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  • Posts Tagged ‘saving’

    Here’s Why Financial Literacy Is For Everyone

    Thursday, April 20th, 2017

    little blog pictureApril is Financial Literacy Month.

    “Financial Literacy” is a somewhat new term and trend in the United States, and for that reason, some find it off-putting and discouraging. Don’t let the fancy phrasing scare you, though. The reality is, financial literacy simply means knowledge about money and savings. Even though most of us didn’t learn the basics of financial knowledge in an educational setting (hopefully that will change in the future!), important, life-changing saving information is easily within reach.

    In fact, understanding of the importance of financially literacy only became widespread in the past fifteen years or so. In 2002, the U.S. Department of Treasury created the Office of Financial Education as a way to organize its efforts in the area. The next year, Congress passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which established the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, a group that later published a “National Strategy on Financial Literacy.”

    That means that, hopefully, financial education will become a standard and required part of education. However, just because it wasn’t something you learned about in school doesn’t mean you cannot become extremely knowledgeable on investing, saving, retirement and other financial topics. It is important for everyone to educate themselves about their finances, but know that you don’t need to be a financial expert to make smart decisions. Some basic information can go a long way.

    In particular, it is important to know what you should be doing at every stage of life to make sure you are on track financially and preparing for long term financial security. WISER’s “7 Life Defining Financial Decisions” booklet breaks down key topics into stages and explains how to approach each one.

    For example, when it comes to jobs and careers, when taking a job, consider not only salary but also benefits. There are two basic kinds of employer-sponsored pension plans: defined benefit and defined contribution plans. When leaving a job, it is important to consider that changing jobs, even for higher pay, can cost you a bundle in lost benefits and retirement income. If at some point in your life you decide to stay home full time, think through the family finances, including retirement planning. Where there are large upsides, you will lose compensation, benefits, job skills and contacts if you leave work completely.

    The booklet offers more advice on financial decision-making at every stage of life. By focusing on life stages and basic information, financial literacy is within reach for everyone.

    Why Saving As A Young Person Is Important

    Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

    “Live while you’re young!” “Youth is wasted on the young!” “I’ll sleep when I’m dead!” “Live in the moment!”

    Everywhere they turn, young people are inundated with messages encouraging them to live now, worry later. In financial terms, that translates to “spend now, save later”—and it’s a hard message to ignore. The internal justifications to spend instead of save often sound like this: all of my friends are planning an expensive trip overseas, why shouldn’t I join them? Why not rack up credit card debt—I’ll be able to pay it off later, when I’m older and have a higher paying job! I’m only young once!

    The same mentality leads to young people to taking out large amounts of student loans, beyond what they may be able to afford or what may be worthwhile. According to new research from the National Endowment for Financial Education, more than 70% of millennials (people ages 23 to 35) have at least one long-term debt, which could be student loans or something else, like a car loan. About 34% of millennials have two long-term loans. These numbers alone are troubling, but to make matters even worse, the research also found that about a quarter of millennials with a retirement account took out a loan or hardship withdrawal in the last 12 months. This emphasizes that many young people are prioritizing the present much more than the future when it comes to finances.

    This trend is putting young people at a serious financial disadvantage—making it more difficult to purchase a home, open a business, or pursue other ventures later in life. Here are several additional reasons why saving as a young person is important:

    Financial Habits Are Set When You’re Young

    The same holds true for any habit: the earlier you adopt it and the more often you carry it out, the more likely it is to stick. Being smart with money is no different. If you are careless about money for most of your life, it will be extremely difficult to switch gears and become a scrupulous saver once there is truly something to save for—like a child or a home. The inverse is also true. If you are smart with money from a young age and put in place good habits, like putting a certain amount of your paycheck each month into savings, you are likely to carry those habits later in life.

    Saving a Little Now Equals A Lot Once You Retire

    We often hear about “the power of compound interest.” We,ll that power is only powerful if you start saving young. The more years that go by, the more powerful compound interest becomes. If you save a little bit as a young person, that money will accrue interest and, by the time it’s time to retire 30 or so years later, a little bit of money will have grown into a lot of money. You can only take advantage of this is if you save early.

    Cost of Living Grows As You Age

     It’s easy to assume that because you can support yourself now, you’ll be able to do so later. However, the cost of living grows dramatically as you age. The odds increase that you will become a caregiver, in terms of both finances and time, for an aging parent or a child. Medical costs also increase as you age. Your salary will also likely grow, but it may not grow enough to support these costs, let alone enough to put aside enough for retirement, when your income will decrease dramatically. Saving early helps ensure financial stability throughout your entire life.

    It’s Never Too Early to Talk to Children about Retirement

    Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

    Sonya Meets Her Future SelfRetirement is a concept that most adults don’t fully comprehend, let alone kids. 401(K)s, mutual funds, compounding interest, Social Security… all of the terms and jargon surrounding retirement saving can be confusing even to the most well-educated person. One of the best ways to make sure that children grow to understand the importance of retirement saving is to start planting the seeds of knowledge at a young age. The movement to educate children about financial literacy at school is gaining traction across the country, but it is still important to talk to children about the importance of long-term savings outside of the classroom too.

    A valuable tool for introducing the concept and value of long-term saving is WISER’s publication, Sonja Meets Her Future Self. The illustrated children’s book tells the story of a young girl named Sonja who travels through time and meets herself at different points in her life. The book was published in collaboration with the Wyoming Retirement System. You can download the book here to share with the children in your life. You can also watch a narrated video of the story. After you finish, here are some lessons you can discuss together:

    1. Make Sure To Always Save Part Of What You Make

    In the story, Sonja’s grandpa takes her to the bank to open an account, and every week after that, they go to the bank together to deposit part of her allowance. This is a great reminder to kids that even if they are making a small amount of money each week, it is worthwhile to put some aside. Once they get older and their paycheck grows, their weekly savings will as well. Although many transactions are done online, the weekly act of visiting the bank the way Sonja and her grandpa did can be a much more lasting reminder to always put something aside.

    2. When You Do Buy Something, Choose Something With Lasting Value

    Following her grandpa’s advice, Sonja begins saving a little bit of money every week. But he also makes sure to let her know that “it’s OK to spend money.” When you do, it should be for something really worthwhile. In Sonja’s case, she saved enough of her allowance each week to eventually be able to buy her first skateboard. She rides the skateboard all the time, and it even allows her to travel into the future—a purchase well worthwhile! When she is 18, Sonja tells her younger self that she used the money she has been putting away each week from her part-time job to buy herself a used car—another smart, worthwhile purchase. Sonja didn’t buy things she used once and then got bored with, she bought items with real value that she made long-term use out of. Her spending options are a great lesson that spending money is not bad, as long as you are smart about it.

    3. If You Save A Little Bit Over A Long Time, Eventually You Will Have A Lot

    Sonja started saving every week at the age of 11. At first, she only saved up enough to buy a skateboard, but eventually she had enough to buy a used car, and eventually enough to live off of in retirement. Her saving story is a great lesson that even if you only save a little bit, over a long time, it will grow.

    During this gift-giving season, share the story of Sonja with a child in your life.  It is a gift that can last a lifetime!

    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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