Americans Report They Spend an Average of $2,746 on Lunch Yearly

lunchtrackerAccording to the results of a new survey of American consumers* commissioned by Visa, intended to call consumers’ attention to opportunities to save and budget in their discretionary spending, respondents report they spend an average of $53 a week or $2,746 per year on lunch. Overall, the most popular spot to eat lunch was home – 42% of Americans said that they typically eat lunch at home. Full-time employees tended to stick close to the office – 53% said that they typically eat lunch at work, including 26% at their desks.

Visa is also introducing the free Lunch Tracker app for iOS to help consumers become more aware of their spending. The app calculates the monthly and annual amount spent on lunch based off of consumers’ input and seeks to help Americans improve spending habits. Users can take the 30-Day Challenge to start saving money, learn cost-cutting tips and share photos of meals with family and friends to show their progress.

“At home or ordering food, small choices have a big impact. Paying attention to what you are spending is essential to financial wellbeing,” said Nat Sillin, global head of financial literacy at Visa Inc. “Most people may not realize that they are spending over $50 a week on lunch. Visa is excited to offer the new Lunch Tracker app to help consumers form better spending habits.”

Visa’s survey also showed that men both outspent women at the lunch counter and were more likely to eat lunch out. Males outspend females on a weekly basis by an average of 60%. One percent of people reported spending more than $50 per lunch on average or more than $9,000 a year, while 32% respondents said that they didn’t buy lunch out at all.

“Grocery store or gastro pub, don’t bust your budget on your midday meal,” said Sillin. “Clipping a coupon or choosing a less expensive item can save you hundreds over the course of a year. Splurging isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it has to fit within your budget. Raiding your savings for a fancy lunch isn’t worth it.”

Additionally findings include:

  • For meals out, Americans surveyed reported spending an average of $20 per week or $1,043 per year.
  • Americans surveyed said they purchase lunch from a restaurant an average of nearly twice a week and spend more than $11 on average per outing compared with only $6.30 on average a day preparing their own.
  • Homemakers reported going out for lunch the least compared to other segments, but splurged more when they did go out. They reported spending an average of $17.60 when they went out for lunch.
  • Students reported eating out more often than any other segment and spent the most on a weekly average at $27.47 while retirees averaged spending the least per week at $13.92.
  • Unemployed Americans reported purchasing lunch out more than once a week on average, spending over $15 on average weekly.
  • Southerners lead the country in both frequency of lunches out and in amount spent. Respondents from the Southern states reported eating out twice per week, spending an average of $1,240 a year eating lunch out and an overall combined average of $2,953 on lunch.
  • Northeasterners reported spending the second most per year eating lunch out at $1,001 on average, trailed by the Midwest respondents at $896 on average and finally the West respondents at $866 on average per year eating out. While Northeasterners reported spending the most making lunch at home, they came in second in overall combined yearly lunch spending at $2,893 on average, once again trailed by the Midwest at $2,519 on average and the West at $2,489 on average.

The calculator and survey are part of Visa’s free, award-winning financial education program, Practical Money Skills for Life, which reaches millions of people around the world each year. Launched in 1995, the program is now available in 10 languages in more than 30 countries. At Practical Money Skills for Life, educators, parents and students can access free educational resources including personal finance articles, games, lesson plans and more.

* Survey results are based on 2,033 telephone interviews conducted nationally on July 16-19 & August 6-9, 2015, in cooperation with ORC International’s Omnibus Service “Telephone Caravan.”

Copyright© Visa

Laundry Expense Load Lighteners

laundry“It’s the little things that get you.” If you’ve gone through a budget counseling session, you have probably heard a similar phrase from a counselor. It’s wisdom born of experience. Look at enough budgets and you’ll see the enormous impact of small expenses multiplied many times over months or years. Laundry is one of those areas where it’s often possible to save big money with just a few small adjustments.


•Wash in cold water whenever possible. It takes much less energy.
•Avoid buying dry-clean only clothes.
•If it’s an option, dry your clothes on the line.
•If you replace your washer and/or dryer, get energy efficient models
•Use less detergent. You can get your clothes perfectly clean with far less detergent than is “recommended.”
•If you have a modern washer and dryer, research the energy-saving features and use them.
•If heat or airflow comes into your drier at the same place lint is captured, clean the lint trap before each load. If not, the lint build-up could be making your drying less efficient, meaning more energy used to dry your clothes.
•Buy generic detergent in bulk.
•Try drying clothes at 80% of the usual amount of time you leave them in. You may be over-drying your garments currently.
•Do fewer loads. This may mean wearing clothes another time or two, or waiting until you have a full load to wash and dry.
•Skip the heavy-duty washing settings. Very few loads actually require this.
•Don’t buy a separate stain stick. Rubbing detergent directly into the stain can work just as well.
•Fabric softener doesn’t really “soften” clothes. Instead it just adds a film over the top of them. Try doing some loads without softener and you may find that you don’t miss it. You can also try the trick many people use and add ¼ cup of white vinegar to each load as a much cheaper alternative.
•Use your washing machine’s high spin setting to make your clothes drier after they have been washed. Drier clothes out of the washing machine means less time in the dryer.

While these tips by themselves aren’t going to having you rolling in the money, over the course of a year they could save you hundreds of dollars.

© 2013 BALANCE

Arming Yourself Against Cyber Attacks


Cybercrime is growing and morphing into a type of criminal octopus with tentacles reaching far beyond anything previously imagined. Snaking its way into our lives in alarming ways, data breaches are currently producing subsets of cybercrime, some likely to include organized crime. Consumers are in a tizzy, wondering how to arm themselves against a continually evolving and persistent threat. In a 2015 Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) report, the key findings of their cybercrime investigation show how crime is shifting to take advantage of data breaches, ATM crimes, and malware-infested websites.

In just the past three years data breaches account for 100s of millions of data records of US citizens. Criminals are using this data to build comprehensive profiles of Americans to better execute their attacks. This data makes spearphishing campaigns extremely effective. The more information known about the target, the easier it is to gain trust and convince them to click a link, open an attachment or execute a fraudulent wire funds transfer. We do have several ways we can protect ourselves from this cybercrime wave. The key is realizing that we must all take an active role in our security. Long gone is the day when we could ignore the news and believe “it will never happen to me”.

Protecting Your Information from Data breaches

Data Breaches are seeing a dramatic rise in public reporting. This public knowledge is leading to subsets of cybercrime. Extortion and fraudulent transactions are becoming commonplace, in some cases leading to health problems and suicide (think Ashley Madison public breach).

It really isn’t a matter of if you will become a victim of a data breach. Chances are high that you already have. If you are one of the few that has not, it is definitely a matter of when. While you cannot prevent it completely, you can do something.

  • Monitor your payment card statements and charges often. The more often, the better. In any case, do it at least once a month and alert your financial institution of anything that does not look right. The sooner you deal with it, the faster it can be remedied and at the least cost to you and your financial organization.
  • Take advantage of the free annual credit report you are entitled to by staggering when you order them. Get one from each of the three major credit bureaus every four months. This will allow you to see potential issues and take care of them before they get out of control. Even if information is not fraud, but perhaps there is a previous address listed that is unfamiliar to you, notify the agency to get it removed. This could be just a mistake, but it could also indicate attempted fraud.
  • If you are at the register to make your purchase, choose the option to use your debit card as a credit card. This provides more protection to you and will prevent a thief from getting your card number and your PIN and creating a fake one to empty your bank account.

ATMs are Still a Hot Place for Cybercrime

ATMs still remain a popular target for cybercriminals who consistently create new ways to attack them.

  • When using ATMs, find one in a well-lit area or that has a locking vestibule. These are less attractive targets for criminals who may want to put card-skimmers on them. In addition, it is just better for your physical safety.
  • Before putting your card into a slot, make sure it isn’t a skimmer. New ATMs have technology making it extremely difficult or impossible for these to be implemented. However, sometimes criminals are successful with very simple techniques, such as attaching the card-reader to the ATM with double-sided tape. So, if you suspect something odd, give the reader a jiggle. If it moves, it may be a skimmer. Then call the financial institution to have them check it out.

Website URL’s Do Not Tell You That You Have the Wrong Address

When browsing the web, you don’t get the “incorrect address” notes that sometimes appear on letters that are misdelivered by the postal carriers. Instead, you could find yourself at a site that houses malware and just by showing up, you could execute some nasty virus.

  • Don’t click on links that arrive in email messages unless you are expecting them or are 100% certain they are safe. Manually type it into the address bar to be safer.
  • Before typing in a web address, check it carefully. Different spellings of names, or using “.net” as opposed to “.com” is something sneaky cyberthieves count on users not to notice. Also look for slight misspellings of the organization’s name. Criminals count on you not paying that close of attention to those little details.
  • Once you have used what you know is a safe URL for sites such as your financial institution and healthcare sites, bookmark them and use those to locate the site. Don’t click on links in email messages to get there.
  • Make sure that there is a lock icon at the top of the browser or somewhere on the page or that the address is preceded by “https:” if you are entering sensitive information into a website form. If you are not certain it is a secure site, don’t go further.
  • Pay attention to those warnings telling you that a site may not be secure. They are there for a reason and can protect you. Take a few seconds to read the warning before going further.

We Are Our Own Worst Enemies

The human element is something cyberthieves count on for successful attacks. Over the past two years, two-thirds of incidents involving cyber espionage were done via spear phishing. This is a form of social engineering using information about particular people working in targeted industries, such as government or financial organizations. Keeping employees educated with common social engineering tactics used by cyberthieves is critical for minimizing attacks.

Many attacks start with something simple like a phone call or a visit to your office. A nice person calls asking for information on the phone and because he or she is so charming, you feel like they can be trusted. There are also stories of criminals walking into offices claiming to be pest control, the HVAC repair people, or maintenance of some type. Often, they are never questioned and are allowed to roam wherever.

  • Don’t let those not authorized to work in your environment walk around without an escort. If you work in a financial organization, don’t let them out of your site even to use the restrooms. Wait outside for them.
  • Even if they have a badge, it doesn’t mean it is real. Verify that someone requested they show up before moving on.
  • Just because someone says they are from IT, it doesn’t mean you should give them your information. They don’t need your passwords, so don’t give them away.

Secure Passwords and Login Credentials

Social engineering gurus count on the ability to get passwords and login information out of you. They also count on getting any information out of you that will help them piece together a story. Online dating websites are common places for these cybercriminals to stalk victims. They will connect with someone and collect bits of information until they have gained trust and have enough information to use it against someone. Many will pose as military members and play on emotions of military families who know someone in a similar situation or have been in such a situation themselves. Money is usually the target. Therefore, keeping information safe is paramount, especially information that could get someone into your financial accounts.

  • Avoid using common verbiage like popular words and phrases, and particularly information that can be gleaned from your public websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. Change them periodically and don’t reuse them.
  • Make sure your passwords are strong and include at least eight characters with special characters, upper and lower case letters, and numbers.
  • Use different login credentials for each online site; particularly those that store any sensitive data such as financial information.
  • Never give your user names or passwords to anyone. Legitimate organizations will not ask for them. There is a well-known scam where someone will call you and pose as someone in the IT department and ask for your passwords. Don’t give it to them. Instead, hang up and call back separately to confirm it was them and let them know someone just asked you for your credentials.

Preventing Malware from Wreaking Havoc

Malware such as banking Trojans stealing account information are still popular with cybercriminals. The malware Dridex and Dyre, which both use attachments to target online bankers are now top of the list for malware crimes.

It is always worth repeating that identifying potential phishing email messages is a valuable skill to have. Phishing email messages are the number one way malware gets distributed and executed. And again, they often involve some element of social engineering. Often, when email addresses are stolen, they are used to spam friends and others that you know. Getting a message from someone you know may give you a sense of security that the cybercriminals take advantage of when creating messages.

  • Look for poor language skills and typos in the messages. Be suspicious if you spot those.
  • Make sure the logos of a company supposedly sending the message are indeed the right ones. Criminals are getting pretty good at copying the logos, but they are often not of the highest quality and often they miss some details.
  • If you receive an attachment or link in an email, approach with skepticism. Contact the sender directly, and mention you received an email from them and are wondering if it’s safe to open or click.

We live in a world where data and information is everywhere, whether we intend it to be or not. The Internet is a great tool and it is nearly impossible not to participate in some capacity. Just learn ways to secure your information and you will be able to take advantage of it more securely.

The Internet Organized Crime Threat Assessment (IOCTA) report found that many of those negative aspects of being on the grid are still very prevalent and likely won’t go away any time soon. For example, social engineering never goes out of style. Passwords are still a weakness and malware just won’t go away.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Plug Spending Leaks: How to Save Hundreds, One Dollar at a Time


Most of us give in to temptation from time to time. Whether its buying on impulse, choosing name brands rather than generic, taking a taxi instead of a bus, or splurging on an expensive meal, indulging is fun and even healthy in moderation.

But watch out. Not enough attention paid to the small purchases will result in big money lost. The path to savings (for things that you really do want) is paved with pennies. It starts with awareness. Each time you make a purchase, consider the cost. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Brown bag your lunch. $7 per day totals $140 a month.
  • Substitute water for juice. A family of four can save over $500 a year by cutting just one glass of juice per person per day.
  • “Health” bars run about $2 apiece, and are often no more than glorified candy bars. Switch to a banana and whole-wheat bagel for half the price.
  • Use coupons at grocery stores and buy house brands instead of name brands whenever possible.
  • Prepare meals in advance and freeze them to avoid the temptation of ordering pizza at the end of a long workday. Cooking at home will make your food budget go much further.
  • Throw pocket change in a jar and cash it in when it’s full.
  • Review your phone bill and drop unnecessary services like Caller ID and Call Forwarding.
  • Cut your cable television down to basic.
  • Hand wash instead of dry cleaning.

Chances are you can spot – then stop – spending leaks simply by paying closer attention to everyday expenses.

What’s Your Money Psychology Style?

financialpsychologyWe all make decisions with our money at one point or another that don’t work out for the best. It’s just inevitable. But if you find yourself falling into patterns of behavior that lead to negative financial consequences, it could be time to examine a little more closely how you make these choices.

Experts who study how people make money decisions have identified certain psychological styles for doing so. While no one’s behavior is ever completely encapsulated in a simple description, see if any of the below profiles sounds like you and if so, how that impacts what you do with your money.

The over-giver
Uses monetary gifts to express feelings and connect with people. In some cases, this person may give gifts to others and neglect their own needs.

The soothing spender
Treats money as a tool for self-medicating through difficult times. May make a lot of rash spending decisions that lead to negative feelings later.

The status seeker
Makes money choices based on how it will appear to others and to boost their own self-esteem. Engages in “keeping up with the Jones” behavior to their own detriment.

The bargain maven
Gets a thrill out of finding discounts, whether the product is needed or not. Derives satisfaction not from having a sound financial plan in place, but the emotional boost they get from landing a deal.

The denier
Tries to avoid difficult money issues in the hope that things will “just sort of work out.”

The risk-taker
Always on the lookout for a get-rich-quick scheme like the lottery or highly speculative investments. Lacks patience and looks for shortcuts at the expense of prolonged security.

The hedonist
Sees money as a way to maximize pleasure right now instead of planning for the future.

The controller
Uses money as a way to gain control over people or their own circumstances. Sees money as a way to gain a feeling of safety.

The striver
Constantly looks for ways to improve financial standing for self and for family. May believe that with money comes power. Goal oriented.

The victim
Financial problems are always someone else’s fault. The system is “rigged” against them.

The ultra-conservative
Is afraid of losing money and opportunities for growth are sometimes lost because of it. May be overly affected by events from their earlier life that cause them to not want any risk in their financial affairs.

The prudent manager
Actively saves money, looks to future and avoids emotional money decisions. Seeks out opportunities to expand knowledge and is realistic about strengths and weaknesses.

No one can ever expect you to be perfect, but think about which of these styles your money decisions fall into and which category you would like to be in going forward.

If it helps, the next time you make a purchase or other money decision you end up regretting, ask yourself what emotions fed into that choice. Being able to identify these feelings will help you find better ways to deal with those situations and put you in greater power over your financial life.

© 2013 BALANCE

Deciding When to Retire: When Timing Becomes Critical


Deciding when to retire may not be one decision but a series of decisions and calculations. For example, you’ll need to estimate not only your anticipated expenses, but also what sources of retirement income you’ll have and how long you’ll need your retirement savings to last. You’ll need to take into account your life expectancy and health as well as when you want to start receiving Social Security or pension benefits, and when you’ll start to tap your retirement savings. Each of these factors may affect the others as part of an overall retirement income plan.

Thinking about early retirement?

Retiring early means fewer earning years and less accumulated savings. Also, the earlier you retire, the more years you’ll need your retirement savings to produce income. And your retirement could last quite a while. According to a National Vital Statistics Report, people today can expect to live more than 30 years longer than they did a century ago.

Not only will you need your retirement savings to last longer, but inflation will have more time to eat away at your purchasing power. If inflation is 3% a year–its historical average since 1914–it will cut the purchasing power of a fixed annual income in half in roughly 23 years. Factoring inflation into the retirement equation, you’ll probably need your retirement income to increase each year just to cover the same expenses. Be sure to take this into account when considering how long you expect (or can afford) to be in retirement.

Current Life Expectancy Estimates

Men Women
At birth 76.4 81.2
At age 65 82.9 85.5

Source: NCHS Data Brief, Number 168, October 2014

There are other considerations as well. For example, if you expect to receive pension payments, early retirement may adversely affect them. Why? Because the greatest accrual of benefits generally occurs during your final years of employment, when your earning power is presumably highest. Early retirement could reduce your monthly benefits. It will affect your Social Security benefits too.

Also, don’t forget that if you hope to retire before you turn 59½ and plan to start using your 401(k) or IRA savings right away, you’ll generally pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty plus any regular income tax due (with some exceptions, including disability payments and distributions from employer plans such as 401(k)s after you reach age 55 and terminate employment).

Finally, you’re not eligible for Medicare until you turn 65. Unless you’ll be eligible for retiree health benefits through your employer or take a job that offers health insurance, you’ll need to calculate the cost of paying for insurance or health care out-of-pocket, at least until you can receive Medicare coverage.

Delaying retirement

Postponing retirement lets you continue to add to your retirement savings. That’s especially advantageous if you’re saving in tax-deferred accounts, and if you’re receiving employer contributions. For example, if you retire at age 65 instead of age 55, and manage to save an additional $20,000 per year at an 8% rate of return during that time, you can add an extra $312,909 to your retirement fund. (This is a hypothetical example and is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any specific investment.)

Even if you’re no longer adding to your retirement savings, delaying retirement postpones the date that you’ll need to start withdrawing from them. That could enhance your nest egg’s ability to last throughout your lifetime.

Postponing full retirement also gives you more transition time. If you hope to trade a full-time job for running your own small business or launching a new career after you “retire,” you might be able to lay the groundwork for a new life by taking classes at night or trying out your new role part-time. Testing your plans while you’re still employed can help you anticipate the challenges of your post-retirement role. Doing a reality check before relying on a new endeavor for retirement income can help you see how much income you can realistically expect from it. Also, you’ll learn whether it’s something you really want to do before you spend what might be a significant portion of your retirement savings on it.

Phased retirement: the best of both worlds

Some employers have begun to offer phased retirement programs, which allow you to receive all or part of your pension benefit once you’ve reached retirement age, while you continue to work part-time for the same employer.

Phased retirement programs are getting more attention as the baby boomer generation ages. In the past, pension law for private sector employers encouraged workers to retire early. Traditional pension plans generally weren’t allowed to pay benefits until an employee either stopped working completely or reached the plan’s normal retirement age (typically age 65). This frequently encouraged employees who wanted a reduced workload but hadn’t yet reached normal retirement age to take early retirement and go to work elsewhere (often for a competitor), allowing them to collect both a pension from the prior employer and a salary from the new employer.

However, pension plans now are allowed to pay benefits when an employee reaches age 62, even if the employee is still working and hasn’t yet reached the plan’s normal retirement age. Phased retirement can benefit both prospective retirees, who can enjoy a more flexible work schedule and a smoother transition into full retirement; and employers, who are able to retain an experienced worker. Employers aren’t required to offer a phased retirement program, but if yours does, it’s worth at least a review to see how it might affect your plans.

Key Decision Points

Age Don’t forget …
Eligible to tap



without penalty

for early


59 ½* Federal income

taxes will be due

on pretax


and earnings

Eligible for

early Social



62 Taking benefits

before full

retirement age

reduces each



Eligible for


65 Contact

Medicare 3

months before

your 65th


Full retirement

age for Social


65 to 67,

depending on

when you were


After full

retirement age,

earned income

no longer affects

Social Security


*Age 55 for distributions from employer plans upon termination of employment

Check your assumptions

The sooner you start to plan the timing of your retirement, the more time you’ll have to make adjustments that can help ensure those years are everything you hope for. If you’ve already made some tentative assumptions or choices, you may need to revisit them, especially if you’re considering taking retirement in stages. And as you move into retirement, you’ll want to monitor your retirement income plan to ensure that your initial assumptions are still valid, that new laws and regulations haven’t affected your situation, and that your savings and investments are performing as you need them to.



Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not  specific to any individual’s personal circumstances.

To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose  of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her  individual circumstances.

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