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.

These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.

Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member  FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. NASA Federal Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

Planning an Eco-Friendly Home Renovation


Plenty of people are now putting the sun, wind and water to work to cut their energy bill. Should you join them?

Before any shift to renewable energy technology, you’ve got to do some very individualized research and above all, work the numbers.

Solar energy seems to be getting the most attention. You might have heard recent news reports about solar energy’s sliding costs and rising support in Washington. A recent White House report ( noted that the average cost of a solar electric system has dropped by 50 percent since 2010 and that federal agencies are working to make it easier for lower-income taxpayers to borrow up to $25,000 for solar and energy efficient home improvements.

And many are rushing to do installations by the current year-end 2016 expiration date for the 30 percent federal consumer energy efficiency tax credits ( covering solar energy systems, small wind turbines and geothermal heat pumps.

How should you evaluate the cost of a renewable energy project? Consider these questions first:

Could incremental energy-saving projects be more practical? Start with baby steps. Before you decide on an expensive solar or other renewables project, see if smaller changes around the home could save money. You can improve the performance of heating and air conditioning systems and seal air leaks from windows, doors and other areas of the home. A do-it-yourself or professional energy audit ( might be a good first step in detecting energy waste.

What’s going on locally? When it comes to renewable energy, geography matters, and not just for tax breaks and credits for systems. Generally, weather, temperature, wind and sun exposure measurements matter when you’re choosing a particular project. For example, the Solar Energy Industries Association reports that solar installations are more common on the East and West Coasts, mainly because – that’s because sun exposure is greater on the coasts than in the center of the country. State and local organizations dealing with renewables can offer guidance to cost, effectiveness, installation and many other issues you’ll need to evaluate. A local evaluation of options is essential.

Do you really understand the technology? There is no doubt that technology is always evolving, and this is one of the reasons why solar and other renewable energy options are becoming cheaper. However, falling costs are one thing, but you need to fully understand what you’re buying so you can hire the best people to install it and service the system over time. For the basics, a good place to start is the U.S. Department of Energy’s site’s renewable energy section.

Should you buy, lease or borrow? One of the drivers behind the recent growth in solar is a new generation of vendors who provide one-stop shopping, installation and billing for systems at little or no initial cost. These vendors facilitate both purchase by loan and lease options. As convenient as this option might be, watch for inflation clauses, fees and penalties that could drive you above what you’re paying for conventional, utility-produced electricity.

How will it affect resale? There’s a fair amount of debate as to whether green home improvements actually boost home prices. Also, many real estate experts have mixed opinions about how prospective buyers feel about purchasing a home with existing renewable energy equipment that’s either been bought or leased.

Should I involve my financial and tax advisors? Whether you plan to buy, borrow or lease a system or do intermediary energy improvements around the home, talking to a qualified financial or tax advisor isn’t just worthwhile, it’s essential. It is also a good idea to speak with your homeowners insurance agent to see if your project will affect your coverage.

Bottom line: Want to save money while saving the planet? Do your homework and make sure an investment in renewable energy works for you.


By Nathaniel Sillin

FBI Issues Warning About Increase in Business Email Compromise Scams

corporate fraud phrase made from metallic letterpress type inside of shredded paper heap

Cyber fraud takes many shapes and sizes. The latest trend taking center stage involves email scams and companies of all magnitude. Large, small, or somewhere in between, businesses around the world are feeling the heat from email cybercrooks. The FBI reports over $1.2 billion in damage of this type, also called masquerading schemes or business email compromise attacks, within the past two years and has issued an alert to businesses to watch out for it. This is forcing many companies to take a second look at their situations.

As with many cyber scams, some businesses are not reporting the crime. However, according to the numbers that are provided, these are indeed rising. More and more companies realize they’ve been duped and are wondering how they can keep it from happening again.

The short answer is to educate employees who perform financial transactions and make sure a process is in place to verify all wire transfers or anything that involves sensitive business data. Just having the process in place is not enough, however. It also needs to be enforced.

Typically, these scams begin when an email is sent to a company controller or other financial officers, appearing legitimate and asking for money to be transferred to an account somewhere. This could be for payment to a vendor or for some other authentic-sounding reason. These emails often have an urgent nature. Validating them often goes by the wayside in an attempt to take care of the “pressing matter” at hand. Many of these transactions involve overseas banks in China and new accounts, adding to the anxiety of a speedy settlement.

Because there is not yet much regulation for controlling this internationally, experts worldwide are suggesting ways to combat these socially engineered transactions:

  • Involve your financial institution. Even if you feel it’s too late and the damage has been done, call the customer service number and let them know what happened.
  • At any point during a transaction where you are asked to make a financial transaction or provide sensitive data, should you begin to have the slightest doubt about the “vendor” authenticity, contact your financial institution. Making them aware of your situation not only protects you in the future, but also helps others facing the same scams.
  • Verify the requestor and the request with urgency. Follow a process for confirming such transactions are indeed intended. Use the intensity cybercrooks use to fool you and turn it around. Even though cyber thieves do everything to convince you they’re legitimate, time spent verifying their identity can make a huge difference to the bottom line. Unfortunately, victims of email scams find after the fact that there was plenty of time to be vigilant.
  • Implement a purchase order model for transferring money around and require a reference number or code for each one. Audit the transfers daily.
  • Make sure there are multiple approvals for large dollar amounts and that there are separation of duties.
  • Train employees to identify fake email addresses and teach them never to open links or attachments in email messages without verifying their legitimacy.
  • Before you act, react. Suspicion can be put to rest by adding layers to your vendor approval process. Something as simple as asking for a photo of the requestor’s driver’s license can make cybercrooks think twice about making you a target.

This scam has been reported in all 50 states and in 79 countries and affecting nearly 10,000 businesses worldwide.


© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Swap for Savings


It kind of seems obvious when you stop and think about it: certain people have things they don’t need or want anymore and other people want those things. Since the technology exists for those people to connect and mutually benefit, shouldn’t we all take advantage of it? Because of this win-win scenario and some handy tools, swapping items via the internet has gotten hugely popular. You can swap just about anything online these days and save big doing it. Here are some sites to get your started:


Despite the name, this site specialized in trading all kinds of books. You start by listing books you don’t want anymore. Next you get a notification via email when someone has requested that you mail them one of your unwanted books. Each time you send a book – which usually costs around $3 – you get a credit to receive a book. You can create a wish list so that your desired books get sent automatically when they are available, or you can browse what other users have offered. The site makes it extremely easy to mail the books, letting you print a “wrap” with postage already printed on it.


If computer games and movies are more to your liking, check out this site that allows you to trade according to the points you build up. It’s almost like a game unto itself. There is a transaction fee of $1.99 per trade, but as long as you have a strong feedback score from your previous trades, you get a 50% discount on the fee.


As any fashionista can tell you, building a killer wardrobe can take a lot
of bucks. SwapStyle lets you trade in your gently-used couture and pick out the new-to-you threads of your choice. A swap pioneer with origins going all the way back to 2004, the site has earned a large following and with it a sizeable inventory from which to choose.


No one knows better than mothers how quickly items can be outgrown. This mom-powered site hooks up those who have too-small goods with those for whom the exact same item is just right. But it’s not just clothes. You can find almost anything you need for bringing up baby.


If there were just one phrase to capture the beauty of this site, it’s this: “It’s pretty amazing what people are willing to just give away.” Whether it’s TV’s, furniture, coffee makers or old National Geographics, you’ll be surprised by what you can get for nothing more than the cost of going to pick it up. The site also lets you request specific items from people in your area.


Does everyone on your block really need to own a belt sander? Unless you live in your city’s Wood Finishing District, the answer is probably “no.” But there are times when you might need one. Neighborrow lets you create or join a collective in your area to loan out and borrow non-everyday items. While some tools are available only for a rental fee, you will still likely be able to save a great deal over what you would pay renting from a large chain.

© 2013 BALANCE