Unexpected Life Events That Could Ruin Your Finances

Although it’s impossible to predict what will happen in life, there are certain actions you can take to better prepare yourself for what may come your way. Instead of worrying about things you often can’t control, consider these potential life events and what you can do now to avoid ruining your finances in the future.

Becoming a caregiver.

It’s difficult to think about our parents growing older and the possibility of becoming a caregiver to a loved one. If you’re not careful and prepared, taking on this responsibility can significantly impact your finances. The best thing you can do to prepare your family is to fully understand your loved one’s financial situation. Have they invested in long-term care? Are their finances in order and have they sought the advice of a financial planner? Try not to let any new expenses you may incur while helping out cause you unnecessary financial stress.

Getting a divorce.

No one expects to get divorced when they’re reciting their marriage vows in front of family and friends. The fact is, sometimes things don’t work out and you and your spouse may be better apart than together. The smart thing to do if you’re faced with this situation is to get informed now. Don’t let your soon-to-be ex control your finances. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need so you’re financially independent and stable. Experts also suggest that immediately after going through the divorce, wait before you make another serious decision. Let the dust settle, make sure your assets are in order and take things slowly. Rash decisions can cost you, so take your time during the transition.

Weathering a natural disaster.

We all know that Mother Nature has a mind of her own. But, there are a few things you can do to prepare your financial state in case of a weather disaster. First, start an emergency fund now. Saving a small amount initially is a wise plan, but ideally you’ll want to have around four to five months’ worth of living expenses on hand. Secondly, keep your financial documents organized and secure so if disaster strikes, you can easily access the information needed. Third, get up to speed on your insurance policies. Most homeowners insurance plans do not include flood damage – so in the off chance you live in an area prone to high flood waters, get coverage now as flood insurance usually cannot be purchased after the disaster strikes.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

4 Money Skills You Should’ve Had Yesterday

Everyone’s life is different and we all learn life skills in a different order, at a different age, and at a different place. No matter where you’re at, here are 4 money skills you should have.

Negotiating purchases: When you were shopping for your first new car you probably didn’t have a clue about how much you should spend or how much the car was really worth. It’s time to do your homework. Negotiation is a battle and you need to show up to the dealership prepared with knowledge as your ammo. Don’t just accept the price of the first car you like. Make a counter-offer that’s reasonable and don’t be afraid to say no and walk away. Stick to your gameplan and you’ll end up with a good deal.

Here’s how to buy a car in 5 easy steps!

Budgeting your paycheck: Your first job put more money in your pocket than you’d ever made in your life and you probably spent like crazy. Now that you’re older, you need to be seriously thinking about your spending habits and saving for retirement. If you haven’t used a budget before, find one and stick to it. If you’ve been living paycheck to paycheck, it’s time to stop.

Check out our budgeting guide for some helpful hints on creating a budget.

Maximizing your credit score: When you’re young, you don’t care about your credit score. But it’s never too early to start paying attention to it. Anything you purchase that requires making payments will be affected by your credit score. The higher your score, the better your interest rate, which will save you a lot of money over the life of the loan.

Using your credit cards: Credit cards are a valuable tool when used correctly. When used irresponsibly, they can turn on you in a heartbeat. When you get that first credit card, use it periodically to build credit. DON’T overspend. If you want to use your credit card more often, make sure you pay it off every month. EVERY SINGLE MONTH. Don’t miss payments and don’t leave a balance. If you stick to those rules, you’ll be in good shape.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

4 Items You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

When it comes to your wallet – there are some things you should surely throw away, and there are others you should take out and file away immediately to prevent identity theft.

Social Security Card

It may seem obvious to not carry this with you, but many people have long kept their SS card in their wallet. But think about it, if you have your number memorized, which most of us do, when do you actually need your card? Have you ever had to present your card to someone? Carrying this information around with you is a bad idea. If the wrong person gets ahold of your social security number, you could end up with loans opened up in your name and new credit card accounts.

Passwords

It seems every website we visit now requires a password. How are we ever supposed to keep up with them all? It’s a great idea to have a cheat sheet where all your passwords are kept, but do not be tempted to keep this information in your wallet. Instead, keep your notes at your desk, locked in your phone, or filed away somewhere at home with other sensitive information.

Credit Cards

Many of us are way past the point of having a credit card just for “emergencies.”  It’s hard to check out at any retail store without being asked if we’d like to “save 10% by opening up a store credit card.” No matter how many cards you have, it’s wise not to carry all of them in your wallet at once. Think about it: if your wallet is stolen or lost, would you want someone to have access to every account you have? Instead, keep one card with you for those emergencies and leave the others at home in a safe place – unless you are specifically going to that particular store. This can also keep you from making spur of the moment purchases you’ll likely regret.

Receipts

Once you get home from a store after making a purchase, decide right then if you need to hold on to the receipt. Is there a chance you’re going to return the item? If not, then toss the receipt right away. If it is a larger purchase or some type of home technology, you may want to keep the receipt until after the purchase shows on your next credit card statement, to ensure you were charged the correct amount and that the item functions properly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

How to Eliminate Debt Using the Snowball Method

The snowball method is a simple debt elimination strategy that can be employed by anyone of any income level to quickly pay off debt.

Begin by making a chart of all outstanding debt and list your monthly payment.

Then, organize your debt in order of highest monthly payment to lowest monthly payment.

Each month, pay the minimum payment on all debt except the lowest.

For the lowest debt, pay the minimum plus any extra you can. Ideally, pay double (or more if possible) to quickly pay off this loan.

After the lowest debt is paid off, roll what you were paying on it into the next lowest debt. It will be the next loan you pay off.

This accumulation method, like a snowball effect, works because it’s clear and concise.

By tackling the smallest debt first, it’s easier not to be overwhelmed. Once it’s paid off, you’ll feel more empowered to tackle debt after debt till there’s none left!

Article Source: Jennifer Reynolds for CUInsight.com

3 Tips When You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

If you’re currently living paycheck to paycheck, when payday hits you think you have all the money in the world. But then, after bills are paid and groceries are bought, there is probably very little money for anything extra. Keep in mind, that even though it may seem stressful, if you follow these tips and save, you can make it work!

Trim the fat.

Take a closer look at things you pay for that you don’t actually NEED. For example, maybe you have over 200 television channels in addition to Netflix. Why would you pay for an abundance of channels you do not actually ever watch? If you cut your package down to the bare minimum; keeping only the basic channels it may lower your monthly bill by close to $100.

Cut those coupons.

Unfortunately going grocery shopping is not what it used to be. It is next to impossible to leave the store without spending at least $100. Therefore, it is important you do everything you can to cut food costs. One way to do this is to use every coupon you can. You don’t have to be an extreme coupon-cutter to take advantage of the savings because every little bit helps. Think about it- if you find a coupon for 75 cents off a bar of soap and you don’t use it, isn’t that like throwing money away?

Come up with a game plan.

When you get paid, do you sit down and make an actual budget? This is something many people struggle with – but when you actually do it, it does make a difference. Give yourself an allowance for the “extras,” even if it’s $15-$20. It takes willpower, but it’s important to not get ahead of yourself if you’re short on cash. The feeling of having less of a financial burden and therefore less stress will be worth it in the end, even if you have to pass on the occasional happy-hour or dinner out with friends.

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

 

3 Bad Habits to Break if You Want More Money in the Bank

Even if you’re doing a good job of saving money, you probably didn’t start as early as you wish you had. If you’re still overspending your budget, there are probably some bad habits you need to break. Here are a few things you should stop doing to save more money.

Waiting for a bigger paycheck before you start investing.

We’ve all probably thought about the things we would be able to do if we made more money. Some of these things make sense, but others are just plain wrong. Investing in your future is something you should never put on hold. Thanks to compound interest, you have a great way to prepare for retirement, and the earlier you start – the better.

Questions about retirement savings or 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 732.312.1564, email samantha.schertz@cunamutual.com or stop in to see us!*

Not paying attention to spending habits.

If you don’t know where your money is going, you definitely have a spending problem. You should keep track of every dime you spend, so you can find out ways to cut back on unnecessary items and save.

Dipping into savings.

Whether it’s a retirement account or an emergency fund, leave it alone. If you take money from your IRA, you’ll suffer penalties and taxes and it’ll damage the progress you’ve made with your compound interest. If you take from your emergency fund, you’ll be hurting when that emergency arises. Keep this in mind before you spend all that you’ve put away.

*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: John Pettit for CUInsight.com