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  • Archive for April, 2014

    Get Back to the Basics: 8 Financial Questions You Should Know How to Answer

    Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

    Smart Piggy BankAs Financial Literacy Month comes to a close, we came up with 8 questions we think you should know how to answer. They range from personal questions to straight definitions. Try answering them first, and then take a look at our answers and explanations for more information!



    1)      What is your monthly budget?

    2)      What is your net worth?

    3)      What is your “full retirement age” to receive Social Security benefits?

    4)      Every year, each U.S. citizen is entitled to one free credit report from each of the credit bureaus. Do you know the names of these three credit agencies and how to access your credit report?

    5)      Do you know how compound interest works?

    6)      What is the difference between immediate and deferred annuities?

    7)      How much do experts recommend keeping in your savings account for “rainy days?”

    8)      When trying to figure out how much to save for retirement, you must consider how long you expect to live (keeping in mind that women live longer than men). What is a good rule of thumb to follow to figure how much savings you will need to cover your lifespan?


    Question 1: Monthly Budget

    The first step to saving is to know how much money you spend, where you spend it, and what you can cut. Obviously everyone’s budget is different, but we have some tips to help you figure it out. Start by adding up your total annual income (after taxes) including salary and money regularly received from any other sources. Divide this number by 12. This gives you an idea of how much you have to work with each month. Next, keep track of your expenses for a month and organize them into categories. Make sure to include all of your bills! If you’re having trouble thinking of everything you spend money on, take a look at our budget worksheet to see common categories and expenses. These two steps will help you understand your monthly budget by showing how much money you have and how much you’re spending. If you are spending more than you are earning, you will have to cut expenses or find ways to supplement your income.

    Question 2: Net worth

    Net worth is your total amount of assets, minus your liabilities. In other words, it is how much you own, minus how much you owe to others. Again, your net worth will depend on your own finances. It is important to know where you stand financially when considering all of your assets.  We have a worksheet to help you with this question!

    Question 3:

    “Full retirement age” is the age at which you can receive the full benefits of Social Security. If you were born in 1960 or after, your full retirement age is 67. If you were born earlier than 1960, your full retirement age varies slightly depending on the year you were born. Our chart can help you figure out when you are entitled to full Social Security.

    Question 4: Credit Reports

    The federally- recognized credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, Transunion. If you plan on making a large purchase soon, you can choose to get all three at once. If you are not, consider receiving a report from only one bureau at a time and spacing them out so you can track your credit over the year. If you are paying off debt, you may want to view your credit report over time to see where you are improving and where you may need some assistance. The Federal Trade Commission has great information about how to order your credit report and imposter websites to look out for.

    Question 5: Compound Interest

    Compounding is a principle in which the interest you earn on your original investment can ALSO earn interest. So, for example, if you had $2000 in your account, with a compounded interest rate of 10%, at the end of the first year you would have $2200, which is your original amount plus interest. With compounding, at the end of your second year you would have $2420.  Your $200 worth of interest also earned interest. If your interest is not compounded, you would only have $2400.

    Compounding is great when it comes to saving because that extra interest adds up quickly! But be careful when loans or credit cards have compound interest. You will end up paying more each year.

    Question 6: Annuities

    Immediate annuities are ones that pay a fixed amount for as long as you live, or for a certain number of years as defined by your agreement. Deferred annuities are investments that delay payments until a future date. There are some great reasons to consider buying an annuity upon retirement, including having a fixed, certain income. But as with any financial product, you need to do your homework to make sure it is right for you.  We have more information and facts on our website.

    Question 7: Savings Accounts

    Experts recommend having about six months’ worth of living expenses saved in a savings account. This amount will help cover unexpected periods of unemployment or other emergencies. Even if you can’t easily save 6 months’ worth of income, any amount in an emergency fund is better than nothing.  Check out our tips on saving to help you reach this goal!

    Question 8: Live Long

    Start by estimating your expected lifespan. On average, people who reach 65 will live into their 80s. However, since 25% could live much longer, experts suggest saving for an additional 10 years. While this rule of thumb is not perfect, you are less likely to run out of money if you plan to live that much longer. For more tips and information on living to 100 and beyond, see our latest newsletter.


    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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