With growing numbers of video streaming services and product box programs, these subscriptions are becoming the newest budget buster. These seemingly small monthly charges add up, lowering a person’s ability to save along with a potential for increased debt. These ongoing financial commitments leave people with a lower percentage of free cash flow, or unencumbered income.
Subscription service spending is often overlooked especially when the payments are on auto pilot. A $4 or $8 monthly fee may not seem like much. However, research indicates that subscription services are an increasing financial burden as most people underestimate the amount. In one study, 84 percent of respondents estimated monthly spending on these services at about $80; the actual amount was over $110. In addition to video steaming services, people sign up for automatic monthly shipments of beer, wine, contact lenses, cosmetics, meal kits, pet food, razors, vitamins, and other products.
For additional information on subscription services, click here.
- Have students survey several people to determine the types and amounts of subscription services being used.
- Have students create a financial analysis for amounts saved over several years by reducing or eliminating subscription services.
- What factors influence a person’s decision to use a subscription service?
- Describe suggested actions that a person might take to reduce or eliminate subscription services.
Did you know that in 2018:
- 19% of households spent more than their income?
- 46% of individuals lacked an emergency fund?
- 35% of credit card holders paid only the minimum on their credit cards?
In September 2019, the FINRA Foundation released data from its latest Financial Capability Study—one of the largest and most comprehensive financial capability studies in the United States. Among the findings, younger Americans, those with lower incomes, African-Americans and those without a college degree face the toughest financial struggles. More than 27,000 respondents participated in the nationwide study. Conducted every three years beginning in 2009, it measures key indicators of financial capability and evaluates how these indicators vary with underlying demographic, behavioral, attitudinal and financial literacy characteristics—both nationwide and state-by-state.
For more information, click here
- Ask students if they spend more than their income in a given year.
- Ask students if they have a rainy day fund. If not, why?
- Ask students if they pay in full when the credit card bill arrives. If not, why?
- What might be some reasons why almost one in five households spends more than their income?
- Why is it important to have a rainy day fund? Why almost half of Americans lack such a fund?
- Why is it vital to pay credit card bills in full? What are the costs of paying a minimum balance?
Many young people making high salaries still say they feel broke. A “Henry,” short for “high earners not rich yet,” is someone who lives an extravagant lifestyle combined with their student loans has very little money left over. These “working rich” place a strong emphasis on travel, and often limit their spending on food and clothing in order to afford luxury trips. While many have a desire to get their finances in order, very few take appropriate actions to do so.
Henrys are characterized by a higher-than-average income, little or no savings, and a feeling of low material wealth. Most of their earnings go toward current living expenses rather than building wealth with investments.
For additional information on high earners not rich yet, click here.
- Have students conduct online research to determine various financial attitudes and behaviors of people in different age categories and life situations.
- Have students prepare a video that recommending actions to the people described in the article.
- What factors might be influencing the financial activities of the people described in the article?
- Describe possible financial concerns associated with these financial attitudes and behaviors, and recommend corrective actions that might be taken.
Kakeibo, pronounced “kah-keh-boh” and translates as “household financial ledger,” is a method used in Japan for managing personal finances. For over 100 years, this system has helped people make smarter money decisions.
Similar to other budgeting systems, kakeibo is designed to help you understand your relationship with money by recording all financial inflows and outflows. As proven by research, this recordkeeping method emphasizes physically writing your financial activities making you more aware of bad money habits. Kakeibo can help you become completely honest about your spending with the use of four categories: (1) needs, (2) wants, (3) culture, such as books and museum visits, and (4) unexpected – medical expenses or car repairs.
Kakeibo encourages you to ask yourself these questions before buying any non-essential items, or things you buy on impulse:
- Can I live without this item?
- Based on my financial situation, can I afford it?
- Will I actually use it? Do I have the space for it?
- How did I come across it in the first place? (Did I see it in a magazine? Did I come across it after wandering into a gift shop out of boredom?)
- What is my emotional state in general today? (Calm? Stressed? Celebratory? Feeling bad?)
- How do I feel about buying it? (Happy? Excited? Indifferent? And how long will this feeling last?)
In addition, to spend more mindfully, Kakeibo recommends that you:
- Leave the item for 24 hours.
- Don’t let major “sales” tempt you.
- Check your bank balance regularly.
- Spend in cash.
- Put reminders in your wallet – use a sticker: “Do you REALLY need this?!”
- Change the environments that cause you to spend.
For additional information on kakeibo, go to:
- Have students conduct a survey to determine reactions to this budgeting system among people in different age categories and life situations.
- Have students prepare a visual summary of some of the characteristics of the budgeting system.
- What elements of this budgeting system might people find beneficial? What are possible drawbacks?
- If you were to implement this system for your life, which actions would you select to do first?
Many personal finance reports are published with advice that may not provide the best guidance. In an effort to avoid buzzwords and troubling phrases, consider these suggestions:
- determine who conducted the research; a company may sponsor a study that lacks the rigor of academic or government researchers.
- be wary of research that reports feelings or predictions rather than actual behaviors and actions of respondents.
- consider the number of people in the study and how the respondents were selected.
- avoid generalizations that about a certain age group, such as Millennials, Baby Boomers, or Generation X.
Don’t revise your money management activities based on some survey or research report. If your current actions are working, then you are on the correct path.
For additional information on avoiding personal finance nonsense, click here.
- Have students conduct online research to locate a recent personal finance study to evaluate the validity of the advice offered in the report.
- Have students create a video presentation reporting both valid and nonsense personal finance advice.
- What problems could occur if a person uses inappropriate financial advice?
- In addition to the suggestions in the article, what actions might a person take to determine the validity of personal finance advice?
When considering a career change, the following financial suggestions are offered:
- have an appropriate amount of savings for unexpected expenses during the transition.
- create a budget to live frugally; cut living costs to be prepared for sudden expenses.
- reassess your investment portfolio to reduce risk exposure and possibly eliminate fees.
- seek advice from a financial advisor.
- determine how a career switch might impact your ability to save.
For additional information on financial advice when changing careers, click here.
- Have students talk to a person who recently changed jobs to obtain information about their experiences.
- Have students create a video presentation with suggested actions when planning to change careers.
- What relationship exists between a person’s career choice and money management activities?
- Describe additional financial planning actions that might be appropriate when considering a career change.
To spend less and save more, consider an “anchoring” system. One example of an anchor is the price of an item to determine if that is an appropriate amount of money to spend for the item.
Anchors prevent shoppers from being overwhelmed by the many choices, prices, and features. You can create your own anchors by:
- setting the maximum price you are willing to spend for an item.
- considering the value of an item in relation to the number of hours you have to work to pay for it.
- comparing the cost in relation to another item. If you buy coffee costing $2.50 a cup and want a sweater costing $50, view the sweater as costing 20 cups of coffee. Your “coffee” anchor will help you determine how valuable the sweater is to you.
When buying a home, you may be encouraged to look at properties outside your price range. Anchoring yourself at a price limit will avoid overspending, make you feel more in control, and encourage wiser financial decisions.
For additional information on financial anchoring, click here.
- Have students talk to several people to obtain information about how they determine the price they are willing to pay for an item.
- Have students create a video presentation that demonstrates various anchoring methods.
- How might anchoring help improve personal financial literacy and money management activities?
- Describe anchors people might used to determine the price they would be willing to pay for an item.
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.
- 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.
- What factors might create situations that result in a financial regret?
- Describe possible financial regrets and corrective actions a person might take.
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.
- 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.
- What factors might a person consider when selecting a savings instrument for storing money for emergencies?
- Describe actions a person might take to have more funds available for an emergency fund?
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.
- 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.
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of the system discussed in this article?
- Describe actions to monitor spending and saving using online banking and apps.