Category Archives: Tip of the Month

7 Ways to Save for a Home Down Payment

So you want to save for a down payment for your dream house, but you aren’t sure how to get there. It might even feel overwhelming. But take heart, here are some tried and true methods that you can start today that will help you save sooner than you think.

Save a Fixed Amount Monthly

This is super easy, but first you need to figure out how much of a down payment you want to make. Remember, the higher your down payment, the lower your loan and monthly mortgage payment will be. With that said, put this amount on auto draft and deposit it into your savings account. Once you get used to this, you won’t miss it. Never use this savings for any other purpose except your down payment. Keep your eyes on the prize and stay the course.

Lower Your Expenses

If you don’t have a budget, make one. Review how much you’re spending on necessary items like rent, utilities and food. Also look at how much you’re spending on discretionary things, like going out to eat, subscriptions to magazines, driving instead of walking, etc. You might also evaluate how much those short-term indulgences mean to you. Only you can decide, but if you stick to a budget and start saving, the dream of a down payment can become a reality.

Skip Vacations For a Year

This one might be hard to swallow. However, if you save the money you’d otherwise spend on your vacation, you can make a significant contribution toward your down payment. If skipping a vacation is out of the question, try a staycation; or at least drive or take a bus or train to someplace near you that won’t cost an arm and a leg, like a natural park, an area lake or even, if you’re lucky enough to live near one, a beach. With every decision you make to delay gratification and focus on your long-term goal of home ownership, you’ll be more likely to stay on track.

Reduce Your High Interest Rate Debt

Credit card interest rates can really eat into the amount of money you are trying to save. If you can pay them off, do so – and start with the one that’s the highest. When you’ve paid it off, close the account and move on to the next one. You can also apply for a card with a temporary 0% interest rate (for maybe 15 months) and transfer your other balances to this one card. Good options include Bank of America’s Unlimited Cash Rewards credit card, Discover it Balance Transfer and Citi Double Cash Card.

Borrow From Your Retirement Plan

If you want to expedite getting into a house and are comfortable doing this, the look for penalty-free withdrawals from your retirement plan. Many company-sponsored 401(k) or profit-sharing plans allow you to borrow against your nest egg to purchase a home. Just ask your HR or payroll department.

Sell Some of Your Investments

While this option might not be instantly appealing, think of this as a way to move some of your current investments into another – your house. Once you’ve moved in and are paying your mortgage, you’ll be building equity. As your house increases in value, so does your investment.

Look Into Down Payment Assistance

Yes, this is a thing! There are organizations that might be able to help you, like the Federal Housing Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service and the Veterans Administration. Another source is your local housing authority.

These are a few options to help you move toward a down payment. But no matter what you choose, don’t wait. Get started today. This way, you’ll be packing up and moving in no time.

Sources

https://www.bbt.com/education-center/articles/top-10-ways-to-save-down-payment.html

https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/balance-transfer?gclid=Cj0KCQjwtMCKBhDAARIsAG-2Eu8NmKerM3dO4cPjC0KvMCj_S3HPjJ_r4ge6MV50wWiQf51VLK4HOwUaAncZEALw_wcB

How to Catch Up on Your Retirement

How to Catch Up on Your RetirementIf you’re 40 or 50 and aren’t where you’d like to be in terms of saving for retirement, don’t despair. You can remedy this situation. And since people are living well into their 80s and 90s, it’s never too late to start. Here are a few things you can do.

Max Out Your 401(k)

This could be a game-changer. Stuart Ritter, a certified financial planner with T. Rowe Price, recommends that you save at least 15 percent of your income for retirement, including the amount your employer matches. If your company is contributing 3 percent, then you should save 12 percent. If you can’t go this high, then increase the amount by 2 percent each year. So, if you’re saving 3 percent this year, bump it up to 5 percent, then 7 percent, and so on. If you’re under 50, try to hit the $19,500 limit. After you turn 50, you can increase your annual savings to $6,500 on top of this $19,500 limit. Note: You have to be 59 ½ to withdraw money without any penalties. However, the early withdrawal penalty doesn’t apply if you’re 55 or older in the year you leave your employer. All this to say that the sooner you start doing this, the more you will save and the more you’ll have down the road.

Contribute to a Roth IRA

With this product, you can grow your money on a tax-deferred basis. For instance, if you’re 40 and invest $6,000 each year at an 8 percent return, then by the time you’re 65 you’ll have more than $473,726. Even if you wait until you’re 50 and save 6k a year, using the same rate of return, you’ll save as much as $175,946 by the time you’re 65. However, there are some income limitations. If you’re single and your modified adjusted gross income is more than $125,000, your contribution limit is reduced. If you’re single and make over $140k, you can’t contribute. Michelle Buonincontri, a certified financial planner, says that the beauty of Roth IRAs are that they allow for tax-free compounding. Further, when withdrawal rules are followed, the withdrawals, including the earnings, will be tax-free. And when you’re in the withdrawal phase, it can minimize taxable income, which can add up and help your money last longer during retirement.

Take Advantage of Your Deductions

Not everyone takes standard deductions. That’s why if you have a significant amount of mortgage interest, deductible taxes, charitable donations, and business-related expenses that your employer doesn’t reimburse you for, you’ll most likely want to itemize your deductions. Talk to your CPA and figure out whether this is a good plan for you. Then start saving your receipts and keeping good records. As you get closer to retirement and if money is tight, remember: it’s not what you make, but what you save that makes the difference.

Don’t Forget About Home Equity

While home equity probably shouldn’t be used as your main source of income when you’re retired, it’s a viable solution. Retirees might consider borrowing against it to fund living expenses. In fact, you can use a home equity line (HELOC) to draw from when needed. Other options include selling, downsizing, and either living off the equity or investing it. But before you sell, you should consider tax consequences. Married homeowners who file a joint tax return can make up to $500k without owing taxes on capital gains. If you’re single, the cap is $250,000.

Get Disability Coverage

The reason for this is simple: to protect yourself and at least a portion of your income and retirement savings in a worst-case scenario. It is always a good idea to have a contingency plan.

Consider Your Cash Value Policies

This is a last resort, but again, a good option, especially if the original need for your insurance policy is no longer there. However, before you do anything or access its cash value, consult your tax advisor or insurance professional first.

No matter what your situation is, you can save for your future. All you have to do is begin now and take it one day at a time.

Sources

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/retirement/08/catch-up.asp

https://www.kiplinger.com/retirement/retirement-planning/602191/401k-contribution-limits-for-2021

https://money.usnews.com/money/retirement/401ks/articles/how-to-take-advantage-of-401-k-catch-up-contributions#:~:text=The%20401(k)%20Catch%2DUp%20Contribution%20Limit%20for%202021&text=Once%20you%20turn%2050%2C%20you,temporarily%20shield%20from%20income%20tax

5 Tips for Job Seekers Over 50

Job Seekers Over 50You’ve got loads of experience in your field. You know things that only time can teach you. However, all of your experience and knowledge can sometimes work against you. And even though age discrimination is illegal, it doesn’t mean it isn’t prevalent. You can’t turn back the clock, but you can reshape how you present yourself. Here are a few good ways to get started.

Learn New Skills

If you see a job posting in your industry that requires knowledge of the software you don’t know, hop on YouTube or enroll in an online class. Certifications help, too, and are available in some of the most in-demand programs, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Systems Applications and Products (SAP), Hootsuite (used for social media), and Salesforce. This way, you’re demonstrating to employers that you have the necessary qualifications for the job – you’re a viable candidate – and you haven’t fallen behind over the years.

Rethink Your Resume

First of all, limit your experience to the past 15 years, unless there’s a job that reflects a title or skill that’s relevant to the position. You don’t want to appear, upon first glance, overqualified. Second, make sure your CV includes the right keywords. The days of HR managers poring over resumes is mostly gone; they often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to weed out the candidates that are filling up their inbox at warp speed. Finally, if you’re using AOL or Hotmail, get a new account; this is a red flag that screams too old. Sign up for Gmail instead.

Widen Your Net

Think outside your industry’s box. For instance, you might be attracted to a big-name corporation or a hot startup, but it might not be the right environment for you, especially if there’s a chance you’d report to a much younger manager. You might find a better fit by going outside your comfort zone. Colleges and universities might be good options; you can leverage your experience by teaching. Smaller companies or startups that aren’t as well known might also be good places to look; you could take on multiple roles. Being open to contract or freelance jobs is another good idea. Getting your foot in the door is half the battle.

Use Personal Connections

While job sites like Zip Recruiter and LinkedIn, leads on social media and head hunters are places you might have found opportunities before, reach out to friends and former coworkers. It creates immediate familiarity and, when faced with a sea of resumes, helps move your name closer to the top. When you do get introduced to someone who has an opening, ask about their industry, role in the company, as well as what tools they’ve used, podcasts they listen to, or online classes they’ve taken to keep current. This not only shows your business savvy but also could help keep you top-of-mind if they hear of anything.

Own Your Experience

Your age doesn’t have to be the elephant in the room. Demonstrate why the invaluable skills you’ve accumulated over the years differentiate you from others. Craft an elevator pitch and jump right in. Talk about how, for instance, your breadth and depth of knowledge can help junior executives learn and grow. Busy employers generally want to know how quickly you meet the job requirements and if you can make their life easier, or help them shine.

Remember, you have so much to bring to the table. That’s why serving up your accolades in the right way can make all the difference in the world.

Sources

https://www.themuse.com/advice/jobhunting-after-50-the-new-rules

5 Tips for Going Back to the Office

Slowly, our world is changing. A percentage of the population has been vaccinated and many employees are headed back to the office. However, this may cause a bit of anxiety – and understandably so. Here are few ways to help take the edge off of returning to the workplace.

Wake up Earlier

For some of you, working from home might have caused you to shift your office hours. Maybe you’re starting later and staying up later. Whatever your routine, it’s safe to say that generally, office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A few days, perhaps a week, before you expect to go back, set your alarm earlier. Each day, baby step it back a few minutes to the time you roused yourself before the shutdown began. Though things might never be the same, at least your re-entry into the work world might feel somewhat familiar.

Prepare the Night Before Your First Day

Along with starting your day earlier, think through everything you need to take with you. Do you drink coffee? Make sure you have a thermos with a hot cup of joe ready to go. Do you eat lunch at work? Make your lunch the night before; or if you prefer microwavable meals, be sure you’ve got all your favs ready to pop into your work bag. Ensuring that you will have sustenance at whatever time you lunch will save you a lot of worry.

Review Your Workplace Protocols

Here we’re talking about rules to keep you safe. Do you need a mask if you’ve been vaccinated? What if you haven’t been vaccinated? Do you need to always wear a mask? Will there be hand sanitizer onsite or do you need to bring your own? Email HR or leadership to be fully aware of the policy so you can keep up-to-date with any changes. Staying informed will help calm your nerves.

Manage Your Stress

Make sure you’re being mindful of how you’re feeling emotionally before, during, and after you return to work. If you’re dealing with anxiety when you’re back at work, practice self-care. Take a walk outside during lunch to get some fresh air. If you like to exercise and your gym is open, plan a quick workout. If for some reason you can’t leave the office, try meditation apps like Calm, Headspace or Simple Habit. (These are also great when you get home and before you go to bed – anytime, actually.) You might also call a friend or family member and share how you’re feeling. Letting off some steam and expressing yourself helps alleviate some of the pressure that might be building up.

Communicate with Your Team

Making the transition back to the office can be challenging, if not downright tough. To diffuse any misunderstandings, practice transparency with everyone, no matter what their position. If you’re a manager, lay out your expectations so that everyone is on the same page. If you’re an individual contributor, make sure your manager and peers know what you’re working on, your hours, and any out-of-the-office days you have coming up. Many companies are asking employees, initially, to split their time between the office and home, which means that for some a full transition back to the office is yet to come. Regardless, overcommunicating will ensure you don’t miss out on anything important.

We may never return to the days before the pandemic. However, we’re making strides to get back to a place of normalcy and are here to guide you every step of the way.

Sources

Returning To Work In The Office? 5 Tips To Prepare For The Transition

6 Ways to Make Saving Money Fun

6 Ways to Make Saving Money FunLet’s face it. Saving money is a challenge at best – and really hard the rest of the time. But what if you made it a fun game to inspire yourself to save? Here are a few ways to do just that.

Keep the Change Challenge

Anytime you receive or find loose change in your pockets or house, put it in a jar. Don’t touch it for a year, and then see how much you save. But here’s a great plus-up for this habit: download a money-saving app like Acorns and watch your savings grow. Anytime you buy something, Acorns will round up the total and deposit the difference into a diversified investment portfolio. Talk about easy.

Weather Wednesday Challenge

This is great idea. Every Wednesday,look up the highest temperature in your state and deposit the amount into your savings account. For example, if it’s 100 degrees, deposit $100. If it’s 32 degrees, deposit $32. You’ll probably save more during the summer than the winter, but after 52 weeks, you could’ve socked away several thousand dollars. Pretty sweet.

Kick-a-Bad-Habit Challenge

Do you go to Starbucks every day for your Double Chocolatey Chip Crème Frappuccino with extra whip? How about guzzling those sodas every day? Are you a smoker? Whatever it is that you’d like to cut down on or even stop, this challenge has two great benefits: you’ll not only get healthier, but you will also save money.

The No-Spend Challenge

Start with a weekend (or even a week) and make a vow not to spend any money on anything except bills or other necessities. The idea is to save money by not spending it. It might cause you to be more creative. For instance, do you really need a new dress for that special occasion? Dig a little deeper into your closet instead of buying a new frock. Or maybe you decide to drive less and not put gas in the tank. This way, you’ll either bike or walk to your destination (if doable) and do more fun things at home.

The Pantry Challenge

Look inside your refrigerator and pantry. How much food do you have that you haven’t eaten? What about that spaghetti sauce or sesame oil? As long as the food isn’t expired, it’s your chance to get creative and whip up a new dish or revive an old favorite. This challenge is related to the “No-Spend Challenge,” and again, the intention is to save money by not spending it.

The 365-Day Nickel Challenge

Nickels are currency, too! But seriously, if you can remember to do this (set a timer on your phone), you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Here’s how it works: On day one, deposit 5 cents into a jar. The next day, 10 cents. The next day, 15 cents. And so on. By day 365, the total deposit will be $18.40. At the end of the year, you’ll have saved a whopping $3,339.75. Not bad, huh?

While saving money might feel restrictive, you’re actually planning ahead to be very happy. When you’ve been able to stick to a habit, or in some cases give one up, you’ll see that anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. And that’s a great feeling.

Sources

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/saving-and-budgeting/articles/money-saving-challenges

7 Ways to Save 10K a Year

If you’re scratching your head and wondering if we’ve lost our minds, please keep reading. You can do this. All you need to do is plan your steps – and stick to it. After all, Confucius says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So let’s get moving.

Save Before You Spend

This might well be the opposite of what you do: you get your weekly or monthly paycheck, determine what expenses are ahead, then dedicate what’s left to savings. To save $10,000, the first thing to do is put away the money you’ve designated to reach your goal first (50 percent? 25 percent?), then live off the amount that’s left. Yes, it’s backwards, but in the end it’s the way forward to realize your 10k dream.

Set Up a High-Interest Savings Account

So that cash you’ve set aside? Deposit it into a savings account that will make your money grow. Several good options are Vio Bank (APY: 0.57 percent), Comenity Direct (APY: 0.55 percent), and Ally Bank (APY: 0.5 percent). This could mean the difference of hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars of interest over time.

Baby Step Your Way There

Break your goal into small chunks. Let’s say your monthly savings goal to get to 10k is $500 a month. If that’s too overwhelming, break it into two $250 chunks. If that’s too much, $125 a week, and so on. You can even parse out per day: $500 divided by 30 days in a month = $16. You can do this!

Start a Side Hustle

If you find you can’t make the amount you want to save each month and you aren’t able to tailor your expenses to fit your goal, start a side gig. For instance, if you’re able-bodied, consider helping people move and/or helping them assemble furniture. Other options include babysitting, food delivery, taking market research surveys, running errands and more. TaskRabbit is a great resource to find all kinds of ways to increase your income.

Cut Unnecessary Expenses

Look closely at your expenditures. Decide if you’re really reading that magazine and think about canceling the subscription. Pack a lunch and/or cook in for dinner. Call your internet and cell phone provider to see if they have a better deal. If you want to add an extra $1,000 to your savings each year, all you have to do is cut out $84 a month. This is doable.

Commit to a Budget

Everything that means something requires hard work and commitment. Take an afternoon, put it all down on paper, and promise to live within a dedicated financial scope. Compare your short-term gratification to your long-term financial goal. Imagine how good you’ll feel when you’ve saved $10,000. The power of visualization works.

Track Your Progress

If you’re feeling overwhelmed along the way, it pays to go back and see how far you’ve come – and we’re talking literally see it. Make your milestones visible. Hang a chart in your kitchen and color it in when you make a deposit. Or if you’re more analytical, create a spreadsheet, but keep it on your desktop. Checking this every day will help keep you on point.

Saving for a goal like this can be fun and even exciting. All you have to do is be mindful, make a conscious decision to follow your plan, and your 10k dream will be realized before your know it.

Sources

How To Save $10,000 In A Year (10 Simple Tips)

https://www.bankrate.com/banking/savings/rates/

3 Best Ways to Save for College

Save for CollegeWhat if you could save enough for your child to go to college debt-free? It might sound impossible, but with dedication, hard work, and careful planning, you can do just that. According to Dave Ramsey, American personal finance advisor, here are the top three tax-favored plans to get started.

The Education Savings Account (ESA)

Otherwise known as the Education IRA, this plan allows you to save $2,000 (after tax) per year, per child. Let’s do that math. If you begin saving when your child is born and put away $2,000 a year until they’re 18, you’ll be investing $36,000. Not too shabby. And the good news is that qualified distributions are tax-free, which means you won’t have to pay anything when you withdraw the funds to pay for college. The other upside is, depending on the rate of growth, you’ll earn more than you would in a regular savings account. However, there are some caveats. You can’t contribute if you make more than $110,000 (single) or $220,000 (married filing jointly); the contribution cap is $2,000 a year; and the money must be used by the time your child is 30.

The 529 Plan

If you want to save more for your child’s education or you don’t qualify for the income limits of the ESA, then this might be a better fit because you can contribute up to $300,000, depending on what state you live in. Ramsey recommends you look for a 529 Plan that allows you to choose your investment funds. Also, he says most of the time there aren’t any income restrictions based on your child’s age; however, there are some limits, so choose wisely. This plan also grows tax-free. One thing to note: restrictions may apply if you want to transfer your funds to another child.

The UTMA or UGMA (Uniform Transfer/Gift to Minors Act)

One of the best things about these plans is they’re not just designed to save for education. For example, if your kiddo wants to take a gap year, this can cover living expenses. The account is set up in your child’s name but it’s controlled by a custodian (usually a parent or grandparent). The custodian manages the account until the child is 21 (18 for the UGMA). One of the pluses of this plan is that since the account is owned by the child, the earnings are usually taxed at the child’s rate, which is generally lower than that of the parents. For some people, the savings can be significant. However, there are two important things to know: (1) once your child is of legal age, she can use the funds however she likes (a trip to Europe, a sports car…or college?) and, (2) the beneficiary can’t be changed after selected.

While setting up a college fund is a smart goal, it’s not the only one. Prior to starting down these paths, Ramsey recommends that you consider paying off your mortgage, credit cards, and your own student loans. He also suggests setting up an emergency fund of three to six months and allocating 15 percent of your salary to retirement through a 401(k) and/or a Roth IRA. For more help, he recommends both parents and children read “Debt-Free Degree.” This book walks you through how to go to college without student loans.

Saving for an education might feel completely overwhelming, but if you start early enough, do your homework and create a solid plan, it’s absolutely possible.

Sources

https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/saving-for-college-is-easier-than-you-think

https://www.troweprice.com/personal-investing/accounts/general-investing/ugma-utma.html#:~:text=Because%20money%20placed%20in%20an,this%20savings%20can%20be%20significant.&text=Up%20to%20%241%2C050%20in%20earnings%20tax%2Dfree.&text=Any%20earnings%20over%20%242%2C100%20are%20taxed%20at%20the%20parent’s%20rate

5 Cities Rank as Ideal Locations for Remote Workers

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, in late spring of 2020 about half of American workers were working from home. Not surprisingly, many researchers believe that this pattern will continue after the pandemic is over. With this in mind, SmartAsset has examined the best cities to work from home in 2021 and evaluated them across seven metrics: percentage of those who worked at home; estimated percentage of those who can work at home; five-year change of percentage of those who worked at home; October 2020 unemployment rate; poverty rate; housing costs as a percentage of earnings; and percentage of residences with two or more bedrooms. Here’s what they learned:

  1. Scottsdale, Arizona. In 2019, Census Bureau data shows that about 18 percent of people worked from home, a 6.7 percent increase from 2014. This sunny city also has the fourth-highest estimated percentage of workforce who can work from home and the third-lowest 2019 poverty rate, which is 6 percent. When you’re not inside at your computer, you can enjoy the desert tranquility of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, restaurants and shops of Old Town Scottsdale, and the largest model train display in North America at McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park.
  2. Raleigh, North Carolina. Even before COVID-19, a large percentage of people worked from home here, much like Scottsdale. In 2019, 10.5 percent of the workforce did so remotely, which is the fourth-highest for this metric. Raleigh also ranks in the top quartile for two other metrics: it has the 18th-lowest October 2020 unemployment rate (5.3 percent) and 21st-lowest poverty rate (10.9 percent). Raleigh is known as the “city of oaks,” which makes it a beautiful place to live. Even better, you can celebrate all four seasons and it’s only a few hours from the mountains. Plus, homes are some of the most affordable in the nation.
  3. Plano, Texas. Just north of Dallas, Plano ranks in the top 10 percent for three metrics: percentage of people who worked from home in 2019 (9.6 percent), estimated percentage of people who are able to work from home (35.44 percent) and 2019 poverty rate (7.5 percent). Also, Plano has the 14th-lowest October 2020 unemployment rate, at 5.2 percent. Best thing about Plano: it has all the restaurants, shops and amenities of Dallas without the traffic. And, there are numerous parks for walking, hiking, biking and swimming.
  4. Gilbert, Arizona. This locale ranks as one of the best places to buy an affordable home. In fact, data from the Census Bureau shows that 96.3 percent of apartments and homes in Gilbert have two or more bedrooms, which is the highest percentage for this metric. Additionally, it has a relatively low poverty rate (4.6 percent). Main attractions include bird watching at the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, holiday shows at the Hale Centre Theatre, and delicious produce at the Gilbert Farmer’s Market.
  5. St. Petersburg, Florida. As of October 2020, the greater Pinellas County unemployment rate was just 5.2 percent. That’s 1.5 percentage points below the national average. What’s more, the percentage of people working from home grew by 4.6 percent in St. Petersburg from 2014 to 2019, the third-highest increase in the study. If you love sugar-sand beaches, you’re in luck: there are many to fall in love with. But you can also enjoy cultural outings like a visit to the Dali Museum and the Chihuly Collection.

Some of the other best cities for working remotely include Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Austin, Texas; and Fremont, California. These days, working from home is the rule, rather than the exception it was years ago. In these challenging, uncertain times, it’s nice to know there are places you can thrive.

Sources

https://smartasset.com/checking-account/best-cities-to-work-from-home-2021

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g31350-Activities-Scottsdale_Arizona.html

https://www.raleighrealtyhomes.com/blog/moving-to-raleigh.html

How to Budget During a Pandemic

February, 2021

Right now with everything that’s going on, navigating your finances might feel overwhelming. However, there are some strategies that will help you manage cash shortfalls. Mariel Beasley of Duke University’s Common Cents Lab offers ways to help you manage during these trying times.

Use Mental Accounting

Translated, this means prioritizing what’s most important and cutting back in those areas that aren’t. While pretty obvious, the finer point according to Beasley is this approach will help you stick to your spending plan by reminding you of your opportunity costs — i.e. what trade-offs you might be making with each purchase. For instance, you might not be able to buy that special something you’ve had your eye on, but you will be able to buy food. Here are the three buckets she recommends for your budget:

  1. Your Bills: Non-negotiable monthly bills like rent, mortgage, utilities, child care, car payment, insurance, phone, and internet.
  2. Weekly Expenses: These costs might vary, but they include groceries, gas, food delivery, and other miscellaneous expenses.
  3. Future Expenses: What’s leftover after you pay your bills and current expenses? Even if you think you don’t have much left, set aside this cash for an emergency fund or retirement savings in high-yield saving accounts like the American Express® High Yield, or Marcus account by Goldman Sachs. Alliant Credit Union even offers a 0.55 percent interest rate on savings accounts. By comparison, the national savings average is 0.05 percent APY. Make sure your money works as hard as it can.

Try Per-Spend vs. Per Month

Instead of budgeting $200 for groceries for the whole month, decide how many times you’ll go to the supermarket during the month (five times), then stick to a per trip budget ($40). You might not spend as much as you think you will. (Tip: Buy store brands, as they’re cheaper and just as good.) Whether you work a job that pays you regularly, you’re on unemployment or you’re living on Social Security, Beasley says that this will help you stretch your money longer between paychecks.

Think Ahead

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it bears repeating. Instead of waiting until you’re at a crisis point, act now to protect yourself. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. Identify Local Food Pantries. Feeding America is a nationwide network that helps you locate a food bank near you. Organizations such as churches and charities are also pitching in, offering everything from food donations to job search assistance. Government programs such as SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid are options, as well as HEAP (heating your home), should you need something like this.
  2. Have a Plan for Your Rent/Mortgage. If you’re concerned about eviction, understand your rights as a tenant, and most importantly, stay in communication with your landlord. One solution is to get a roommate to share expenses. If you’re running behind on your mortgage, seek out help from your mortgage broker. One way to generate income is to rent out an extra room in your home. If you have family or friends who can help, reach out to them. While the latter might feel like a last resort, you could consider bartering: provide a service to them they might usually pay for like car washes, dog walking, or house cleaning in exchange for the financial help.
  3. Talk to Your Creditors. Contact your creditors to see if you can get a reduced interest rate on any of your payments. You also might ask for discounts and deferment options. Many card issuers are offering financial hardship assistance (waived late fees, flexibility with payments, even skipped payments) during the coronavirus pandemic.

The key to all this is slowing down and focusing on the basics – getting through each week and each day. While the pandemic might feel like it will never end, it will: it’s inevitable. Until then, these tactics can help you take control and stay afloat.

Sources

https://www.cnbc.com/select/how-to-budget-during-coronavirus/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/best/banking/high-yield-online-savings-accounts

Coronavirus: Credit Card Issuers Offer Financial Assistance (cnbc.com)

Looking Ahead to 2021: Hope is Not Canceled

Despite the fresh start that a new year promises, our world hasn’t changed much since last March. We’re still living in a new normal. We’re masking up, working (and schooling) from home, and social distancing. Furthermore, scores of community events and activities have been canceled. However, there is something that’s never been canceled: it’s called hope. Here are a few things to embrace that can lift your spirits and help you navigate all the uncertainty.

Be Happy: The COVID-19 Vaccine is Here

This is incredible news. To date, there are two vaccines: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Those who receive the Pfizer-BioNTech shot will be given two injections, 21 days apart. Those who receive the Moderna shot also will be given two injections, one month (28 days) apart. Both are given in the muscle of the upper arm and can cause mild side effects. However, clinical trials for both have shown a high level of efficacy. The vaccine will be rolled out in phases. Healthcare personnel and residents of long-term care facilities will be offered the first doses. The fact that we even have a vaccine available might well be the very definition of hope.

Feel Refreshed: Take a News Break

Since most of us are isolated to some degree, it’s only natural to turn to our devices. Games and social media both have the potential to take your mind off of the pain in our world. However, if you tend to veer toward newsfeeds that feature nothing but bad news (which can be addicting), perhaps it’s time to take a break. According to Verywell.com, a constant stream of sensational or disaster reporting, whether you are exposed actively or passively, can elevate stress levels and trigger symptoms like anxiety and sleep troubles, robbing you of your well-being. So, unplug. Step away from your laptop. Give your phone to a family member, partner, or friend. Get outside and soak in some vitamin D. Re-claim that part of yourself that sees the glass half full.

Ditch the Guilt: Plan Your Cheat Meals

If you’ve been looking to food for some much-needed comfort over the past year, you’re not alone. Being at home just a few feet away from a fully stocked kitchen is tempting every minute! Perhaps some of you have banished any guilt about indulging, but for those who just can’t seem to shake it, choose your moments to indulge. Satisfy your cravings a few times a week or just on the weekends. The less you do this, the more you’ll enjoy it. And when you want to splurge, why not support a local restaurant by ordering takeout? You’ll feel better in no time.

Chill Out: Spend Time Doing Nothing

With everything that’s going on and all the responsibilities of living life and crossing things off our lists, stopping to do nothing might seem counter-intuitive; but often, it’s the best remedy for eliminating stress and restoring your sanity. Carving out time to sit with the feelings you’re experiencing – whether that’s irritation, anxiety, or sadness – can help dissipate them. Take some advice from Winnie the Pooh who said, “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something.” When you give yourself permission to let go and empty your mind, you’ll be rejuvenated and ready to begin again.

Even though the happenings of 2020 were unprecedented, the truth is you do have a new year ahead. One that can be anything you want it to be. Just grab hold of something that has always been there and will never be canceled: hope.

Sources

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html

https://stephanieyounger.com/blog/love-hope-kindness-and-community-have-not-been-canceled

https://www.verywellmind.com/is-watching-the-news-bad-for-mental-health-4802320#:~:text=A%20constant%20stream%20of%20sensational,like%20anxiety%20and%20trouble%20sleeping.

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