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  • Archive for July, 2016

    Banking As We Age: What you need to know to keep your money safe

    Monday, July 25th, 2016

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    As we age, our banking and financial needs change.  As a young or middle-aged person, our priorities may be saving for a large purchase like a car or a home, building up an emergency fund, and saving for retirement. But later in life, the priority often becomes making retirement savings last rather than earning and saving for the future.

    In addition to different money goals, older people are more susceptible to financial abuse and scams; an outcome that financial institutions can help protect against. With that in mind, many financial institutions have created initiatives or programs aimed at helping older people with the unique banking challenges they face. Both AARP and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have released guidance for financial institutions on how to protect and make their older customers more comfortable. CFPB recommends training staff to detect warning signs of financial abuse and reporting all cases of suspected exploitation. AARP suggests making the banking environment easy to access (seated areas to speak with employees or for waiting) and empowering financial caregivers by keeping them informed of financial updates, for example, through a texting alert system that notifies them if a withdrawal is made from the older person’s account.

    Putting these measures in place isn’t just a gesture of good will. A survey found that doing so is also beneficial for business. Banks reportedly lose $1 billion annually from exploitation and four out of five older adults prefer to bank at a financial institution that proactively fights exploitation. Furthermore, about one in four are willing to pay more for those benefits, like employees who are trained to spot exploitation.

    As you are nearing retirement and older age, it is worthwhile to look into whether your bank is aware of the needs of its older customers. If that information is not easily available, speak to a bank representative about your concerns.

    The source of many financial challenges for older people is cognitive decline. Beyond seeking out a financial institution that is proactively putting measures in place to help prevent financial exploitation, there are things that you personally can do to safeguard your money against the vulnerability that aging may cause.  Actively talk to your spouse, partner or a trusted loved one about your financial plans and goals, which can help them take notice if things veer off course. Get your financial documents in order; make sure you have all your account documents, account numbers and passwords in a safe but easy-to-access place. Also make sure all of your documents, like your power of attorney and will, are up to date.

    Banking in your later years presents a unique set of challenges and concerns. It is important to plan now for a time when you might be more vulnerable to financial exploitation, and your bank should be there to support and help you. Learn more about financial elder abuse by reading WISER’s fact sheets on the topic.

    Save or spend? How apps can help you stay on track.

    Thursday, July 7th, 2016

    And my money goes toBudgeting, or keeping track of how much money you’re spending and on what, can do wonders for your savings. Even without consciously deciding to spend less and save more, monitoring your finances can help you stay on track with your spending goals and stop you from over-the-top splurges.

    Despite the benefits, many people don’t budget simply because it sounds like too much work. Fortunately, the device that many of us carry around in our pockets all day- the smart phone- offers a possible solution. There are various smartphone apps that are easy to use and can help you budget and save money. Here are a few examples of popular apps available:

    (Please note, WISER is not providing an endorsement of these apps. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide the best process or tools to use when it comes to budgeting or saving.)

    1. Mint

    Mint may be the best known of the budgeting apps. It offers no-frills, straightforward information about your spending habits. After you link the app up with all of your accounts- checking, savings, retirement, credit cards-the app will automatically record and categorize every transaction. You can set goals for each month- like how much you want to spend on groceries, or clothing for example- and the app will tell you when you’ve gone over budget. The main home screen gives you the most basic information you need, including how much you’ve made this month and how much you’ve spent, so you’ll know if you’re in the green or in the red. Mint is available for iOS and Android.

    1. BillTracker

    If you struggle with paying your bills on time and pay the price with overdue fees and increasing interest, BillTracker may be for you.  The app allows you to keep track of all your bills and due dates and will notify you when it’s time to make a payment. A calendar feature keeps all the due dates of your bills in one place. Billtracker is available for iOS.

    1. You Need A Budget (YNAB)

    YNAB says that it will help you “gain total control of your money,” including paying off debt, saving more money, and breaking the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck. YNAB costs $5 a month, or $50 a year—but you can try a free 30-day trial (no credit card info required) before you commit. For that money, you get software for your computer and a supplemental app. Together, the two help can you to better manage money by following four rules: 1) Give every dollar a job. 2) Embrace your true expenses. 3) Roll with the punches. And 4) Age your money (meaning increase the time between receiving your money and spending it). YNAB is available for iOS and Android.

    1. Acorns

    Acorns is an investing app that links with your bank accounts and credit cards. Acorn rounds up every purchase and invests the spare change into a diversified portfolio. If you are interested in beginning to invest your extra dollars but aren’t sure how, this could be a first step. Acorns is available for iOS and Android.

    App stores are filled with a variety of saving and financial planning tools. The key is to figure out what works best for you. As an end note, always approach any service that asks you to enter banking and other account information with a healthy amount of skepticism. While all of the services listed here are verified, there’s always a chance of hacking or other security breaches. Do your own research before you provide any private information to a third party.

    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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