Lifestyle Inflation

Quite often, when a person receives a raise or promotion with an increased salary, overspending is the result. In those situations, financial experts recommend maintaining frugal spending patterns. This path will allow a person to avoid becoming a victim of “lifestyle inflation.”  Many households earning hundreds of thousands of dollars have trouble avoiding debt and saving for the future.   To prevent this situation, the following actions are recommended:

  • Maintain your lifestyle and spending habits as you receive raises. Instead of a bigger house or new car, the increased income can be used to stabilize your financial situation and increase saving for future needs.
  • Keep your average daily spending low.To avoid lifestyle creep, simply keep your typical day spending at a frugal level.
  • Increase your automatic savings amounts. Consider saving an amount from each paycheck equal to the amount of your raise.  This will allow you to put aside money for major financial goals and long-term financial security.
  • Keep housing costs low. Instead of upgrading, maintain and improve your current home. Housing is a major cause of lifestyle creep when a more expensive home results in higher property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance, association fees and other expenses.
  • Remember and review often your financial goals.Do not take your focus off long-term money goals.  Short-term desires and impulsive spending can easily undermine your financial future. Create a way to remind yourself of those goals each day.

For additional information on lifestyle inflation, go to:

Article #1

Article #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students ask another person of what actions might be taken when a salary increase is received.
  • Have students create a video contrasting wise and unwise actions when receiving a salary increase.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors influence “lifestyle inflation” in our society?
  2. In addition to the suggestions in the article, what actions might be taken to avoid lifestyle creep?

 

Car Subscription Services

The opportunity to change cars like you change clothes is now possible.  For a monthly fee, car subscription services are an alternative to motor vehicle buying and leasing.

With an upfront fee is usually involved, the monthly fee covers the car payment, insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance.  Subscribers can manage their plan online with the vehicle delivered to your home.

Car manufacturers that offer this service are Cadillac, Ford, Volvo and Porsche. Other companies specializing in offering a variety of makes and models are Fair, Flexdrive, Clutch and Carma.

Unlike leasing for 24 or 36 months, car subscription can be for as short as a month. However, some programs require a two-year contract, and only allow a trade-in (exchange) after 12 months.

The greatest benefit is the “negotiation-free” way of obtaining a car. And, if you don’t like the car, you can get a different vehicle. Car subscribers are reminded it’s not your car.  Smoking is usually prohibited and pets should be kept in carriers.  Not all cars are brand new but most are low mileage and less than six years old.

For additional information on car subscriptions, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to two or three others to obtain their opinions on the benefits and concerns of car subscription services.
  • Have students compare cost of various car subscription services with buying or leasing a vehicle.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of using a car subscription service?
  2. Describe life situations that might be most attracted to using a car subscription service.

Is Your Debit or Credit Card Compromised?

What should you do if you believe your debit or credit card has been compromised?  Yes, there are consumer protection regulations that can help.  For example, the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) “Regulation E” limit your liability for losses from unauthorized transactions.

If your debit or credit card number is used to make an unauthorized withdrawal from a checking or savings account, minimize your losses by contacting your bank as soon as possible.  Your maximum liability under EFTA is $50 if you notify your bank within two business days after learning of the loss.  If you wait longer, you could lose more, according to the law.

If your credit card number is used without your authorization, your liability is normally capped by the Truth in Lending Act (TILA) and the CFPB’s “Regulation Z” at $50 for all unauthorized transactions, and remaining credit card losses are typically absorbed by the card issuer.  Some other worthwhile precautions you can take include:

  • Do not use ATMs in remote places, especially if the area is not well lit.
  • Go elsewhere if you see a sign directing you to only one of multiple ATMs in a location.
  • Shield the keypad with your hand when typing your PIN at the ATM or a retailer’s checkout area.
  • Regularly check your bank and credit card accounts for unauthorized transactions, even small transactions that you might think might not be worth reporting to your bank.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to summarize the major provisions of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA).
  • Why is it important to notify your bank as soon as possible when your account has been compromised?
  • Let students debate the issue, “Use cash, why use a debit card?

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the Truth and Lending Act and how does it protect you if your debit/credit card is compromised?
  2. How can you determine if an ATM has a false cover or it has been tampered?

Activities to Combat Illegal Debt Collection Practices

In March 2018, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported on their 2017 activities to combat illegal debt collection practices.  The CFPB handled approximately 84,500 debt collection complaints, making it one of the most prevalent topics of complaints about consumer financial products or services.  The Bureau offered five sample letters that consumers may use when they interact with debt collectors.

The FTC resolved 10 cases against 42 defendants and obtained more than $64 million in judgements, focused on curbing egregious debt collection practices, including phantom departments, schools, non-profit organizations, banks, credit unions, other businesses and government agencies.  The agency logged more than 60 million views on its webpages, with its videos seen more than 581,000 times at YouTube.com/FTC, and its consumer blogs reaching 199,860 (English) and 50,480 (Spanish) email subscribers.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to review the major provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.
  • Let students debate the issue, “Can governmental agencies stop unlawful practices of the debt collection agencies that harm both consumers and legitimate business”.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is it possible to live without using any form of consumer credit?
  2. What can the governmental agencies do to protect the legal rights of all consumers in a manner that is efficient, effective, and accountable?

How to Dig Out of Debt? Grab More Than One Shovel

Millions of Americans are dealing with debt overload every day.  If you’re struggling to pay your loans, credit cards or other bills, here are some steps you can take to begin managing your debt problems.

  1. Create a budget.
  2. Try to get a clear picture of your monthly income and expenses.
  3. Contact your creditors about easier ways to make your most important bill payments.
  4. Have a strategy for saving money on interest and fees.
  5. Consider getting help from a reputable credit counselor.
  6. Know your rights if a debt collector contacts you.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students debate this issue “Is it possible to live without using any form of consumer credit”.
  • Ask students if they have created a budget, borrowed to finance a car, and have a strategy for saving money on interest or fees.

Discussion Questions

  1. What factors should be considered when a person is determining the amount of credit he or she should take on?
  2. What actions are commonly recommended if a person has difficulty making credit payments?

Career Destroying Mistakes

Conducting an annual review of your career situation is vital for long-term success and satisfaction. To achieve career goals, avoid these mistakes:

  • Ignoring relationships within your organization. Connections with co-workers and managers is often reported as one of the most important factors for career advancement.
  • Not getting proper rest. Sacrificing sleep for achieving career goals can be very dangerous, such as creating stress in your relationships with co-workers and hindering job performance.
  • Becoming too diversified. Select an area of expertise to focus your efforts and energy.
  • Limiting your network activities. Expanding and connecting with contacts allows you to be aware of more opportunities while also developing awareness of industry trends.
  • Not being care in your social life. With social media, many aspects of your private life become public. Be cautious of what you post online.

For additional information on career mistakes, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with friends about their experiences with these career mistakes.
  • Have students suggest actions for avoiding these career mistakes.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What situations have you heard of that resulted in limited career advancement?
  2. Describe other possible career mistakes that might be avoided.

Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

Deciding when to start receiving your retirement benefits from Social Security is a decision that only you can make, and you should make that decision with as much information as possible.  There are a lot of important questions to answer.  Should you claim benefits earlier and get a smaller monthly payment for more years?  Or should you wait and get bigger monthly amount over a shorter period?

There are no right or wrong answers, but consider these four important questions as you plan for your financial secure retirement:

  1. How much money will I need to live comfortably in retirement?
  2. What will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit be?
  3. Will I have other income to supplement my Social Security benefits?
  4. How long do I expect my retirement to last?

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  1. Ask students to survey retired individuals or people close to retirement to obtain information on the main sources of retirement income.
  2. Ask students to survey local businesses to determine the types of retirement plans available to employees.

Discussion Questions

  1. What types of retirement income should be the main emphasis of a retirement program?
  2. What actions might be appropriate by government and individuals to guarantee the continuing financial stability of the Social Security program?

Romance Scams

What are some signs that a romance scam could be taking place?

  • a new love living far away requests money or use of your credit card number
  • being asked to sign a document giving a new romantic interest control of your finances
  • a new sweetheart wants you to open a joint bank account with them

While romance scammers usually focus on single, older people, anyone seeking a new relationship is a possible target. These scams can happen in person, but more often through social media, dating websites, smartphone apps. These scams happen when a new love pretends to be interested in you as a way to get your money. In fact, they may not even be who they say they are.

Beware of Cupid’s arrow striking your wallet instead of your heart!  To protect you, friends, and family from romance and other scams, consider these actions:

  • Avoid giving a new friend access to credit cards, bank accounts, or other financial assets.
  • Report crimes or financial exploitation to local law enforcement agencies or to Adult Protective Services (APS); information available at gov.
  • Contact your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission to report cases of financial abuse.

For additional information on romance scams, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create and present possible scam situations to create awareness among various potential victims.
  • Have students create a visual presentation (using computer software or a poster) to communicate actions to avoid scams.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are common warning signs that may indicate that a possible scam is taking place?
  2. Describe actions that might be taken to avoid various scams and frauds.

Becoming Financially Disciplined

Whether you start at the beginning of the year or you start today, some actions to keep your financial plans on track include:

  • Set a money objective. Simplify your approach for financial goals by selecting a word or short phrase to give your direction. This theme might be “future needs” (for retirement planning), “spend mindfully” (for controlling spending), or “kid’s college.”
  • Use automation. Using automatic transfers will allow you to save for a house down payment, an emergency fund, a vacation, or retirement.
  • Challenge yourself. Cut unnecessary expenses to allow you to have money left over each month for financial goals.
  • Change your environment. Modifying your financial habits can occur with visible reminders, such as photos, sticky notes, or note cards placed on your credit card, desk, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, car dashboard, or computer screen. Also consider keeping a financial diary or journal.
  • Obtain needed support. Instead of going it alone, work with a friend, roommate, spouse, or group to achieve your money objective and stay accountable.

 For additional information on becoming financially disciplined, click on the following links:

Financially disciplined #1

Financially disciplined #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for achieving financial goals.
  • Have students create visuals that might be used to remind them about financial goals and actions.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the main reasons people who not achieve financial goals?
  2. Describe methods that might be used to help you and others achieve financial goals.

8 Simple Ways to Save Money

“Sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just getting started.”

This Bank of America article provides a step-by-step guide for simple ways to save money–money that can then be used to pursue your financial goals.  To learn more, check out the 8 steps below.

  1. Record your expenses. Ideally, you can account for every penny you spend for the big items like mortgages, credit cards, and even small items like a coffee and snacks.
  2. Make a budget. Once you know how you spend, you can compare your income to your expenses and make changes, if necessary.
  3. Plan on saving money. Your budget should contain a savings category.  Ideally, savings should account for 10 to 15 percent of your income.
  4. Choose something to save for. One of the best ways to save money is to set a goal.  Possible goals include saving for a vacation, the down payment for a house, retirement, or anything important to you.
  5. Decide on your priorities.  Prioritizing goals can give you a clear idea of what is most important and helps to remind you why you are saving money.
  6. Pick the right tools. There are many saving options and the choice often depends on the amount of time before you need the money.  Often, money for short-term goals is placed in savings accounts.  Money for long-term goals may involve stocks, bonds, or mutual funds.
  7. Make saving automatic. Banks offer automated transfers between checking and savings accounts.  Automated transfers are great because you don’t have to make a decision to save or invest; it just happens.
  8. Watch your savings grow. Checking your progress every month helps you stick to your personal savings plan.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

You may want to use the information in this blog post and the original article to

  • Discuss the relationship between income, expenses, and establishing a systematic savings program.
  • Help students understand how saving small amounts over time can help obtain goals that can change their lives.

Discussion Questions

  1. At the end of the month, many people wonder where their money went!  Why is it important to determine how you spend your money?
  2. How can a budget help you find the money needed to establish a savings program built on the goals you want to achieve?