Financial Regrets

Most people would like to be able to go back and do some things differently related to their personal finances. A study by bankrate.com revealed that 76 percent of those surveyed have at least one financial regret. The largest concern, over half (56 percent), involved not starting to save sooner for retirement, an emergency fund, or their children’s education.  Other financial regrets reported in the study include: living above one’s means; taking on too much credit card debt; and the burden of student loans.

A recommended action to address these financial regrets include breaking down large goals into smaller, easier ones can help put individuals on a path to success. A “save-first” mindset instead of “spend-first” is also suggested. In addition, consider opening an online savings account with higher returns, and set up direct deposits for regular saving.

For additional information on financial regrets, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students conduct online research to determine various financial regrets of people in different age categories and life situations.
  • Have students conduct an interview with a person about actions that might be taken to avoid financial regrets.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might create situations that result in a financial regret?
  2. Describe possible financial regrets and corrective actions a person might take.

When A Robot Reads Your Resume

Before a person views your resume, it might be scanned by a computer to screen your qualifications.

Career experts suggest preparing your resume for three audiences: a computer screening program, a human resources specialist, and the hiring manager.

To pass the test of automatic resume scanners, consider these suggestions:

  • Be sure to include your contact information, and avoid putting required information in the heading where it might be missed by the scanner.
  • Avoid fancy formats and fonts. Use a professional presentation.  Bullets are suggested for an organized, easy-to-read appearance.
  • Emphasize keywords that reflect your competencies and experiences.
  • Connect to the job description. Use the requirements and responsibilities of an employment position as a guide for presenting your background, skills, and accomplishments. Avoid a generic resume; tailor your resume to the specific position. Especially look for keywords that are repeated in the job description.
  • Use clear job titles. Adapt and simplify previous job titles to fit generally-accepted labels in an industry.
  • Seek guidance. Ask for assistance from career development centers, professional colleagues, friends, and others who can help you prepare a resume appropriate for scanning software.

Of special note, job applicants with military experience should match job description keywords to their military service. They should also emphasize and communicate their background so the resume scanning software will easily recognize their employment competencies.

For additional information on automatic resume scanners, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create a resume for a specific job description to connect their background to the available position.
  • Have students talk to a few people to obtain suggestions for improving their resumes.

Discussion Questions 

  1. Based on selected job descriptions, name keywords that might be appropriate to use in a resume for those positions.
  2. List various sources that might be used to obtain resume preparation assistance.

Investing Success for Young People

Young people should take advantage of time, and start investing now for the long-term.  When doing so, they should consider these actions:

  • Make use of low-cost mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and index funds to minimize administrative costs, transaction fees and commissions.
  • Take advantage of tax-deferred retirement programs, which will allow them to invest pre-tax dollars to lower their current tax bill. Employers may match retirement fund contributions.
  • Don’t avoid risk by emphasizing conservative investments. Taking on more aggressive investments creates greater potential for higher, long-term returns.
  • Effectively manage risk with fixed index annuities, fixed annuities, and market linked CDs. Dollar-cost averaging allows for obtaining more shares at a lower cost during market downturns.

For additional information on investing by young people, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others for suggested investment actions to take.
  • Have students conduct online research regarding the best investments for their life situation.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might a person consider when selecting investments for their life situation?
  2. Describe actions people might take to increase the funds they have available for long-term savings goals.

Where to Keep Your Emergency Fund

While having an emergency fund is vital, putting this money in a low-yield checking account is not recommended. A certificate of deposit (CD) also may not be appropriate since your funds may be locked-up when the money is needed. For safe storage of your funds along with quick access and a better return, consider these alternatives:

  • High-yield savings account. These financial products are offered by banks to attract new savers. These accounts have high liquidity and are covered by federal deposit insurance; although, interest earned is taxable. Most high-yield savings accounts are available through online banks. Also be aware of fees, minimum balances, or a required minimum length of investment.
  • Money market fund. Usually offered by investment companies, these financial products are similar to high-yield savings accounts but do not have federal deposit insurance. However, they are protected by Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance, usually covering amounts up to $1 million for investors.
  • Treasury bills and bonds. These debt instruments of the U.S. Treasury have a maturity ranging from 90 days to 30 years. While considered very safe, an investor may lose money if sold before it matures.
  • Ultra-short term bonds. For a higher yield with a bit more risk, consider ultra-short term bond exchange-traded funds (bond ETFs).  These funds invest in corporate bonds, which are not guaranteed.  However, it is possible to find funds that invest only in highly-rated bonds.

In each situation, be sure to consider the tax implications of earnings from these savings and investment products.

For additional information on emergency funds, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create a list of unexpected situations that might require accessing money from a person’s emergency fund.
  • Have students talk to others to determine where they keep money for emergencies.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might a person consider when selecting a savings instrument for storing money for emergencies?
  2. Describe actions a person might take to have more funds available for an emergency fund?

 

Bank Accounts Everyone Should Have

While a savings account and a checking account provide the foundation for managing finances, several other accounts should be considered.  Since all most people don’t put all their financial documents in one drawer, all your money shouldn’t be in one account. The various recommended accounts include:

  • Emergency savings for funds when you face financial difficulties that cannot be resolved in others ways. An amount equal to 6 to 12 months of living expenses is often recommended.  Consider storing these funds in an “out of sight, out of mind” location, such as with an online bank account.
  • Regular savings for short-term needs, such as home repairs, vacation, auto maintenance, or new furniture. Be sure to have a goal and plan for these funds.
  • Household checking account for paying current bills. All income is deposited in this account with automatic transfers for regular bills and amounts to various savings accounts. Extra funds in this account can go to the regular savings fund.
  • Spouse checking accounts to pay expenses for which each person has responsibility as well as work-related costs.
  • Health savings account (HSA) for tax-free payments of medical-related expenses. HSAs are especially of value with high-deductible insurance plans.
  • The extra fund involves the “fun money” leftover after all bills are paid, savings is under control, and all accounts have a balance at an appropriate level. This money is the reward for spending wisely.

If all your accounts are at the same financial institution, using the online dashboard will allow you monitor your balances.  Or, if you use different banks, websites or apps such as Mint.com can be used to view your overall financial situation.

For additional information on needed bank accounts, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students design a personal plan for the various bank accounts they will use to to monitor their spending and saving.
  • Have students talk to others about methods used to monitor spending and to maintain an appropriate level of saving.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the benefits and drawbacks of the system discussed in this article?
  2. Describe actions to monitor spending and saving using online banking and apps.

 

Non-Financial Goals to Save Money

While many savings, investment, and retirement plans are available to achieve financial goals, other actions are possible to achieve personal ambitions. Financial advisors and counselors also recommend these actions:

  • Learn a new skill, which can result in time away from shopping or expanding your career and income potential.
  • Invest in friendships that does not involve a major monetary requirement as many free and low-cost activities are available.
  • Participate in a reading challenge at your local library or through a community organization.
  • Create art by getting involved with writing, photography, drawing, or sculpture through a community-based group.

Many activities are available to invest your time and energy without spending much money.

For additional information on non-financial goals, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students list free and low-cost activities that can enhance personal and career development.
  • Have students talk to others for additional suggestions for free and cost-cost personal and career development activities.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might a person consider when selecting an activity to enhance personal and career development?
  2. Describe personal development activities that could result in enhanced career and income potential.

What is FinTech?

Technology impacts every aspect of personal finance. FinTech (financial technology) involves apps, software, and other innovations for banking and financial activities, which includes PayPal, Venmo, and cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. FinTech companies use online activities, mobile devices, software, apps, and cloud services to for financial transactions. Over 1.5 billion people around the world do not have access to formal banking. FinTech can provide these unbanked people with financial services through easy-to-use technology.

The main categories of FinTech for consumers are:

  • Crowdfunding, such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe, which allows individuals or businesses to go directly to potential investors for funding.
  • Blockchain and cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, with improved verification for financial transactions.
  • Mobile payments through a smartphone.
  • Insurance coverages provided by online start-ups.
  • Robo-advising provides portfolio investment recommendations and allocations based on algorithms. For stock-trading, investors buy and sell stocks using apps such as Robinhood and Acorns.
  • Budgeting apps, such as Mint and You Need a Budget (YNAB), monitor and plan spending.

For additional information on FinTech, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to several people to obtain information about their experiences with FinTech products.
  • Have students create an app prototype for a proposed FinTech product to help people make better financial decisions.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What might financial literacy and money management activities be improved with FinTech?
  2. Describe concerns that might be associated with expanded used of FinTech.

Personal Finance Hacks

Hacks – skills and shortcuts – are used in many life settings.  For personal finance, here are some tips that can help stop money leakages:

  • Only use credit cards with financial advantages, such as cashback; always pay off credit card balances on time.
  • Making weekly payments, instead of monthly, helps to save interest and reduces the amount owed faster.
  • Pay off loans/debts with the highest interest rates first.
  • You might consider paying off a debt with another loan if the new loan has a much lower interest rate.
  • When shopping online, leave the item in the cart for several days or weeks; the price may be lower or you may decide you don’t really need the item.
  • Consider bulk purchases with friends to qualify for free shipping.
  • Take advantage of seasonal sales.
  • Unsubscribe from email offers.
  • Avoid household clutter to save time and money.
  • Cook your own meals; online videos and recipes offer fast, easy meals.
  • Talk to others for investment advice.

For additional information on personal finance hacks, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students tell their personal experience with tech, travel, or personal finance hacks.
  • Have students create a video to dramatize various personal finance hacks.

Discussion Questions 

  1. How would you decide if a personal hack will be of value to you?
  2. Describe actions that might be used to communicate personal finance hacks to others.

U.S. Financial Health Pulse

Despite a strong economy, millions of Americans face financial struggles. These difficulties include lower household net worth, increased loan defaults, and high levels of credit card debt. These are the findings in the recent report, U.S. Financial Health Pulse, published by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), in partnership with Omidyar Network, the Metlife Foundation, and AARP. 

The report assesses various financial health indicators that include income, bill payment, spending, saving, debt load, insurance, retirement planning and credit scores. When combined, these factors provide a composite view of the spending, saving, borrowing, and financial planning activities of Americans.

Some of the findings of the 2018 baseline report include:

  • 17 percent of American are viewed as financially vulnerable, 55 percent financially coping, and 28 percent financially healthy.
  • 47 percent of respondents reported spending that equals or exceeds their income.
  • 36 percent are unable to pay all of their bills on time.
  • 30 percent say they have more debt than is manageable.

U.S. Financial Health Pulse is intended to guide financial institutions, government agencies, and community organization in developing educational programs and financial products to better serve the needs of Americans. This study will be conducted each year to determine changes in America’s financial health.

For additional information on U.S. Financial Health Pulse and to view the report, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to friends to determine which of the financial health indicators they believe to be most important.
  • Have students create a survey instrument to measure various financial health indicators.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the benefits of measuring financial health in our society?
  2. Describe actions that might be taken by business, government, and community organizations to address the financial difficulties faced by people.

GIG Economy Retirement Planning

As more and more people work as freelancers, independent contractors, and sharing economy workers, concerns grow regarding retirement for this group. A recent study revealed that very few full-time gig economy workers have an adequate retirement plan. Relying on Social Security is probably not enough since those funds will not likely cover retirement living expenses.

Most gig economy workers are one-person businesses, many with limited financial literacy.  As a result, they do not properly plan for retirement savings.  Self-employed individuals also face the challenge of volatile income streams. And, they lack employer-provided benefits, such as health and disability insurance, unemployment benefits, and paid time off. In addition, these gig economy workers are responsible for paying 100 percent of their Social Security and Medicare taxes through self-employment tax.

Some advantages of gig economy workers are:

  • deducting most business-related expenses, reducing their taxable income.
  • access to Simplified Employee Pensions (SEPs) that allow self-employed people to contribute to a tax-deferred retirement fund.
  • the ability to supplement their retirement income as they may continue to work part-time with customers and clients in their later years.

While gig workers face several financial challenges, programs are surfacing to help the self-employed save for retirement and achieve better long-term financial security. These include:

  • Open Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs) or Pooled Employer Plans (PEPs) that let employers combine resources for independent workers to purchase group health and disability insurance.
  • A proposed Portable Benefits for Independent Workers Pilot Program Act to establish a fund through the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Several states are creating automatic-enrollment IRAs involving government-facilitated programs administered by private financial firms.

For additional information on retirement planning in the gig economy, go to:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to a freelancer or independent contractor to obtain information about their financial planning activities.
  • Have students create a financial plan with recommendations for a freelancer or independent contractor.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks for gig economy workers?
  2. Describe actions you would recommend to self-employed individuals for improved personal financial security.