Many personal finance reports are published with advice that may not provide the best guidance. In an effort to avoid buzzwords and troubling phrases, consider these suggestions:
- determine who conducted the research; a company may sponsor a study that lacks the rigor of academic or government researchers.
- be wary of research that reports feelings or predictions rather than actual behaviors and actions of respondents.
- consider the number of people in the study and how the respondents were selected.
- avoid generalizations that about a certain age group, such as Millennials, Baby Boomers, or Generation X.
Don’t revise your money management activities based on some survey or research report. If your current actions are working, then you are on the correct path.
For additional information on avoiding personal finance nonsense, click here.
- Have students conduct online research to locate a recent personal finance study to evaluate the validity of the advice offered in the report.
- Have students create a video presentation reporting both valid and nonsense personal finance advice.
- What problems could occur if a person uses inappropriate financial advice?
- In addition to the suggestions in the article, what actions might a person take to determine the validity of personal finance advice?
While having an emergency fund is vital, putting this money in a low-yield checking account is not recommended. A certificate of deposit (CD) also may not be appropriate since your funds may be locked-up when the money is needed. For safe storage of your funds along with quick access and a better return, consider these alternatives:
- High-yield savings account. These financial products are offered by banks to attract new savers. These accounts have high liquidity and are covered by federal deposit insurance; although, interest earned is taxable. Most high-yield savings accounts are available through online banks. Also be aware of fees, minimum balances, or a required minimum length of investment.
- Money market fund. Usually offered by investment companies, these financial products are similar to high-yield savings accounts but do not have federal deposit insurance. However, they are protected by Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance, usually covering amounts up to $1 million for investors.
- Treasury bills and bonds. These debt instruments of the U.S. Treasury have a maturity ranging from 90 days to 30 years. While considered very safe, an investor may lose money if sold before it matures.
- Ultra-short term bonds. For a higher yield with a bit more risk, consider ultra-short term bond exchange-traded funds (bond ETFs). These funds invest in corporate bonds, which are not guaranteed. However, it is possible to find funds that invest only in highly-rated bonds.
In each situation, be sure to consider the tax implications of earnings from these savings and investment products.
For additional information on emergency funds, click here.
- Have students create a list of unexpected situations that might require accessing money from a person’s emergency fund.
- Have students talk to others to determine where they keep money for emergencies.
- What factors might a person consider when selecting a savings instrument for storing money for emergencies?
- Describe actions a person might take to have more funds available for an emergency fund?
While a savings account and a checking account provide the foundation for managing finances, several other accounts should be considered. Since all most people don’t put all their financial documents in one drawer, all your money shouldn’t be in one account. The various recommended accounts include:
- Emergency savings for funds when you face financial difficulties that cannot be resolved in others ways. An amount equal to 6 to 12 months of living expenses is often recommended. Consider storing these funds in an “out of sight, out of mind” location, such as with an online bank account.
- Regular savings for short-term needs, such as home repairs, vacation, auto maintenance, or new furniture. Be sure to have a goal and plan for these funds.
- Household checking account for paying current bills. All income is deposited in this account with automatic transfers for regular bills and amounts to various savings accounts. Extra funds in this account can go to the regular savings fund.
- Spouse checking accounts to pay expenses for which each person has responsibility as well as work-related costs.
- Health savings account (HSA) for tax-free payments of medical-related expenses. HSAs are especially of value with high-deductible insurance plans.
- The extra fund involves the “fun money” leftover after all bills are paid, savings is under control, and all accounts have a balance at an appropriate level. This money is the reward for spending wisely.
If all your accounts are at the same financial institution, using the online dashboard will allow you monitor your balances. Or, if you use different banks, websites or apps such as Mint.com can be used to view your overall financial situation.
For additional information on needed bank accounts, click here.
- Have students design a personal plan for the various bank accounts they will use to to monitor their spending and saving.
- Have students talk to others about methods used to monitor spending and to maintain an appropriate level of saving.
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of the system discussed in this article?
- Describe actions to monitor spending and saving using online banking and apps.
Hacks – skills and shortcuts – are used in many life settings. For personal finance, here are some tips that can help stop money leakages:
- Only use credit cards with financial advantages, such as cashback; always pay off credit card balances on time.
- Making weekly payments, instead of monthly, helps to save interest and reduces the amount owed faster.
- Pay off loans/debts with the highest interest rates first.
- You might consider paying off a debt with another loan if the new loan has a much lower interest rate.
- When shopping online, leave the item in the cart for several days or weeks; the price may be lower or you may decide you don’t really need the item.
- Consider bulk purchases with friends to qualify for free shipping.
- Take advantage of seasonal sales.
- Unsubscribe from email offers.
- Avoid household clutter to save time and money.
- Cook your own meals; online videos and recipes offer fast, easy meals.
- Talk to others for investment advice.
For additional information on personal finance hacks, click here.
- Have students tell their personal experience with tech, travel, or personal finance hacks.
- Have students create a video to dramatize various personal finance hacks.
- How would you decide if a personal hack will be of value to you?
- Describe actions that might be used to communicate personal finance hacks to others.
While every person and every generation has something to learn, we all also have ideas and information that can benefit others. Those skillful in asking questions have an advantage for planning and implementing financial activities. Asking questions usually results in useful knowledge before taking action and being less intimidated about unknown topics.
Other actions with strong benefits for better money decisions include:
- Joining groups through social media and online communities resulting in connections and information to support financial concerns and decisions.
- Not being overly confident, but researching a topic carefully before making a financial decision to take action.
- Maintaining a minimal competitive nature; instead identify actions and investments that best meet your financial goals.
- Manage spending and saving with the use of debit cards, instead of credit cards, and automating your savings with online deposits or an app.
For additional information on successful financial planning actions, click here.
- Have students survey friends to determine which of the actions in this article are commonly used.
- Have students create role playing situations or a video to communicate the benefits of the actions discussed in this article.
- What do you believe are the benefits and drawbacks of these suggested actions?
- Describe other actions that might be taken for successful financial planning.
According to a recent study, the financial activities of today’s young adults (ages 23-37) include the following:
- One in four millennials are concerned about not having enough money saved.
- Over 70 percent of these young people believe their generation overspends, and 64 percent believe that their generation is bad at managing money.
- Over 60 percent of millennials are saving, and 67 percent are consistent in working toward a savings goal.
These money attitudes and behaviors are reported in the fifth edition of our Better Money Habits Millennial Report, with these additional findings:
- A reported 73 of millennials who have a budget, stay within their budget every month or most months.
- Nearly half (47 percent) of millennials have $15,000 or more in savings.
- While 16 percent millennials have $100,000 or more in savings.
Millennial parents are sensitive to child-raising costs. While older generations report that finances weren’t a main factor in the decision to have children, millennial parents believe the opposite. While many are paying off their own student loans, nearly a quarter of older millennials are saving for their children’s education.
For additional information on money habits of millennials, click here.
- Have students talk to friends to obtain information about their budgeting and saving habits.
- Have students locate and report on an app that would help guide their spending and saving activities.
- What attitudes and behaviors did you learn when you were young that influence your spending and saving habits today?
- Based on these research results, what money management suggestions would you offer to others?
Quite often, when a person receives a raise or promotion with an increased salary, overspending is the result. In those situations, financial experts recommend maintaining frugal spending patterns. This path will allow a person to avoid becoming a victim of “lifestyle inflation.” Many households earning hundreds of thousands of dollars have trouble avoiding debt and saving for the future. To prevent this situation, the following actions are recommended:
- Maintain your lifestyle and spending habits as you receive raises. Instead of a bigger house or new car, the increased income can be used to stabilize your financial situation and increase saving for future needs.
- Keep your average daily spending low.To avoid lifestyle creep, simply keep your typical day spending at a frugal level.
- Increase your automatic savings amounts. Consider saving an amount from each paycheck equal to the amount of your raise. This will allow you to put aside money for major financial goals and long-term financial security.
- Keep housing costs low. Instead of upgrading, maintain and improve your current home. Housing is a major cause of lifestyle creep when a more expensive home results in higher property taxes, maintenance costs, insurance, association fees and other expenses.
- Remember and review often your financial goals.Do not take your focus off long-term money goals. Short-term desires and impulsive spending can easily undermine your financial future. Create a way to remind yourself of those goals each day.
For additional information on lifestyle inflation, go to:
- Have students ask another person of what actions might be taken when a salary increase is received.
- Have students create a video contrasting wise and unwise actions when receiving a salary increase.
- What factors influence “lifestyle inflation” in our society?
- In addition to the suggestions in the article, what actions might be taken to avoid lifestyle creep?
What are some signs that a romance scam could be taking place?
- a new love living far away requests money or use of your credit card number
- being asked to sign a document giving a new romantic interest control of your finances
- a new sweetheart wants you to open a joint bank account with them
While romance scammers usually focus on single, older people, anyone seeking a new relationship is a possible target. These scams can happen in person, but more often through social media, dating websites, smartphone apps. These scams happen when a new love pretends to be interested in you as a way to get your money. In fact, they may not even be who they say they are.
Beware of Cupid’s arrow striking your wallet instead of your heart! To protect you, friends, and family from romance and other scams, consider these actions:
- Avoid giving a new friend access to credit cards, bank accounts, or other financial assets.
- Report crimes or financial exploitation to local law enforcement agencies or to Adult Protective Services (APS); information available at gov.
- Contact your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission to report cases of financial abuse.
For additional information on romance scams, click here.
- Have students create and present possible scam situations to create awareness among various potential victims.
- Have students create a visual presentation (using computer software or a poster) to communicate actions to avoid scams.
- What are common warning signs that may indicate that a possible scam is taking place?
- Describe actions that might be taken to avoid various scams and frauds.
Whether you start at the beginning of the year or you start today, some actions to keep your financial plans on track include:
- Set a money objective. Simplify your approach for financial goals by selecting a word or short phrase to give your direction. This theme might be “future needs” (for retirement planning), “spend mindfully” (for controlling spending), or “kid’s college.”
- Use automation. Using automatic transfers will allow you to save for a house down payment, an emergency fund, a vacation, or retirement.
- Challenge yourself. Cut unnecessary expenses to allow you to have money left over each month for financial goals.
- Change your environment. Modifying your financial habits can occur with visible reminders, such as photos, sticky notes, or note cards placed on your credit card, desk, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, car dashboard, or computer screen. Also consider keeping a financial diary or journal.
- Obtain needed support. Instead of going it alone, work with a friend, roommate, spouse, or group to achieve your money objective and stay accountable.
For additional information on becoming financially disciplined, click on the following links:
Financially disciplined #1
Financially disciplined #2
- Have students talk to others to obtain ideas for achieving financial goals.
- Have students create visuals that might be used to remind them about financial goals and actions.
- What are the main reasons people who not achieve financial goals?
- Describe methods that might be used to help you and others achieve financial goals.
Youngsters learn money management attitudes and behaviors by watching family members and others. To help guide their financial literacy development, involve children in the shopping process using these steps:
- Have children help in the creation of the shopping list. Sit down together with paper or an app to list what you need. Talk through your list with your kids noting items that are low on in the household as well as things bought regularly. Have children check cabinets and refrigerator to determine things they use.
- While making your list, talk about a budget. Explain the need to keep track of how much is spent on groceries so there is enough money for household expenses. Make clear that a grocery list helps make sure you don’t overspend.
- Talk while shopping to explain brands you prefer and how sale prices or coupons might affect purchases. Also communicate why you choose certain stores for your shopping. As you select items explain why you’re buying that one instead of a similar item. Older children can be asked to comparison shop among different brands.
- While shopping, refer back to your budget. This will help you decide to buy an item now or wait until a later time.
- Provide explanations of buying choices. To avoid surprises, estimate your total before going to the cash register. Also explain different payment methods, such as a debit card, which subtracts money from your bank account right away.
Discussion of various decision-making elements will help kids learn shopping and money management skills they will need. Thinking out loud can clarify what you’re doing and why when in the store, paying bills, or shopping online.
For additional information on teaching money skills to children, go to:
Grocery Shopping Tips
Money skills, by age.
- Have students visit stores and explain to friends why they buy certain items and brands.
- Have students create a visual presentation (using computer software or a poster) to communicate learning experiences for teaching wise buying to others.
- What experiences did you have growing up that helped you learn financial literacy and wise money management skills?
- Describe other methods that might be used to teach shopping and money management skills to young people and others who might lack these abilities.