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Posted August 1, 2019

Being financially healthy doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and effort, but when you think of everything you need and want to do, it’s easy to be discouraged. Use the following monthly financial tips to break down top financial tasks/to-dos.

August 2019

Most of us aren’t experts in insurance policies or deductibles, so when it comes to our own policies, we need all the help we can get. This is where your insurance agent comes in – when was the last time you asked what discounts you qualify for or if your coverage is up to date?

Whether you’re checking in with your agent or thinking of switching insurance companies, keep these questions in mind so that you can get the best protection available and maintain the coverage you need.

  • What’s my deductible?
  • What does my policy cover?
  • When is it time to change or update coverage?
  • What kind of discounts am I eligible for?
September 2019

Life is busy, so it’s important to simplify things when you can. Here are six small steps that can go a long way.

  • Use apps like myFinance to create a budget and keep track of saving and spending across various accounts.
  • Checking your credit report should be among your top priorities. It’s important to know when there are changes to your credit report, especially when it comes to changes that are not authorized. When you monitor it, you can have peace of mind knowing things are okay and if you find something, you can catch it sooner rather than later. Set a calendar reminder for every few months to review new credit reports.
  • If you’re someone who regularly makes purchases using a credit card and struggles to pay it off, consider using a debit card instead. Seeing your checking account balance diminish may be more alarming than seeing your credit card balance on the rise.
  • Set a realistic savings goal you would like to meet in a set amount of time and make your contribution automatic.
  • In online banking, register to receive a text or email when your balance is low or a large transaction is made.
  • Automate your bills and payments so you don’t have to worry about when they’re due. Know you have the convenience of using Bill Pay and the ability to set up auto drafts through companies’ websites.
October 2019

Online banking is here to stay; mobile banking apps are the third most popular apps among adults and 71% of bank customers say they regularly use online banking. It’s a safe way to take care of your finances, but there are always ways to beef up your security and make sure you’re protecting your cash as much as you can.

  • Update your anti-virus software and check that it’s functioning like it should frequently.
  • It might be tough to remember them all, but it’s a good idea to make sure all of your passwords are different. Use a combination of upper and lowercase, special characters, and numbers. You can also use phrases you think you’ll remember.
  • Take advantage of all the security benefits your credit union, bank, or credit card offers, including security alerts. Many organizations will allow you to set an alert for purchases over a certain amount, purchases made at a gas station or online, and international transactions.
  • Don’t do banking on public Wi-Fi networks. You’ll be an easy target for fraudsters, allowing them to access whatever you’re transmitting or viewing on your account.
  • Always question emails or texts asking for personal information, such as your birthday, Social Security Number, or PIN numbers, and be careful clicking links, even if they look like they’re coming from a legitimate source.
November 2019

Save big this Thanksgiving. Avoid overspending and feeling stressed by creating your game plan early on.

Create a guest list, then a simple menu to make your grocery shopping easier. This will help you determine how much food is really needed and help you create a budget.

Once you get to the grocery store, take advantage of store promotions and coupons. For example, a lot of places will you give you free items when you buy a turkey. Use those to your advantage and incorporate them into your menu.

Also consider using homemade decorations instead of store-bought. While decorations are nice to have, they’re not necessary. To help stay on budget, use items you already own, including dinnerware. Buying even the most inexpensive items can add up quickly.

Don’t forget the leftovers. Create a meal plan for what you’re going to do after, like soup, turkey pot pie, sandwiches, and even tacos.

December 2019

The next census is scheduled for 2020, which is right around the corner. Unfortunately, many scams occur with the census, just like anything that involves personal information. Here are specific scams to look out for:

  • A phishing email might look legit and say it’s from the Census Bureau, but will take you to a false website and potentially add malware to your device. If you receive one of these emails, don’t click on anything or reply. Forward the e-mail or website URL to fraud.reporting@census.gov and delete the message.
  • Scammers can also call you and pretend to be the Census Bureau. If someone calls your house asking you to complete a survey, verify the caller using the National Processing Center’s website before answering any questions.
  • If someone visits your residence to complete a survey, ask them for their U.S. Census Bureau ID badge.
January 2020

The start of a new year is always exciting. It’s a time to set new goals, create resolutions, and to get a head start on wellness – physical, mental, and even financial.

It can be difficult, though, to set a yearly resolution and not break it the whole year. About 80% of people stop trying to reach their resolution after six weeks.

Instead of committing yourself for 52 weeks, consider setting a new goal or resolution at the start of each week and call them Monday Resolutions.

For example, if you want to save money in 2020 and you always buy coffee on your way to work, make a promise to yourself to only make coffee once you get to the office. At the end of the week, calculate an average of how much you saved and give yourself a pat on the back!

February 2020

Tax season comes every year and with it comes a new round of scammers trying to get money and information from you.

Be on high alert for scammers posing as financial institutions or “IRS Online” and sending documents via email. When the consumer opens the email or attachment, malware can spread, which is especially harmful for businesses. The IRS won’t send unsolicited emails, but if you do receive one and accidentally open it, forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov.

Also, watch out for tax refund scams. Fraudsters have the capability to deposit tax returns to the wrong person, and then demand the money be returned by the victim. If you think you’re a victim of this particular scam, it’s important to act quickly.

  • If you receive an unexpected refund via direct deposit, immediately call your financial institution to have the funds returned to the IRS and flag your account for fraud. You also need to call the IRS to let them know why you’re refunding the return.
  • If you receive a paper check refund that isn’t yours, write VOID on the back of the check, add a note that says “Return of erroneous refund check because [brief explanation why],” and submit the check to the appropriate IRS location.
  • The IRS will never call you directly, so don’t give personal information to anyone claiming they’re an agent.
March 2020

Your pay stub is a source of valuable information – it shows you how your income is distributed, gives you a heads-up on what to expect at tax time, and allows you to set a realistic budget.

The first step is understanding the terms and abbreviations that you see. For your withholdings, know that FT is Federal Tax and FITW is Federal Income Tax Withheld. There are more help abbreviations that you can learn about here.

Next, use math to calculate some numbers. Luckily, there are numerous online withholding calculators that you can use to make the process quick and easy. Using the figures from recent tax returns and pay stubs, you can calculate your estimated yearly income as well as the resulting withholdings, and then optimize your earnings.

The key to maximizing your take-home pay is to take full advantage of withholding allowances. Tax allowances are factored in when your employer calculates how much federal income tax to withhold from your pay. The more allowances you claim, the less money is withheld from each paycheck. Using a W-4 form, you can claim a variety of allowances depending on your marital status, number of dependents, property taxes, federal student loans, child care and more.

Consult your tax advisor with any additional questions or concerns.

April 2020

Financial progress can take shape in many ways. Benefits to your finances aren’t always immediately noticeable, so it’s important to review everything periodically to see if you’re on track.

Check to see if your savings account is gradually increasing. If you are contributing to it regularly, see if you can add more. If you’re not saving consistently, create a game plan to do so that fits into your budget.

Also review your debt. It might not be realistic to pay it all off at once, but make sure you have a plan in place to reduce it every month.

May 2020

It’s never a fun conversation, but creating a will and making important decisions before anything happens will make it easier and less stressful for your loved ones when the time comes.

The basic goal of a will is to decide who gets what stuff when you pass away, making it easier for your family members. It’ll also help you determine who will take care of your children if you have some under the age of 18.

June 2020

Saving money during summer can be hard with all the fun activities to do. It’s important to find free things and different ways to cut costs.

Visit your local library to find an afternoon movie or sign up for a summer reading program. You can also use it as a nice, air-conditioned place to read for a few hours.

Plan a staycation where you live by finding fun, new things to do in your city. Look up new hiking locations or visit a tourist attraction you’ve never been to.

July 2020

Hot Texas summers are here. Here are some tips to stay cool and save by reducing your home’s energy.

  • Use LED lightbulbs. They generate less heat, use less electricity, and last longer.
  • Use power strips for electronics and turn it off when you’re not using them.
  • Shop for new appliances during the annual Texas Energy STAR® Sales Tax Holiday. You can purchase certain energy-efficient appliances, like ceiling fans and refrigerators, tax free.
  • Raise your thermostat a few degrees when you aren’t there to save about 10% on your AC bill.
August 2020

Are you on track to have enough saved by retirement age? Most Americans close to retirement age only have 12% saved of what they actually need. Look at your company’s retirement options and see if they’ll match your contributions and learn about Roth versus Traditional IRAs.

Financial advisors know the ins and outs of different types of investments and can help guide you in building your financial plan. Talk to an advisor about both short-term and long-term investments. Together you can determine what best fits your needs while exploring options that can get you where you would like to be. Many places offer a free consultation to get you started.

September 2020

Credit is a powerful tool, so it’s important to take a closer look at your score and what you need to do to improve every so often.

  • Did you know your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score? By simply making payments on time you are positively impacting your score. Set reminders on your phone, put a note on the refrigerator, or enroll in auto pay so you never miss the deadline.
  • Keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%.
  • The longer you have your accounts, the better, because it gives lenders a peek into your credit history. Before closing out old accounts, consider keeping them for one purchase a month and paying it off to keep your established history.
  • Have a mix of credit to show you’re responsible with different types of credit.

If you don’t have credit yet, it’s important to establish that by doing research and considering different types of borrowing, such as credit cards, lines of credit, or secured loans.

October 2020

The holidays are coming, so get that gift list going; knowing what you’re looking to purchase will help you determine the best time to buy. Also try to finalize holiday travel plans early. You’ll avoid price hikes down the road and you can better prep what you need to buy for yourself for your own travels.

It’s also a good idea to conduct preventative maintenance around your home to prepare for the winter months. Recommendations include:

  • Clean your gutters
  • Check your doors and windows for any air leaks
  • Clean your vents
  • Change air filters
  • Test your heating system in advance
November 2020

It’s time to get real with yourself and review your food buying habits. Do you meal prep weekly or buy lunch every day? Purchase prepared food instead of cooking it yourself? Look at your purchases to see if you’re making money-smart choices and if you can save more. If you aren’t doing so already, consider meal planning. Instead of meal prepping every single thing you’re going to eat, buy everything ahead of time, prep a couple of items, and know what you’re going to cook.

Here are some additional tips and tricks to get you started:

  • Plan to cook things you’ll actually enjoy so you’re more inclined to eat it.
  • Think about what snacks you want to buy too and how you’re going to prep those to have on hand between meals.
  • Before going to the grocery store, look at what you already have in your pantry, including spices, oils, side dishes, etc., so you don’t overbuy.
  • Try to get things that can be eaten on the go as much as possible.
December 2020

The holidays can be tough on everyone’s funds. Even if you budget and save all year long, it can still be a slippery slope. Be sure to stick your list and only buy the gifts you need; it’s also okay to DIY gifts and focus on experiences. Writing someone a thoughtful card and taking them to dinner can mean just as much as buying a fancy gift.

Also pay attention to stores competing for your attention. Displays are designed to capture your sense of smell with pine and cookies, plus your sight with flashing lights and décor.

Keep the following in mind and remember to use your head, not your heart while out shopping.