Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Investing

An increasing number of investors are seeking a more ethical portfolio with an emphasis on socially responsible and sustainable investing. An emerging trend is environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, with these factors used to evaluate the financial return and overall impact. 

The ESG score measures how investments and companies perform in these categories:

  • Environmental – carbon emissions, air and water pollution, deforestation, green energy initiatives, waste management, water usage
  • Social – employee gender and diversity, data security, customer satisfaction, company sexual harassment policies, human rights at home and around the world, fair labor practices
  • Governance – diversity of board members, political contributions, executive pay, large-scale lawsuits, internal corruption, lobbying

Many view “sustainable” investing as very vague. The ESG criteria hopes to provide a grading of investments that clarifies what sustainable involves. ESG scores are calculated using different methods. Some ratings are created by using data collected from company disclosures and government, academic and NGO databases. Other scores are developed with self-reported data from participating companies.

Recent benefits of ESG investing include higher returns and a lower downside risk than traditional funds and conventional investments.  To start investing, you can search on your own to identify an ESG fund or an individual stock with a high ESG score that fits your investment beliefs and goals.  Investors can also use a robo-advisor to guide their ESG investment choices.

For additional information on ESG investing, click on the following links:

Article #1

Article #2

Article #3

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search online to identify ESG funds or companies they might consider for their investment portfolio.
  • Have students talk with others to obtain the level of interest for ESG investing among potential investors of various ages.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What aspects of ESG investing do you find attractive?  What are your concerns?
  2. What concerns might be associated with methods used to create ESG scores?
Categories: Chapter_11, Chapter_12, Chapter_13, Investments, Mutual Funds, Stocks | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Tips To Avoid Internet Scams

Each day, more and more scams surface through computers, tablets, cellphones, and other smart devices. To protect your personal information and to avoid being a victim of fraud, the following actions are recommended:

  • Keep operating systems, browsers, programs, apps, and security components up to date.
  • Be aware of the latest scam techniques being used by fraudsters. Search online to learn about current scams.
  • Enable firewalls for your computer and router.
  • Install an antivirus program for your computer, tablet, and smartphone that updates automatically.
  • Create a guest network for visitors to your home to use, to avoid them having to access your home network.
  • Don’t click or respond to emails, phone calls, or text messages from strange addresses and those with unusual subject lines.
  • Update passwords often with a random, complex series of letters, numbers, and symbols; don’t use the same password on different sites. Consider use of a password manager. 
  • Use only reputable sites when shopping online. Use a credit card instead of a debit card for greater financial protection. Don’t click on links or pop-ups, which can be a fake, look-alike website; instead, go directly to the shopping website.
  • Adjust privacy settings on your devices, and for websites you visit for your best protection.  
  • Regularly back up your data in case of a malicious attack, so you don’t lose access to your information and files. If you encounter a ransomware attack, file a report with the FBI.
  • Avoid use of public Wi-Fi to prevent potential fraud and identity theft.
  • Be cautious with your social media posts, especially information about children and teens. Don’t post personal information, vacation plans, work and home schedules, address or other contact information. Don’t “check in” at the locations you visit. 
  • Be cautious about online gaming, which can result in identity theft, bullying, harassment and online predators. Children should use an avatar or nickname.

For additional information on avoiding online scams, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students search online for examples of recently-created online scams.
  • Have students create a video, poster, or slide presentation with common email scams and actions to avoid those situations.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What are some reasons that a person might become a victim of an online scam?
  2. Describe actions to learn about new online scams. 
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 6, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

SELECTING AN ONLINE BANK

More and more bank customers are using online financial-service providers. Online-only (digital) banks provide traditional financial services in an online format.  FinTech companies (neobanks) offer innovative banking services with an emphasis on emerging technology, often through apps.

When deciding which online bank to use, consider these factors:

  • FDIC Insurance, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) covers deposit accounts against bank failure up to $250,000 per depositor and type of ownership category. To determine if a bank is protected by the FDIC, go to https://banks.data.fdic.gov/bankfind-suite/bankfind
  • Fee-free ATMs, to avoid costly charges. Many online banks have an extensive network of ATMs, while others do not have ATM access.
  • High-yield savings accounts, with lower operating costs many online banks offer savings accounts with higher yields. Be sure to compare the rates, rules, and regulations at various online banks, such as the required minimum deposit and minimum balance. 
  • Multiple banking products, depending on your goals and needs, you might choose a bank that offers an array of financial services–checking, saving, CDs, debit card, ATMs, credit card, and loans.
  • Financial management tools, FinTech apps and online banks offer innovative financial planning tools to help you save money, such as with a round-up savings component, automatic savings deposits, and low-cost investment funds. Other apps include features for achieving goals to pay off debts or save for a vacation, or savings based on your spending patterns.
  • Investment guidance, robo-advisors provide portfolio suggestions based on financial goals and risk tolerance with the use of artificial intelligence. 

For additional information on selecting an online bank, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others to learn about factors that were considered when selecting a bank or other financial-service provider.
  • Have students create a visual proposal (poster, slide presentation, or other format) to highlight the main factors to consider when selecting an online bank.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What online banking features could help a person improve their financial position?
  2. Describe actions a person might take to select an online bank. 
Categories: Chapter 4, Financial Services | Tags: | Leave a comment

END-OF-YEAR MONEY CHECKLIST

As we approach the end of the year, consider these actions to help create the foundation for financial success in 2022:

  • Review spending for the year. Comparing your actual spending with budgeted amounts will help you plan spending for the coming year. For the upcoming year, track spending with an app, spreadsheet file, Google doc, or a written record.
  • Use flexible spending account funds.  Be sure to spend any money in a flexible spending account on qualified medical expenses before the end of the year, or those funds might be lost. However, due to COVID-19, you may be allowed to roll over the full balance into next year. Contact your benefits department to see if you qualify.  
  • Donate to charity. This will not only create a tax saving, but will also help people in your community and around the world.
  • Create a backup plan. Review the beneficiaries on your financial accounts. You should have a durable power of attorney to handle your financial activities if you are not able to do so.  A health-care proxy (power of attorney) is someone to speak on your behalf regarding medical care when you are not able to do so. A will sets how your assets will be distributed after you die.
  • Consider increased retirement contributions. With increased limits for 2022, plan to increase the amount set aside for long-term financial security while reducing current taxes.
  • Conduct a life audit.  Start with identifying your short-term and long-term goals with sticky notes or index cards.  Then, sort your goals by category, such as personal development, work/career, financial, travel, family, community service, and health. Next, organize within a category based on time of accomplishment, which might include: now/soon, always/everyday, later this year, the next year or two, and someday. Take photos of your notes, place them in a visible location, or use an app such as OneNote as a reminder of these targets. Finally, reflect on your goals by determining why you have certain goals and what actions you need to take. Be sure to set deadlines. Also consider how your goals relate to the type of life you desire for yourself.  Do your goals reflect your beliefs, values, work situation, and personal relationships?

For additional information on year-end financial planning, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others about recommended financial actions to take before the end of the year.
  • Have students create an action plan and timeline for a specific goal.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What attitudes, behaviors, and circumstances might restrict a person from taking certain year-end actions?
  2. Describe information sources and personal contacts that might be used to obtain guidance for achieving a specific goal. 

Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Financial Planning | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

ARE YOU AN IMPULSE BUYER?

During the COVID quarantine, online buying became an addiction for many.  During this time, impulse spending increased by an estimated 18 percent.  Unplanned buying occurs when you purchase more than intended.  Or, buying extra grocery items while shopping when you are hungry. Or, a bad day at work results in a purchase to overcome anxiety.

Most spending occurs to make a person feel better. A survey reported that 72 percent of respondents reported a positive mood from an impulse buy, while 65 percent reported that an impulse buy can reverse a bad day. Others reported that they buy things to help loved ones feel better.

Three personality types are often associated with impulse buying:

  1. Sensation seekers may not consider the risks of impulse buying but desire the spending experience when they feel guilty, bored, or disengaged.
  2. Impulse buying tendency buyers are those who are aware of their behavior but don’t necessarily see it as a problem.
  3. Consumer-driven self-identity is a desire to be part of emerging trends and high-end brands to present an image of status, style, and good taste. 

To take advantage of in-person shoppers, stores make use of sensory environments, bold and graphic signage, associations between brand and positive feelings, checkout line “bonus” items, and price discounts and markdowns. Online retailers encourage buying with the use of time-based and quantity-based deals, heavily targeted social media ads, abandoned shopping cart emails, and free shipping.

Symptoms of impulse buying include:

  • you shop to feel better, which can be dangerous; find other ways to channel your energy
  • you shop to compete with buying to stay up or ahead of others
  • you’re bored; plan something else to do–go for a walk, read, write, draw, email a friend
  • your finances are suffering; track spending to avoid unnecessary purchases   
  • you have too much stuff, much of which you will never use

To reduce your impulse buying…

  • avoid temptations by unfollowing your favorite brand, unsubscribing from marketing emails, clearing browser cookies, blocking favorite sites, deleting shopping apps from your phone, and unsaving credit card information on your browser.
  • create a “fun” budget item as therapy
  • save to buy a “big” item to avoid unneeded spending
  • wait 24-48 hours before buying an item
  • try a no-spend challenge in which you buy nothing for a set number of days, weeks, or months to save money and change past habits. 
  • ask yourself: “Do I need this today or tomorrow?” If not, don’t buy it.

For additional information on impulse buying, click here

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others to ask about any actions they take to avoid impulse buying.
  • Have students create an in-class presentation or video that dramatizes actions to avoid impulse buying.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What types of impulse buying situations have you experienced or observed?
  2. How might impulse buying affect long-term financial security? 
Categories: Chapter 6, Wise Shopping | Tags: | Leave a comment

Pay-Per-Mile Car Insurance

During the pandemic and at other times, if you drive very little, consider pay-per-mile car insurance to lower your premium. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average American drives about 13,500 miles a year. Insurance companies estimate that a person would likely benefit from pay-per-mile insurance program if they drive less than 8,000 miles annually.

Pay-per-mile insurance may be appropriate for people who work from home, are in college, regularly use public transportation, or who have a second vehicle that is rarely used. This coverage has a base rate, which is determined similar to traditional auto insurance. After that, the per-mile rate is added on. High mileage, aggressive driving, and overnight driving can result in higher auto insurance rates. 

Usage-based insurance programs use telematic technology with an app or in-car device to track your driving. Instead of in-car monitoring systems, some companies require that you submit a photo of your odometer each month.

Another type of usage-based insurance is pay-as-you-drive with rates based on driving habits. With this coverage, rates may increase as a result of bad driving habits. Behaviors that are monitored include hard braking, acceleration and speed, the time of day you drive, mileage, and cellphone use.

For additional information on pay-per-mile car insurance, click here

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk with others to learn about their current auto insurance coverage and costs.
  • Have students conduct online research for pay-per-mile and pay-as-you-drive auto insurance to obtain additional information on the features, benefits, and drawbacks of these coverages.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What features of pay-per-mile car insurance might be appropriate for you or people you know?
  2. How might a person reduce the amount paid for auto insurance? 
Categories: Car Insurance, Chapter 8 | Tags: | Leave a comment

Travel insurance: What does it cover and when do you need it?

Not all travel insurance is the same. Some policies only cover certain kinds of trip cancellations. Here are some questions to help you decide if you need travel insurance and what kind of policy will work best for your trip.

  1. What does it cover?

Cancellations: Some policies will only cover trips canceled for certain reasons such as weather or illness. And policies may have exclusions for cancellations due to a preexisting medical condition or if an epidemic or pandemic is declared. You can also pay more for “cancel for any reason” coverage.

Medical coverage: You can also buy medical policies that cover emergency medical and dental expenses while you’re traveling that aren’t covered by your regular health policy. Some policies cover medical evacuations, which can be costly depending on where you’re visiting and probably wouldn’t be covered by your regular health plan.

Other coverage: You can also find policies to cover medical evacuations, lost luggage, and many other potential situations.

Make sure you know exactly what a plan covers before buying.

2. What’s your risk?

Cancellation penalties: You may be able to cancel some parts of your trip, including hotels and tours, without financial penalty. Check the cancellation policies for each item you’ve booked in advance and see how much money you’d lose if you had to cancel all or part of your trip.

Medical expenses: Check with your health plan to see if it would cover medical expenses if you got sick or hurt on your trip. This is especially important if you’re traveling abroad because most health plans, including Medicare, won’t cover treatment in another country. Think about how you’d get to a hospital or medical care if you’re traveling to a remote area.

Coronavirus risk: Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for the latest information and guidance related to COVID-19.

3. Am I already covered?

Your homeowners or renters insurance may include travel coverage. Ask your insurer or agent what your policy covers. Some credit cards include travel protections or may offer travel insurance, too, so ask when you use the card for trip expenses.

When you’re planning your trip, consider what you paid and decide if it’s something that makes sense for you. If you decide travel insurance is a good option for you, you can search the internet to compare plans and prices.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they or their family members have purchased travel insurance.  If so, what have been their experiences?  If not, why they chose not to purchase travel insurance?
  • Ask students to make a list of travel circumstances when it might be wise to purchase travel insurance.

Discussion Questions

  1. Under what scenarios should you spend more money for “cancel for any reason” travel insurance?
  2. Is it better to buy travel insurance from tour operators, cruise lines representatives or travel agents?  Explain.
  3. Is it essential for an international traveler to consider travel insurance?  Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 8, Chapter 9, Health Insurance | Tags: , | Leave a comment

NON-OWNER CAR INSURANCE

If you don’t own a car but regularly drive a rental vehicle or another person’s car, consider non-owner car insurance. This coverage provides liability protection to pay for injuries and property damage of others in an accident. Damage to the car you are driving or your injuries are usually not covered. In some states, you may also obtain coverage for uninsured/underinsured motorist protection and medical payment for your injuries. 

Recommended situations for non-owner car insurance include:

  • ·         When using a car-sharing service, such as Zipcar or Turo.
  • ·         To maintain continuous coverage between selling your car and buying a new one.
  • ·         If you frequently rent cars.
  • ·        If you frequently borrow other people’s cars, especially if you want a higher level of coverage than that of the vehicle’s owner.
  • ·         When obtaining or reinstating a driver’s license, some states require insurance to show “proof of financial responsibility.”

If you frequently borrow a car from someone in your household, non-owner insurance is not recommended.  Instead, you should be included as a covered driver since all driving-age household members may be required to be listed on the policy. If you drive rarely, buy insurance when renting a car or you may be covered on the policy of the person whose car you borrow, if driving with their permission.  

To obtain non-owner car insurance, directly contact an insurance company or agent. Most insurers don’t provide non-owner quotes online. Non-owner car insurance usually has a lower cost than the same liability coverage if you owned a car.

For additional information on non-owner car insurance, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students contact an insurance agent to obtain rate information for non-owner car insurance.
  • Have students create a visual (poster or slide presentation) describing situations in which non-owner car insurance might be appropriate.

Discussion Questions 

  1. When might non-owner car insurance be of value to a driver?
  2. Describe actions people might take to determine if they have adequate auto insurance coverage.  
Categories: Car Insurance, Chapter 8 | Tags: | Leave a comment

Money Habits of Women and Men

Based on recent research, findings comparing the financial habits of women and men include:

  • Overall, single men outspend women, which may be due to higher average earnings. Men spend more on food and transportation, while women have higher spending for clothing. Both groups have similar spending for entertainment.
  • Women are wiser shoppers, buying items on sale and using coupons more often than men.
  • For debt, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, personal loans, home equity lines of credit, and mortgages, men have more debt than women.
  • For both groups, the main financial goals were saving for a vacation, paying off credit card debt, and improving their credit score.
  • As they near retirement, men had higher amounts in their retirement funds. However, women are more likely to participate in an employer retirement plan than men, and save a greater percentage from their paychecks.

For additional information on the money habits of women and men, go to:

Source #1

Source #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students create a short survey to compare the spending, saving, and investing activities of women and men.
  • Have students create a visual proposal (poster or slide presentation) to suggest improved money management activities.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What factors might affect differences between the money management activities of women and men?
  2. Describe actions a person might take to improve money management activities. 
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 5, Chapter_11, Credit Cards, Financial Planning, Investments, Savings | Leave a comment

VIN Check When Buying A Used Car

Every motor vehicle has a unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), which can be used to check the registration, title, and any insurance claims. The numeric characters in the VIN indicate: the country of origin; manufacturer and division; vehicle description, safety and type of engine; the manufacturer’s security code; vehicle’s model year; assembly plant; and vehicle serial number.

Several no-cost VIN-check services are available to identify potential vehicle problems when buying a used car. This service is especially important when purchasing a vehicle online through Craigslist or eBay. A VIN-check service may also be used to obtain information on your current vehicle.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau (http://www.nicb.org/vincheck) has a basic VIN check search tool that will tell you if a vehicle has been reported as lost or stolen, salvaged, or declared a total loss after an accident. 

VehicleHistory.com offers a more complete VIN check, such as fuel economy, ownership costs, and a price analysis. Also included are the selling history, recalls, manufacturer warranties, and price estimates for the best time to buy a certain make and model.

iSeeCars.com/VIN consider 200 data points to create a car history report with a price analysis, price history, projected depreciation, and the best times to buy and sell.

As always, when buying a used car have an ASE certified mechanic of your choice inspect the vehicle. Remember, nearly every used car is sold “as is.”  Also be cautious of vehicles with flood damage that were rebuilt and had their titles “washed” after a hurricane or other major storm. These cars often encounter failed electrical systems.

For additional information on VIN checks for used cars, go to:

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students talk to others to learn about actions to take when buying a used car.
  • Have students create a visual proposal (poster or slide presentation) with mistakes a person should avoid when buying a used car.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What features of VIN-check services might help people improve the car-buying process?
  2. Describe situations in which a VIN check may be appropriate.  
Categories: Chapter 6, Wise Shopping | Tags: | Leave a comment

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