Congrats Graduate! 4 Things to Do with Your Gift Money

Cash tops the list of popular graduation gifts year in and year out. If it’s your turn to don a cap and gown this year, congratulations – you probably pocketed a significant amount of change along with your achievement. So, what are you going to do with it?

Since we tend to view graduation gifts as a form of “extra” money (a psychological money trap known as mental accounting), it can be tempting to quickly reach for that wish list. Before you do though, consider these four ways you can use it to both celebrate your achievement and give yourself a better financial foundation for the future.

1. Celebrate the present.

You’ve achieved something important, so go ahead — spend some of that money on yourself, any way you’d like. Instead of blowing the whole sum, financial advisors recommend setting aside about 10% for yourself. If your cash gifts totaled the $1000, that still gives you $100 to spend on clothes, electronics, entertainment – whatever.

2. Invest in your future.

With the other 90%, one good choice is to invest in tools that will help you succeed in your next life steps. If you are jumping into a high tech job, maybe you’d like a new laptop or specialized software you could use to make work life more efficient.

There are also other practical needs like expensive furniture and household goods if you are moving out. Although the return can be harder to quantify, putting some of your graduation gift money toward these expenses is an investment in yourself.

3. Save for the future.

Graduation cash doesn’t have to burn a hole in your pocket – it’s okay if you don’t have a plan for it right away. In fact, saving it is a very good plan. If you’re already on a budget or would like to start, treat your graduation money like income and apply the 50/20/30 rule. Savings is the 20%, so calculate this much and set it aside.

Although you can certainly save for the future in terms of life after high school or college, you may need to first focus on shorter-term needs like living expenses. One of the best places to save your cash is in a separate savings account (or an account you won’t be using for daily purchases). Since you won’t see or use this money all the time, you’ll feel less tempted to spend the funds on impulse purchases.

4. Invest for your future.

Investing in your future is important, but so is investing for your future. For young investors, many financial advisors recommend mutual funds with low-cost index funds. The key is to choose an option that doesn’t require extensive management, knowledge, or risk, especially when you’re just getting started.

The amount you invest isn’t so important; after all, your money and your salary will grow for decades to come. They key is to start learning the ins and outs of investing. Not only will this give you another, potentially more profitable savings channel, you’ll learn solid investment management skills that will set you up for the future when you need to properly allocate the wealth you will accumulate for the rest of your life.

Questions about investments? To set up a complimentary consultation with the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial Federal Credit Union to discuss your savings goals, contact us at 732.312.1500 or stop in to see us!*

Regardless of how little or much your graduation cash amounts to, determine to enjoy a little, save a little, invest in yourself, and plan for the future. The way you choose to use this money can set a trend of how you’ll manage your money for years to come, so let it be a good one!

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for moneyning.com

 

5 Inexpensive Ways to Keep Your Kids Busy This Summer

Kids can be expensive. During the school year, everything from dance shoes to field trips, can feel like it costs an arm and a leg. Once school is out, your kids can sometimes be more expensive. If you’re looking to be frugal and still have fun, here are a few ways you can save and keep your kids busy this summer.

Throw backyard movie nights: Have a big TV or a projector? Add some cool yard lights and some blankets or patio furniture, and you’ll be ready to host every kid on the cul-de-sac. Or hold a family movie night outdoors, just yourselves.

Check out museums: Growing up, the word “museum” always seemed boring. But the museums they have now are far from dull! If your town doesn’t currently have one, here are some great options that may be within driving distance.

Cook something up: When the summer is heat is blazing, it’s always great to have things to do indoors. This is the perfect opportunity to teach your kids how to cook. Have them help prepare fun lunches and dinners, and one of these days you may be able to take a few shifts off from chef duty. Start with baking and you’ll be guaranteed to have some delicious treats around this summer.

Go to the park: Every town has a public park, and most of them have lots of things to do. There are also National Parks all over the country that can be educational and provide some exercise as well.

Head to the pool: A lot of neighborhoods have pools and if yours doesn’t, you probably know a friend or relative who does. Taking the kids swimming is a great way to allow your kids to burn off some energy, and also give you the chance to soak up some sun and relax.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Personal Finance Lessons Students Should Learn Before Graduation

How to make a budget.

It all starts with the budget. Here, students can compare earnings to expenses. It will give them insight into the value of a dollar. With a budget, students can plan for major purchases, eliminate debt and create good saving habits. Check out our budgeting guide here!

How to balance a checkbook.

While few people probably write checks anymore, students should still know how to balance a register. Even if they prefer to use an app to help keep up with their funds, the basic accounting skills they’ll gain from an old-fashioned register will give them insight into how their money flows. It will also teach them that even financial institutions can make mistakes, so it’s good to check the account for errors or fraud on a regular basis.

The real cost of credit cards.

Credit cards have advantages, but as anyone who’s gone into debt knows, those advantages can come at a significant cost if card holders aren’t careful. Understanding how compound interest works and what that $40 shirt will cost them if they take years to pay it off – will help them make wise choices with their credit.

How to build good credit.

Good credit can save them exponentially over a lifetime. Everything from home and auto loans, to job applications will be affected by a person’s credit score. Teaching students about what makes their score good, how to build it and how to monitor it will set them up for years of success.

What to do when it goes wrong.

Having a financial backup plan can make the difference between disaster and survival, when a major catastrophe strikes. Tools such as health and homeowners insurance and a savings account are critical, but increasing numbers of Americans do not employ these resources. Teach students how to plan ahead of time so they can weather inevitable disasters successfully.

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com

First Financial Hosts Student Run LIFE Fair at Jackson High Schools

Press Release

(Pictured above: First Financial staff members and students from the Jackson Academy of Business teach fellow students about the financial realities of life on June 2nd at Jackson Memorial High School).

Freehold, N.J. – On May 24th and June 2nd, First Financial Federal Credit Union held the first student run LIFE™ (Learning Independent Financial Education) financial reality fair event at both Jackson Liberty and Memorial High Schools with their Jackson Academy of Business (JAB) students. While the credit union has hosted financial reality fairs in the past, this fair was actually staffed by high school students, who sat behind each of the financial tables and worked with other students to help plan their financial future. Approximately 160 students at each school participated in this hands-on version of the “game of life,” during which they were required to make on-the-spot financial decisions.

The LIFE™ Fair consists of a full day hands-on experience where students, after identifying their career choice and starting salaries, are provided a budget sheet requiring them to live within their monthly salary while paying for basics such as housing, utilities, transportation, clothing, and food. Once the students visit all the booths, they balance their budget and sit down with a financial counselor to review their expenses and get a “financial reality check.” At the student run fairs, First Financial staff members worked at the financial review tables with each of the participating students to provide insight.

In regard to the school’s experience with their first ever student run LIFE™ Fair, Laurie Shupin, Jackson Liberty teacher and the high school’s JAB coordinator stated, “The students felt it was an excellent learning experience and became more knowledgeable of the subject matter as the day progressed.  They are looking forward to more presentations and would love to extend it to the fall and spring semesters.” Laura Fecak, Jackson Memorial teacher and JAB coordinator stated, “The LIFE Fair was a great opportunity for all of our students involved.  It was an eye opening experience for the Financial Literacy students that came through to get a dose of reality, connecting classroom concepts to real life situations.  As well as, for the Jackson Academy of Business students that got to act as the sales representatives in a variety of situations (housing, transportation, technology, furniture, etc.).”

While the LIFE™ Fair was certainly full of temptations, the students had to spend their money wisely while being able to save and budget themselves for the future – while also enjoying everything life has to offer. First Financial President and CEO, Issa Stephan, concluded, “Our mission for our first student run LIFE™ Fair was to help the students understand the value of money and how to manage their money, so as they grow as an adult they’ll become more financially responsible. The student run fair was able to show the high school students even more about the financial realities of the real world. Our credit union puts a high priority on financial education, after all – that’s how First Financial began 81 years ago, with a group of schoolteachers in Asbury Park.”

(Pictured above: Jackson Liberty LIFE Fair).

Additional photos from the event can be seen on First Financial’s Facebook page. To inquire about or set-up a LIFE™ Fair for a Monmouth or Ocean County, NJ school or business – please contact the Business Development Department at 732.312.1421, 732.312.1426, or email business@firstffcu.com.

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4 Healthy Money Moves to Teach Your Kids

Cute little girl is putting dollars in purse, isolated over white

Many parents underestimate just how many things they have to teach a child. From the early basics of manners and potty training to more advanced things, such as having empathy and how to deal with hard life situations, the list goes on and on. That’s why many people neglect areas like financial training.

What else should parents be teaching their kids in regard to finances? Here are four lessons everyone should learn and pass on to their children.

1. Give Every Dollar a Job

Kids need to learn that every dollar needs a purpose from early on. This can be taught when your children get an allowance and birthday money. A portion should go to savings, giving, and spending.

2. Say No to Impulse Buying

Saying “no” to kids when they want something in the store is hard, but it’s disastrous if a child gets used to impulsive buying. Instead, help children come up with a savings goal for a particular item. If they are saving $50 for a special toy, then they need to know that $2 impulse buys on candy or smaller toys will ultimately delay their saving goal and make them less happy.

3. Learn How to Comparison Shop

Teaching your child how to take the time to do research will help their money go further. A new tablet might cost $250, but if they shop eBay or Amazon, they can get a refurbished model for half the price.

Along with comparing prices, teach kids to look up reviews on items. It’s awful to pay a lot of money for an item that doesn’t work like it is advertised. Taking time to research the product beforehand can prevent wasted dollars.

4. Learn How to Bounce Back from Mistakes

Even though you want to equip your child with financial wisdom, there is a good chance they will still make silly money mistakes. That is okay. It’s especially important for kids to make money mistakes now, when only a few dollars are at stake, rather than later when much more money is at risk.

If your child is insistent on buying that low-quality toy or wasting their savings at the arcade, then let them try it. Hopefully they will learn that spending money in this manner doesn’t make them as happy as they thought it would.

The best way to teach your kids to be financially wise is to be an example for them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about your finances or about money mistakes you made when you were younger too. Your experience is extremely valuable, and not just to you.

Article Source: Ashley Eneriz for MoneyNing.com

4 Ways to Be a Good Financial Role Model for Your Children

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Your children may not always look like they’re listening, but they’re certainly watching. That’s why it’s important to make sure your actions line up with what you say, especially when it comes to managing your money. Robin Taub, chartered accountant and author of A Parent’s Guide to Raising Money-Smart Kids, said the key to raising financially aware children is to lead by example. “The first step to teaching kids to be money smart is to be a good financial model. We want to be able to lead by example. Our kids are watching and learning from us and they are aware of both our positive and negative behavior around money,” said Taub. Are your actions lining up with your words? Here’s how to be a good financial role model for your children.

1. Shop responsibly.
Show your child how to shop responsibly. Both of you can start by taking stock of what you already have so that unnecessary purchases aren’t made. Once you’re ready to shop, work together on creating a shopping list. Demonstrate how to search for sales and find coupons. Refrain from purchasing items that are not on the shopping list (unless it’s truly necessary) so that your child can understand the importance of exercising self-control at a store. Impulse spending is not only bad for your budget but also sets a bad example.

2. Take your child to work.
Let your child see that you have to work for money. Demonstrate the importance of a strong work ethic and the value of contributing your talents in exchange for a paycheck. Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is a great opportunity to show your child what you do at work. Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day is typically held in April each year.

3. Budget together.
Budgeting doesn’t have to be a solitary act. Instead of balancing your monthly budget alone, invite your child to watch you go through the process. Explain how to take stock of how much money is coming in and going out of the household for that month, and how you plan your spending so you don’t run out of money. This will help your child see that your pockets are not an endless source of cash. It takes careful planning and discipline to make sure you’re living at or below your means. If your child receives an allowance, this is an additional opportunity to show him or her how to budget and spend responsibly.

4. Pay bills together.
Even something as mundane as paying bills can be a teachable moment. Show your child how to write a check and balance a check register. There are plenty of downloadable and printable check registers. If you prefer, you can also keep track of your banking activity on an Excel spreadsheet. Also explain the importance of paying bills on time and in full and how late payments can impact your credit score.

*Original article source courtesy of Sheiresa Ngo at Money and Career Cheat Sheet.