Spring has arrived. With trees budding and flowers blooming, we are reminded of the multigenerational power of a seed. And when it comes to your children’s financial empowerment, “planting the seed” can be as simple as having a conversation.
April is Financial Literacy Month, and we encourage you to take a moment to talk to your children or grandchildren about how to carry on a sustainable financial lifestyle. To help jumpstart the discussion on financial education, our Financial Advisors have answered seven key questions that your children should know about, and may already be wondering.
Jeri Salmond, Financial Advisor
A credit score is an important number that summarizes your credit history and credit worthiness. The score helps lenders determine how likely you are to pay your debt and pay on time. Here’s what else you need to know:
- Credit scores change over time. So it is very important to keep track of your credit score and find out how the amount of debt, your payment history, and the types of debt you hold affect your credit.
- Checking Your Score Too Frequently Can Make It Go Down. But there are several free tools that can be used to track your credit score without affecting it.
- Having no credit is almost as bad as having a low credit score. That is why it is important to start building a credit score when you are younger. Many people start with having a small credit card or secured credit card to make small purchases and pay off monthly. The more you make on time payments and keep your debt low, the more your credit score will increase.
- The better your score, the more likely you are to receive a preferred interest rate. Credit is usually needed for large purchases in which you may not have the immediate cash savings required for purchase such as paying for college, purchasing a car, or buying a home. Having a good credit score allows you to purchase the item on credit while making monthly payments in order to pay off the debt.
Michelle Ward, Financial Advisor
Good savings habits can help you achieve financial freedom. Here are a few we recommend:
- Save early. Save often. Save automatically. This gives you the opportunity to benefit from “compound interest,” which is simply earning interest on the interest you earned the previous month. The longer you compound, the greater the effect.
- Pay yourself first, before you begin to pay optional expenses and make discretionary purchases. Treat your savings like any other expense and give it priority. Consider how much you can save annually by cutting out common habits, like buying coffee or eating out and think about making automatic, periodic deposits to savings accounts on a monthly basis.
- Remember why saving matters. Your savings will help you prepare for unexpected expenses, achieve short-term goals, like going on a trip, and longer-term ones, like buying a house.
Teri Kelley, Financial Advisor
Creating a budget is always a helpful approach as it allows you to see your cash flow. We recommend that you ask yourself:
- Is this a need or a want? Identify essentials, like your rent/mortgage, utilities, medicine, transportation costs and food (needs) and pay those fixed bills first before paying for non-essential items like clothes, games, etc. (wants).
- Is now the right time? In times of crisis that affect your finances like the loss of a job, you really have to stick to the basics and make necessary adjustments. You may need to defer or reduce payments on things like: saving contributions, credit card payments, etc. And remember that hopefully this is just a temporary adjustment and once things get back to “normal”, you’ll be able to resume things you may have had to give up.
Jane Rojas, Financial Advisor
My suggestion to prioritizing bills when you are short on cash is to stand back, look at what is most important to your life, and decide what needs your immediate attention. Here are three straightforward steps:
- Write out your expenses from most important to least important. This should include thoughts about what you can’t live without: electricity, rent, etc.
- Next, look at the actual cost of not paying each bill each month. A credit card may not be urgent, but if you don’t pay it, there could be late fees plus interest of 20% or more on top of that.
- Then, negotiate when you can on how to stretch out your payments. Be sure to do so in a way that makes payments manageable and avoids the high cost of ignoring them.
- Lastly, address the deeper issue. When you get the short-term problems fixed, then work on the bigger problem of not having enough cash for the bills you have. Look again at what is most important and look at how you might reduce the cost of each of them: move to a lower-cost apartment, get a cheaper phone or phone plan, do your own nails. The key to success is spending less than you make, not more.
Kate Waters, Financial Advisor
The goal should always be to have as little debt as possible, but there are certain instances where debt can be “good debt.” The two most common examples are:
- Getting an Education. If you think you can get a better-paying job by going to college or going for your master’s, medical, or law degree, then it might be smart to take on a student loan if you can’t afford it all on your own. But you need to understand how long it will take to pay off and make sure there is potential for a positive longer-term return on your investment.
- Buying a Home. The same principle holds true for buying a home. You also need to make sure the additional expense of the loan fits within your budget and be prudent about paying it down. By being diligent about your personal finances and responsible about paying down debt, you can be well on your way to being debt-free!
Thien Le, Financial Advisor
The answer will change depending on the age of your children. But I would recommend tackling lessons on financial education in this order:
- Learn how to set goals. With a clear goal in mind, you can better identify your reasons for saving and create realistic plans to achieve your financial objectives. Bucket each goal into short-term and long-term. Short-term could be buying a new car, while long-term could be retirement; which it’s never too early to think about.
- Open a savings account. Your kids should start saving as soon as they have earned income from a part-time job or when they begin to work full time. When my 16-year-old daughter got her first job as a math tutor, I opened a retirement account for her to encourage her to save a little each month.
- Learn how to invest. Staying focused and keeping money invested in the market can be rewarding over time, but it may require patience and a long investment horizon. With market volatility, people often panic and make irrational decisions, so it is important to review your goals and remain focused on your investment objectives.
Lisa Benton, Financial Advisor
An emergency savings fund is money that you have set aside for unexpected life events, such as losing a job or paying for a broken-down car. You might be wondering:
- Who should have one? It’s a good idea for everyone to create an emergency fund.
- Where to begin? When you are first starting, aim to save a few hundred dollars in a separate savings account. A convenient way to do this is by establishing a direct deposit for your emergency savings account. This allows the funds to be transferred into your account automatically.
- How much to put away? The ultimate goal will be to save three to six months of your take-home pay to prepare for life’s uncertainties. Remember that this can be done gradually as your cash flow allows. Starting your financial education journey early teaches you to plan and that includes planning for the unexpected.
Equip your children and grandchildren with a financial education today to make smart financial decisions during every stage of their life. Explore our Financial Literacy Center to find content that may help set the stage for lifelong financial wellness.