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  • Archive for the ‘Credit Card Debt’ Category

    A New Year to Invest in Your Financial Future

    Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

    The New Year presents us all with an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities and make some new year’s resolutions. Sometimes we have a habit of creating really extravagant goals for ourselves each year, hoping that this year will be the year to change it all. But by the time the New Year ball drops again, we often feel disappointed that we didn’t accomplish all we had in mind. This year, let’s resolve to make some financial resolutions that will stick!

    WISER’s mission is to help you create achievable savings and investing practices that can be maintained for a lifetime. To help you create your own unique, financially savvy path towards retirement, we have put together resolutions—one for each month—that are realistic and attainable. Take this opportunity to start fresh in 2011 with new goals for your financial future. Then when the ball drops on this year, you will be on your way to a more secure retirement. From all of us at WISER we wish you a happy financial new year in 2011!

    12 Helpful Tips for Each Month of 2011: Click here to print out your own copy for the fridge or your desk to remind you year round!

    1. January – Resolve your budget.
    Even if you feel like you are swimming in debt or living paycheck to paycheck, the first step to taking control is knowing how much money is coming in and where it is going. Our budget worksheets can help track where your money is going and help you establish some firm financial goals. Simply taking the time to calculate the numbers and having them right in front of you can be empowering and help motivate you to get (and stay!) on track.

    2. February – Invest in your financial relationships.

    This month, take time to sit down with your partner, spouse, significant other, (or even just yourself) and review all of your finances – look at what you spend each month, make sure you are both aware of each other’s employee-sponsored or other retirement plans and assets, review your insurance needs, and create an organized file with your important documents. Try not to let it become an overwhelming conversation, but make it your goal as a Valentine’s day gift to yourself and your loved ones to have a financial discussion about the future.

    3. March – Prepare for Tax Season.

    A quick way to immediately start saving before your tax refund burns a hole in your pocket is to have your tax refund automatically put into a savings bond. Visit the IRS website for great information that can help you fill out your tax forms so that you can instantly start saving with government bonds.

    4. April – Start a “Rainy-day” fund.

    April showers bring May flowers, and this month is a great opportunity to start a “rainy-day” fund. Many experts recommend having about six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account to cover sudden unemployment or other emergencies. Of course it will take some time to build up to this amount, but resolve this April to start stashing away some money each month, even if it’s just a small amount, for that rainy day.

    5. May – Show Mom you really care.

    May is a time to celebrate our mothers and all the other women in our lives who have done so much for us over the years. A great way we can show our mothers and other older relatives our appreciation is to make sure they will have the financial assistance they need in retirement. Take time this month to have a conversation with your parents or others who may depend on you down the road about their caregiving needs and retirement plans. Helping them now will also help you in the long run. Visit the National Alliance for Caregiving for great resources on this topic.

    6. June – Take a vacation from your finances by paying yourself automatically.
    Put yourself at the top of your “payee” list. Regular automatic deductions from your paycheck or bank account into a savings, investing or retirement account will keep you on track toward your short and long-term financial goals. Commit to save as much as you can each month, but if you don’t feel like you have a lot to save, start small. Find a way to save even just $25 a month towards your retirement goals.

    7. July – Kick the summer doldrums by taking a long-term view.
    Summer months give us the opportunity to slow things down and appreciate the long days of summer. This is good time to think long-term about your retirement needs.  Take some time this month to play around with a retirement calculator and start to get a sense of what you will realistically need. Don’t let this task overwhelm you, but instead try plugging in different scenarios and allow yourself to plan for the future. A good calculator we recommend can be found at www.360FinancialLiteracy.org, specifically the Retirement Planner Calculator.

    8. August – Feeling the heat of debt?

    Let’s admit it; most of us have some pesky debt that is hanging over our heads. Take this month to face the heat and organize your debt. Resolve to stop adding to your debt and start making some headway on paying it off. Check out WISER’s Debt Warning Signs Fact Sheet to see where you fall when it comes to financial debt, and what you can do to start getting out of it.

    9. September – It’s back to school time, so educate yourself.
    If you are not already investing your money and feel overwhelmed by the thought of things like stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, then commit this month to educating yourself on these topics.  Read at least one book or informational booklet that covers the basics of investing.  You do not need to be an expert in finances to successfully plan and save for retirement; a little knowledge of the basics can go a long way. WISER’s booklet, “What Everyone Needs to Know About Money and Retirement” is a great place to start.

    10. October – Trick or Treat? Understand Financial Scams.

    Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not something is a great financial opportunity or just too good to be true. Use October as the time to educate yourself about financial scams and abuse that unfortunately happen more often then we’d like to think. WISER’s Too Good to Be True Checklist can help you spot a financial scam, and our Elder Financial Abuse Brief can also help you look out for those you love. Then share this information with a friend or family member to help protect them too!

    11. November – If you have benefits at work, give thanks! And learn how to maximize your options.

    For many companies and organizations, November is benefits enrollment season where you can sign up or make adjustments to your benefits. Take this month to learn more about your individual benefits and how you can make the most of them.  To help you think about this, check out WISER’s brochure “20 Ways to Take Advantage of Your Company Benefits Plan”.  If your company does not offer a benefits plan, take this time to research what you can do on your own, like opening an IRA (Individual Retirement Account).

    12. December – Celebrate your financial success.

    As the year comes to an end, celebrate all that you have accomplished this past year. Look back on all of the financial strides you have made and commit yourself to keeping up those goals and improving upon your success next year. If for some reason you were unable to meet your financial goals, then take this month to recommit to your financial future and to making each month count in 2012. One month at a time can make all the difference when it comes to saving for retirement.

    Legislative Alert: The CARD Act of 2009 is Now in Effect

    Friday, February 26th, 2010


    The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act takes effect starting today. This act will work to increase the amount of information clearly presented to consumers about their bills, interest, and changes to their account. This is good news for consumers, but you still need to understand these changes and pay attention to your credit card agreements and activity! Some of the changes include:

    â–ª Credit card companies must notify you at least 45 days before they can increase your interest rate or change certain fees applicable to your account.
    â–ª Your bill will have a table showing how long it will take you to pay off your balance if you make only the minimum monthly payments. Here is an example of a credit statement provided by the Federal Reserve:

    New Balance $1,784.53
    Minimum Payment Due $53.00
    Payment Due Date 4/20/12

    If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay the minimum payment,you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 10 years and you will end up paying an estimated total of $3,284.

    If you make no additional charges using this card and each month you pay $62, you will pay off the balance shown on this statement in about 3 years and you will end up paying an estimated total of $2,232 (Savings= $1,052)

    Other consumer protections include:

    â–ª Credit card companies cannot increase your interest rate for one year after you open the account. Be sure to read the fine print, as there are some exceptions to this rule.
    ▪ Credit card companies must mail you your bill at least 21 days before your payment is due. You must have the same due date each month and your payment must be deemed “on-time” if it is received before 5:00pm on that date.
    â–ª When paying your bill, if you make more than the minimum payment, the company must credit the extra amount to the balance with the highest interest rate.
    ▪ Credit card companies are prohibited from imposing “two-cycle billing,” meaning they can only charge interest on balances in the present billing cycle.

    While these changes are encouraging and will help to protect you as a consumer, you should still carefully look at any information your credit card company sends to you and be aware of your plan’s details. For more information on the CARD Act and its provisions, read WISER’s newsletter.

    Budgeting in a Spending Season

    Friday, November 28th, 2008

    Thanksgiving is over and the giving season has just begun. Today’s unofficial holiday, Black Friday, kicks off the holiday shopping season with a wide variety of retailers offering huge savings on high ticket items. Unlike the tamer Thanksgiving week traditions, such as the Macys Thanksgiving day parade or the traditional Thanksgiving feast, Black Friday is marked by epic lines at local stores and chaotic masses of shoppers, many of whom are willing to wake up before dawn for doorbuster deals and prime access to the soon to be out-of-stock sale items.

    It’s hard to remember anything when you’re rolling out of bed at 5am, still drowsy from last night’s turkey paired with a lack of shut-eye. But it’s especially hard to remember your budget. Maybe that budget amnesia accounts for these poll results: according to the Washington Post, half of the respondents to a poll early last year said they would carry their holiday credit card debt into spring. And this was before the current economic slump. So how do you stop yourself from overspending this holiday season? Why not give yourself a few gifts before you start shopping for everyone else:

    Gift 1: A Budget
    I know, it’s scary. When there are people to shop for, holidays parties to attend, even holiday parties to throw, you may not want to have your financial reality mapped out in front of you when you could have a piece of pie and a healthy slice of ignorance instead. But soon enough it will be January, the month of New Years resolutions and no more holiday splurge excuses. So why not get a head start and make a budget now? Include holiday gifts and get a better idea of how much you can spend this holiday season. You can use WISER’s budget worksheet to get you started. For help on keeping track of your spending, check out WISER’s “Keep Track of Your Spending” Fact Sheet.

    Gift 2: A Low-Interest Credit Card
    Look for low-rate and no annual fee credit cards. You can get a list of credit cards, interest rates and fees: send $5 to RAM Research’s CardTrak, P.O. Box 1916, Frederick, MD 21702, or for free on the Internet at http://www.ramresearch.com/. See also the http://www.cardtrack.com/ website .

    Gift 3:A Free Credit Report
    Get a better idea of your credit situation, for free! As of September 2005, all US Citizens are eligible for one free credit report from each credit agency per year. To receive your free annual credit report visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. This can help you improve your credit and set some long term financial goals.

    Gift Trapped? [Washington Post]
    Tips for Reining in Holiday Giving [Washington Post]


    WISER

    About Us

    WISER is a nonprofit organization that works to help women, educators and policymakers understand the important issues surrounding women's retirement income. WISER creates a variety of consumer publications including fact sheets, booklets and a quarterly newsletter that explain in easy-to-understand language the complex issues surrounding Social Security, divorce, pay equity, pensions, savings and investments, banking, home-ownership, long-term care and disability insurance.

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