Getting Married

marriedMarriage is the coming together of two lives and two separate financial histories and situations. And while your financial history may continue to influence your finances now, you’ll also be contending with a lifetime of new money-related experiences and decisions together. The key to success is preparing yourself and your spouse to handle the unexpected, while also learning to communicate with each other about financial matters.

Talking About Finances Financial problems are a factor contributing to many divorces. So how do you keep marital finances from putting a strain on your relationship? First, get to know each other’s financial histories, strengths, goals and challenges. Discuss your experiences with money, saving and credit. Ask about your partner’s financial history and what he or she expects when it comes to marital finances and financial planning.

Financial Planning Before you tie the knot, it can be useful to meet with a CFS Financial Advisor at NASA Federal Credit Union Investment. He or she can help you develop financial goals as a couple and create a shared budget. This is also an excellent way to ensure you are in agreement about important financial topics. Set an appointment to meet with one today.

Planning an Affordable Wedding With the average American wedding costing $30,000, the event runs the risk of saddling couples with relationship-crippling debt for years to come. Here are a few tips for planning a memorable yet affordable wedding:

  • Develop a budget, prioritizing the parts of the wedding that are most important to you and your spouse-to-be; then cut back on expenses in other areas.
  • Limit the guest list to close friends and family.
  • Hold your ceremony and reception in one location – it will cut travel time for vendors you pay by the hour.
  • When shopping for wedding attire, be sure to check outlet stores.
  • If there is a photographer you love but his or her prices are not in your budget, ask them if they have an associate who may be able to photograph your wedding for less.
  • Substitute less expensive seasonal and local flowers for more expensive options, or use more greenery.
  • Order a small one or two-tiered cake for display; then supplement with a larger sheet cake served from the kitchen.
  • Consider a weekend honeymoon nearby and then have a more elaborate trip for your first anniversary.

Copyright © VISA

Jump-Start Your Savings

Retirement_Savings_Plan1You want to save money, but how do you get started? There are always bills to cover, debt to pay, and time is tight. Though these are all real obstacles, they are ones that can and should be overcome. The current personal savings rate in America is in the four percent range—far short of the ten percent most money management professionals recommend to achieve financial security.

Saving money doesn’t happen without taking action. To get you into the swing of things, first recognize the importance of setting aside some cash each month or paycheck. After all, how many times have you wished there was some forgotten account you could tap into to pay for a new set of tires or to do something fun? Without savings, you have to do without—or worse, put it on the credit card. Thankfully, there are many painless and surefire ways to begin a cash-stashing routine.

  • Develop a detailed budget to determine how much you are capable of saving each month. Begin with whatever you can afford, even if it’s only a few dollars.
  • Set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings accounts, or use payroll deductions right from your paycheck. What you don’t see you don’t miss.
  • Save all or a portion of each raise you receive.
  • Deposit bonuses, income tax refunds, and monetary gifts from birthdays, holidays, or other special occasions into savings.
  • Put yourself on a short-term austerity program. Commit to buying only what you absolutely need and put the difference into savings.
  • Save all of your loose change. A quarter here and a dime there add up fast.
  • Once you’ve paid off your car or other installment obligation, put the same amount in savings.
  • Save even if you have debt. You’ll have funds available for emergencies, kick the habit of borrowing, and establish a positive routine.

Once you have a savings plan in place, monitor it regularly. Watching your nest egg grow is thrilling. Take pride in what you have achieved. And don’t panic or give up if you experience a setback—read just your budget and try to make it up next month or in future installments.

 

Copyright ©2005 Balance

Raising Money-Smart Kids

smart money kid

Every year, American children receive over $15 billion in allowance, gifts and wages—reason enough to start teaching children money management and consumer skills at a young age. The following tips can make the difference between a child who grows up to be financially secure—and one who isn’t.

Teach by example: The best way to instill good financial habits is by “walking the talk.” For instance, when you go shopping, include your kids in the process—planning, budgeting, and comparing prices and quality. If they urge you to buy something that is over budget, explain that spending more on the item you’re purchasing today is not as important as saving up for something else you need or want in the future.

Live within your means: Children who learn to prioritize their spending learn the most valuable money management lesson: to live within their means. Reinforce the message by not jumping for the credit cards or giving extra money just because your children ask. When kids want an expensive “status” item, like hundred-dollar athletic shoes, consider having them pay the portion of the price that exceeds what you think is reasonable. They’ll appreciate the item more and may think twice about paying that much when they outgrow this pair in six months. If you choose, go ahead and lend money, but treat it like a bank loan. Charge reasonable interest and set a time frame for repayment—it will teach them how loans and credit in the real world truly work.

Encourage savings: For your sake and theirs, encourage your children to make saving a fixed category in their spending plan. Discuss goals and calculate how much should be put away each month. Break down savings into long-term, for college or a car, and short-term, for a new bike or a senior trip to Europe. If you see your children about to make a mistake in spending their allowance, let them. Better to learn on a small scale now, than lose money with big mistakes later. It’s never too early (or too late) to develop healthy financial habits. The rewards of wise money management are the same for adults and children alike—a greater appreciation of what you have, a sense of empowerment when you reach your goals, and long-term financial security.

 

Copyright ©2005 Balance

Chip Cards Being Issued Makes It a Good Time to Review PIN Security

Credit Card With Gold ChipAfter all of the point-of-sale (POS) system breaches last year like at Home Depot, Bebe, and Chick-fil-A, card issuers are beginning to send out new cards with chip technology. Not only does it help prevent fraud resulting from data breaches, but for the avid travelers out there, it is widely accepted worldwide and in some cases, the only type of card that can be accepted at some merchants.

The chip also adds an extra layer of security to a payment card. It has a microchip embedded that contains encrypted information about the card and therefore, very difficult to counterfeit. Cardholders are required to also employ two factor authentication by entering a Personal Identification Number (PIN) for all transactions using a chip card, even credit card transactions.

The magnetic strip will not disappear from the new cards to ensure they can still be widely used. Most payment terminals will begin to accept both types of cards in the very near future, if they don’t already.

So, as these cards are being issued, it’s a great time to review PIN security.  Following are a few tips to creating a secure PIN and keeping it safe:

  • Choose a PIN that isn’t related to a birthday or a word that is easily associated with you or appears in your wallet or purse.
  • Memorize the PIN. Don’t share it with anyone and it’s especially important not to write it on the card.
  • Keep the card in a safe place at all times with the same care you take with cash.
  • Use as many characters as the issuer allows or that make sense and you can remember.  Keep in mind if you travel worldwide, that many ATMs outside the U.S. only allow four characters and don’t put letters on the keypads. This makes it more important to choose the PIN wisely and not use characters easily attributed to you. Consider changing it before the trip to four digits and changing it back when you return home.
  • Protect your PIN by covering your hand when you enter it into a payment terminal and even at the ATM.
  • Change your PIN at least every six months.

Remember that financial institutions will not send you a link to click and enter a PIN or other private information. If you need to change your PIN or any other account information, you should initiate a phone call or log in to your account directly and make modifications that way.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

 

Tools to Overcome Overspending

shopper laden with bagsIf you’ve been bitten by the shopping bug, you know that even one quick trip to the mall can wreak havoc on your wallet. But take heart! There are many techniques to help even the most entrenched spender transform negative habits into positive behavior.

  • Avoid the Hot Spots. If you know you can’t go into a store or mall without exiting with an armload of unnecessary objects, don’t go in.
  • Use Lay-away, or a store’s “hold” policy. In other words, give yourself time to think before you buy.
  • Write a shopping list. Nothing ruins splurging like a little forethought. Make a list of what you need before you leave the house. Buy only what’s on the list.
  • Splurge … but economically and consciously. The pleasure of saying “yes” to the urge to splurge is the same, whether you’re at the Salvation Army or Saks Fifth Avenue, and the morning after is a lot less painful.
  • Count your money. Know how much you’re earning and spending. Each dollar represents a portion of your life – you traded your energy for it. Where is it going? Are you getting fulfillment for each dollar spent? Are you spending your energy (money) in ways that support your values?
  • Phone a friend. If you’re on the verge of splurging, phoning a friend is a good way to purge the urge.

Now you don’t have to wonder why it is so easy for spending to get out of hand. The reasons are many. But by understanding all these factors and working against them, you – not outside forces – can make conscious and sound shopping decisions.

©Copyright 2013 Balance

Dealing with Medical Debt

Med billsUnfortunately, when you get sick or injured, getting better is often not the only concern. Even if you have health insurance, hefty medical bills can hang over your head like an ominous raincloud. Many people feel that they have no choice but to ignore the bills or file for bankruptcy. However, these are not the only options. There are many ways you can make paying your medical bills more manageable.

Check the bills Often people are so shocked over how much they owe when they first open their bills that they forget to look at them in detail. However, since medical bills are frequently inflated, looking over them carefully could save you money. Maybe you were billed for a four-day stay in the hospital when you only stayed two or charged twice for the same medication. If you see that you were billed for something you should not have been, contact the medical provider to have the charge removed.

If you have health insurance, it is also a good idea to make sure your insurance company paid for everything they should have. If an insurance company denies a claim, the medical provider will just bill you, even if the treatment is covered under your plan. How easy is it to get an insurance company to pay a denied claim? If it was merely a clerical error, it should be simple. If you are dealing with a stereotypical penny-pinching insurance company trying to wiggle out of paying something they should, it could be harder but not impossible. Most insurance companies allow you to appeal decisions, and if you submit evidence to support why the treatment should be covered, like a letter from your doctor, you may be able to have the denial overturned.

shocked-face-with-gaping-mouthAsk for a repayment plan Even after billing errors are corrected, the amount you owe may seem frighteningly large. However, there is no need to panic if you cannot pay a bill in full. Most medical providers will allow you to make smaller payments until the bill is paid off and, in many cases, won’t even charge interest. Think about how much you can afford to send each month, and let the medical provider know.

If the medical provider does not accept your proposal, should you not send any money? Not necessarily. Few people will actually refuse money, regardless of how small the amount is. That does not mean you are immune from being sued or having the account be sold to a collection agency, but all you can do is send what you can afford to pay. Not paying your mortgage or other important expenses to get more cash for your medical bills is usually not a good idea.

Look for assistance If you have medical bills from a hospital, you are probably well aware of how high hospital bills can be. Luckily, many hospitals get government funds and donations to cover the bills for patients who cannot pay them themselves. (Other types of medical providers typically do not get such funds but may give you a discount if you describe your hardship.) Talk to your hospital’s billing department or financial counselor about what programs they have. Remember to find out what the application procedure and qualifications are – often assistance programs are restricted to people who owe above a certain amount, have income below a certain limit, and/or have no medical insurance. Even if you ultimately do not qualify, it does not hurt to ask.

talking-to-your-doctorHospitals are not the only places where you can get financial assistance with your medical debt – many non-profits provide the same the service. Like with hospitals, non-profit programs are often restricted to limited income and/or uninsured individuals. To find out what programs are available in your area, contact your local United Way or dial 211 (an information referral service available in most communities).You may also be able to get information from relevant disease support groups.

Create a plan for the future While your current concern may be the bills you need to pay now, chances are, you will have more medical bills to pay in the future. Getting sick is just a part of life. However, if you start saving today, it will be easier to pay whatever bills come your way tomorrow. While you can put your savings in a savings account, you may also want to make use of one of the tax-advantaged accounts available for medical expenses.

If your employer offers it, one option is to set up a flexible spending account. At the beginning of the enrollment period (which if often, but not always, January 1), you tell you employer how much you want withheld from each paycheck and sent to your account. You typically must pay for the costs out of pocket first and then get reimbursed after submitting a claim form. While the money sent to a flexible spending account is not taxed, there is one drawback: you lose any money that is not spent by the end of the year. Thus, you should not contribute more to a flexible spending account than you reasonably expect to spend.

Another option is a health savings account. Like with a flexible spending account, the money contributed to a health savings account is not taxed. However, you do not lose the money that is left over in the account at the end of the year. So, why would anyone choose a flexible spending account over a health savings account? Health savings accounts are not available to everyone – in order to qualify, you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan (a plan with higher deductibles and lower premiums than traditional plans). If you have a traditional plan, you are out of luck.

Medical bills can linger long after an injury or illness has been treated. While the amounts owed can seem unbelievably large, remember, there are many things you can do ease the pain of bill paying.

 

Resources

Patient Advocate Foundation 1-800-532-5274 www.patientadvocate.org Provides information to patients experiencing problems with their insurance company or employer. Also offers a co-payment assistance program.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance 1-888-477-2669 www.pparx.org Provides information on programs that offer financial assistance with prescription costs.

HealthWell Foundation 1-800-675-8416 www.healthwellfoundation.org Provides grants that can be used to pay for prescriptions, co-pays, deductibles, and insurance premiums. Available to patients with a variety of illnesses.

CancerCare 1-800-813-4673 www.cancercare.org Offers financial assistance programs to help cover the costs of cancer treatment and co-pays. Heart Support of America 1-888-430-9809 www.heartsupportofamerica.org Offers financial aid to patients with heart disease.

©Copyright 2008 Balance