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.

 

National Social Security Month

In April, the Social Security Administration celebrated National Social Security Month, and highlighted the agency’s mission and purpose.

The agency is constantly expanding its online services to give you freedom and control in how you wish to explore it.

For example, you can go online to:

  1. Find out if you qualify for benefits;
  2. Use benefit planners to help you better understand your Social Security protection;
  3. Estimate your future retirement benefits to help you plan for your financial future;
  4. Retire online, or apply for Medicare quickly and easily; and
  5. Open your personal my Social Security to help you stay in control of your Social Security record.

If you currently receive benefits, you can:

  1. Change your address and phone number;
  2. Get a benefit verification letter to prove you receive Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or Medicare;
  3. Start deposits or change your direct deposit information at any time;
  4. Get a replacement Medicare card; and
  5. Get a replacement Benefit Statement (SSA-1099 or SSA-1042S) for tax purposes

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have a Social Security account. If not, encourage them to establish their account, regardless of their age.
  • Make students understand that Social Security is not just for people over 65. The program provides benefits to retirees, survivors, and disabled persons.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to open a mySocial Security account, even if you are in your teens?
  2. What are the pros and cons of collecting Social Security at age 62? Under what circumstances would you choose to collect benefits before full retirement age?

Motivation for Saving

While you might think that saving for college, retirement, or buying home are the reasons Americans save, according to a recent survey, travel was reported as the top priority.  In a study of 2,500 adult Americans representing varied demographic, geographic, economic, and social groups, 45 percent of respondents set aside money for traveling.  This was especially true among younger respondents, who prefer travel experiences over savings to buy a home.

After travel, the main priorities for saving by Americans are:

  • for an emergency fund (37 percent)
  • for retirement (30 percent)
  • to buy a house (21 percent)
  • to buy a car, truck or motorcycle (20 percent)

For additional information on saving priorities, check out these two resources:

Article #1

Article #2

 

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students conduct a survey among people they know to determine the main reasons for saving.
  • Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for building a person’s savings account.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are reasons people prefer saving for travel over other financial goals?
  2. Describe other actions that might be taken to motivate people to build their savings?

Receipt Savings Trick

It’s possible to add $500 or $1,000 to your savings with a simple action. Clark.com suggests using store receipts to save for the future. Many retailers display a “You Saved” amount on a receipt for items on sale and store discounts. By putting this amount in a savings account you can avoid spending the “saved” money on other items.

Collecting receipts in an envelope or box, or scanning them to an app, can also help analyze buying habits to make wiser purchases in the future and not make as many trips to the store. This action can result in an extra amount each month added to your savings. This money can be added to your emergency fund or retirement account.

For additional information on the receipt savings trick, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students locate examples of receipts that show “amount saved.”
  • Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for methods for building a person’s savings account.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of using this system?
  2. Describe other actions that might be taken to motivate you and others to build your savings?

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?

How the Presidential Election Will Affect Your Investment Strategy

“The sky is falling!  If my chosen candidate doesn’t win, the markets are doomed and so are my investments.”

In this article, Bijan Golkar points out that a presidential election can cause excitement or despair depending on if you are a Republican or a Democrat and who the major parties nominate for the highest and most powerful office in the world.

The article discusses market returns both before and after a presidential election year and some of the underlying reasons for market volatility.  Then the article stresses the importance of a person’s long-term goals and a plan for long-term growth as opposed to “emotional investing.”  Finally, the article discusses the pros and cons of our economy that could affect investment values.

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 importance of a long-term investment plan that will take advantage of the time value of money.
  • Describe some of the pitfalls of “emotional investing.”

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the typical characteristics of an emotional investor? Of a long-term investor?
  2. What are the advantages of a long-term investment program when compared to “emotional investing?”

Newcomer Money Guides

While beneficiary, collateral, and fair market value are familiar to many, these terms can be especially confusing to those with limited English-language skills. In an attempt to assist various people, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created the Newcomer’s Guides to Managing Money to provide recent immigrants with information about basic money decisions.  These guides offer brief suggestions to those who are new to the U.S. banking system.  The guides also include guidance for submitting and resolving problems with a financial product or service.

The Newcomer Guides include these topics:

  • Ways to receive your money, comparing cash, check, direct deposit, and debit cards.
  • Checklist for opening an account, to assist with starting a bank or credit union account.
  • Ways to pay your bills, providing guidance on whether to pay by check, debit card, credit card, or online.
  • Selecting financial products and services, providing assistance on deciding which financial services are right for various household situations.

Print copies of the guides can be ordered or downloaded. These publications are available to English and Spanish with additional languages to be offered in the future.

For additional information on money guides for newcomers:

Article #1
Article #2
Article #3

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students ask people to create a list of financial planning terms that people find confusing.
  • Have students suggest methods to have people learn about confusing financial planning terms.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What financial problems might be encountered by people with limited English-language skills?
  2. What actions might be taken to assist various groups to better understand banking services and money management activities?

Investor Alert: Securities-Backed Lines of Credit (SBLOC)

SBLOCs are loans that are often marketed to investors as an easy and inexpensive way to access extra cash by borrowing against the assets in your investment portfolio without having to liquidate these securities.  They do, however, carry a number of risks, among them potential unintended tax consequences and the possibility that you may, in fact have to sell your holdings, which could have a significant impact on your long-term investment goals.

Set up as a revolving line of credit, an SBLOC allows you to borrow money using securities held in your investment accounts as collateral.  You can continue to trade and buy and sell securities in your pledged accounts.  An SBLOC requires you to make monthly interest-only payments, and the loan remains outstanding until you repay it.  You can repay some (or all) of the outstanding principal at any time, then borrow again later.  Some investors like the flexibility of an SBLOC as compared to a term loan, which has a stated maturity date and a fixed repayment schedule.  In some ways, SBLOC are reminiscent of home equity lines of credit, except of course that, among other things, they involve the use of your securities rather than your home as collateral.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy (OIEA) have issued an investor alert to provide information about the basics of SBLOC, how they may be marketed to you, and what risks you should consider before posting your investment portfolio as collateral.  SBLOCs may seem like an attractive way to access extra capital when markets are producing positive returns, but market volatility can magnify you potential losses, placing your financial future at greater risks.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to prepare a list of possible advantages and disadvantages of securities-based loans.
  • How might market volatility magnify potential losses placing your financial future at a greater risk?

Discussion Questions

  1. How are securities-backed lines of credit different from home-equity lines of credit?
  2. Why some investors prefer SBLOC to a traditional short term loan?

New rules for Reverse Mortgages

The most popular reverse mortgage program is the Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), which is insured by Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

New rules from HUD add protections for certain surviving spouses after the death of a reverse mortgage borrower.   Until recently, if the non-borrower spouse was not on the loan, he or she was not entitled to remain in the property following the death of the borrower.  But under HUD’s new rules, non-borrowing, surviving spouse can remain in the home if specific conditions are met.  These changes apply to reverse mortgage loans in which the borrowing spouse applied for a reverse mortgage before August 2014.  In addition, the couple must have resided in the property as their principal residence throughout the duration of the HECM, and taxes, property insurance and any other special assessments that may be required by local or state law must have been paid.

The concern regarding non-borrowing spouses has been a source of many reverse mortgage issues.  Here’s why: The amount of money a reverse mortgage borrower can draw is based in part on the age of the youngest borrower—and unless all borrowers are 62 or over, they would not qualify for a reverse mortgage.

For more information:

Consumer Advisory

Reverse Mortgage Information

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to comment on the statement: “While a reverse mortgage can be used to supplement monthly income, some borrowers may face unintended obstacles and consequences”. What might be those consequences?
  • Are the new rules from HUD effective in protecting senior citizens? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why should you talk to a qualified professional before deciding to get a reverse mortgage?
  2. Where can you find HUD-approved HECM Counseling Agencies near you?