one of the best ways to soak in a city.

When you can stay on budget and have a fabulous time with family and friends, you’ll not only come back with amazing memories, you’ll also return without a lot of debt. And that’s a fantastic feeling that will stick with you for a good while.

Sources

https://www.worldremit.com/en/blog/migration/tips-to-travel-on-a-budget/