Holiday Closing Alert: All Georgia's Own branches will be closed on Monday, May 25th for Memorial Day.
Single in the City: Financial tips for flying solo in Atlanta
Being single has some real advantages, like the ability to sleep starfish style, the freedom to come and go as you please, and never having to worry about someone else hogging the remote. But, there’s also a lot less built-in accountability. When you’re working with a single income, your saving and spending habits not only need some guardrails, but they need a reality check once in a while.
Singles in the city have more opportunity for dining out, shopping, and entertainment, which can easily translate into serious spending. We’re not saying that you need to pay your rent, binge-watch Netflix, and eat ramen noodles until you win the lottery, but if you incorporate a few of these helpful tips, you’ll find that your finances and your future will be substantially less stressful and a lot more fun.
Create a budget
A budget is the foundation for financial success. Whether you’re running a business or managing your weekly paycheck, you need to know where to allocate your resources. Monthly bills, retirement savings, your emergency fund, trendy wardrobe, and caramel latte addiction are all vying for financial attention. And those tickets to see Drake at Phillips Arena aren’t far behind.
A budget will allow you to pay your monthly expenses on time, stash away some savings, and know exactly how much discretionary income you have to spend. It will inevitably make you decide if those Lululemon leggings are more important than running through the Starbucks’ drive-thru every morning or if your weekly visit to DSW is the best use of your lunch hour.
Enlist a money mentor
Accountability is a big part of accomplishing almost anything. Everyone needs someone to gently counsel them and help them talk through important decisions, like buying big-ticket items. Find someone you trust who’s a little older and wiser, and can speak from experience. Allow them to keep you accountable and know that even when it’s uncomfortable, you’ll be better for it in the end.
Create your monthly budget, meet for coffee, and then talk through your financial plan for the month. Give them permission to ask the tough questions and allow yourself to answer them honestly. Listen to their feedback and recommendations. They’ll inevitably help you avoid their past mistakes and help you work toward financial success.
Recognize impulse buying
Ever find yourself mindlessly surfing online retailers like Amazon, H&M, or Nordstom Rack? You don’t need another pair of skinny jeans, but there they are, and they’re on sale! Boom—there’s a quick $60 you’ll never see again. If you thought about it for more than a few minutes, you probably would have passed.
Ever add another item to your cart so you can qualify for free shipping? Sure, spend another $35 on a shirt you’ll probably never wear just to avoid the $7.99 shipping cost. It makes you feel like a savvy shopper when really, you just got duped into spending more than you intended. Why can’t you leave Target without spending $100 every time you walk through the door? We feel your pain. Work from a list, shop with intention and avoid surfing the web to pass the time.
Find some free or cheap entertainment
When you live in a busy city, there’s always something to do. Fun doesn’t have to cost you anything, especially in Atlanta. Every Wednesday night, Centennial Olympic Park has Wednesday Wind Down and free music. Visit the National Archives and trace your family tree. Run, walk, or bike through Piedmont Park or visit the Atlanta Farmer’s Market. Make plans for the Grant Park Summer Shade Festival or take in a Singles Event at Buckhead Church.
If you want to pack a lunch and head OTP, you can hike the Indian Seats Trail, visit Toccoa Falls, shoot the Hooch, or relax on Lake Altoona. Avalon in Alpharetta hosts a live band on the lawn every Friday night in the summer, and their Athleta store offers free yoga classes. Grab a friend and go!
Some things you don’t even have to leave home to enjoy. Invite some friends over to watch your favorite TV show or host a game night. The possibilities are endless.
Shop consignment stores
Consignment shops and vintage clothing are all the rage. If you haven’t ventured in, you’re missing some great bargains. Not all the items will match your style, but you can snap up some gently used, designer clothing, purses, and accessories at affordable prices. You’d be surprised at how many people want to offload last season’s styles. It’s always an adventure. You never know what you’ll find, and the thrill of the hunt is part of the fun.
Here’s an extra bonus: If you’re a fashionista and have items that no longer fit or flatter you, consider a consignment shop as a way to purge your closet and make a few extra dollars.
These are just a handful of ideas that can help you stick to your budget without feeling the pinch. Atlanta is never short on entertainment, so do some research, find some things you’ll enjoy, and consider some new experiences. C’mon, it’ll be fun!
12 terrific ways to teach your kids about money
Educating your child about money and financial responsibility is a big job—and an overwhelming one at that. The lessons they learn early in life will teach them the value of a hard-earned dollar and serve as the foundation for their future spending and savings habits. No pressure there, right?
Money is such a broad topic that it can be incorporated into almost any conversation or daily routine. The trick to corralling your kid’s interest and having them learn a lesson, however, revolves around FUN. Here are some simple, entertaining, and painless ways to start investing in their financial education:
1. Invest in a coin-counting bank
Gone are the days of the pink ceramic piggy bank with the curly tail. We’re going high-tech here. Purchase an automatic coin-counting bank so your child can keep track of how much money they’re saving and spending. It’ll help with addition and subtraction skills, and they’ll love the pride and satisfaction they feel when they can actually see their progress. Next time they have a few dollars or some extra change, they just might decide to choose saving over spending.
2. Stick to a budget
Have your child grab a calculator (or your smartphone) and head to the grocery store together. Before you leave the house, though, set a budget for your shopping trip. As you walk up and down the grocery aisles together and put items in your cart, ask your child to add the cost of each item to your running total, being mindful of your budget. Compare brands and pricing and explain the benefit of buying items on sale.
Let your child see you add their favorite snack to the shopping list if you’re spending less than expected or put an item back on the shelf if you’re getting close to your max budget. Think out loud so they understand your thought process and then eventually ask them to help make similar decisions.
Did you bring your coupons? Ask your child to match them with the appropriate items and then add up all the money you saved. What was the goal and was it more or less than last week?
3. Use coin riddles
One of our favorites is “What’s in your wallet?” Grab a coin purse and a handful of coins. Next, write the clues to different coin combinations on some index cards. For example, I have three coins that equal 40 cents. Which coins are they? Take turns writing the clues and guessing the answers. It’s super easy and can be a spur-of-the-moment activity while waiting in the carpool line, at a restaurant, or in the doctor’s office.
4. Visit your local financial institution
Schedule an afternoon outing to your local bank or credit union. Kids are curious and we’re betting the drive-thru is far less interesting than what’s inside. Schedule a short tour and think about opening a savings account for your child when you’re done. Georgia’s Own’s Coindexter Club® is a great way to start learning about money and interest. An account for a child under the age of 13 can begin with an initial investment as low at $5.00 and will start earning interest at $5.01.
5. Take it online
Given the increasing amount of time kids spend online, games that focus on money and managing finances could make it less mindless, more educational, and just as much fun.
Try Peter Pig’s Money Counter. It’s an interactive game from Visa that teaches counting skills and savings strategies to kids from ages 5-8. Money Metropolis is a game that lets 7-12-year-old kids manage their own virtual bank account, and the Mt. Everest Money Simulation game lets 8-13-year-olds plan an awesome adventure on a budget. For your sport-loving kids who are ages 11 and up, check out Visa’s World Cup-themed soccer game and the Financial Football game, both of which focus on money management.
6. Let ’em earn it
Do you have a child that loves to vacuum or fold the bath towels? Do they watch you mow the lawn or water the plants? Get them involved in age-appropriate chores and give them an allowance so they understand how money is earned. They’ll think it’s fun and you might get a little help around the house.
We know you don’t always get to do the things you enjoy when you’re earning a salary, so toss in a not-so-favorite chore every now and again as they get older. While not as much fun, it’s a good reality check!
Are there other chores that need to be done in the house? Make a list of things that need doing and assign a payment amount to each one. If your child is saving for something special or wants a side hustle to supplement their allowance, they can choose an additional chore and get paid for completing it.
7. Find their entrepreneurial spirit
Is your child a crafter or an artist? Can they make lemonade or bake brownies? There are tons of opportunities to sell things in the neighborhood, supervised, of course. Try setting up shop at the home swim meets, during the neighborhood garage sale, or at the Holiday Craft Show. Discuss the cost of the ingredients and supplies, the price of the items, and how to calculate a profit. If you have an older child, help them design a colorful flyer to drum up some dog sitting, lawn mowing, or mother’s helper opportunities.
8. Make it Family Game Night
Board games are fun activities you can enjoy with the whole family while secretly teaching them about money. Buy some property and build some hotels in Monopoly Jr., go to college and choose a career in The Game of Life, and get to the next month without blowing your entire paycheck in Pay Day. Each one requires wise financial decisions and includes a surprise monkey wrench or two along the way!
9. Create a “great big board of food”
Eating out is expensive for a family, but for special occasions, or when mom or dad has had a long day, it’s always a treat. Designate a wall, board, or even the side of your refrigerator for restaurant coupons. Buy one entrée get the second free, a complimentary appetizer or dessert, or 15% off your total bill goes a long way. Keeping a list of “kids eat free” nights is a great idea, too. If you’re headed out for dinner, ask your child to choose a restaurant from the board and talk about how much you can save with your coupon. As your child gets older, you can even start teaching them about calculating the tip!
10. Teach your gamer how to game
Have a gamer? There’s a huge market for pre-owned video games. Talk to your child about buying certain items new or used and the savings opportunity it can offer. If you’re making the purchase, you might even consider giving your child the amount you saved a time or two as a way to emphasize the impact.
Discuss selling items, like old video games, toys, and electronics as a way to make some extra money and clear out that clutter. Explain to your child that when they sell items that they no longer use, the funds could be reinvested into something else they’ve been swooning over —or they can save it in that nifty coin-counting bank! As the adult, you’ll want to list the items for sale on the resale sites, but have the kids help take pictures, make up descriptions, and set prices.
11. Set out on a hunt
In the spring and summer, there are garage sales every weekend. Give your child a specific dollar amount and let them know they can buy whatever they’d like, but they have to stay within budget. They’ll learn to consider each potential purchase and decide whether it’s worthy enough to spend their cash. They might even decide to save it. As they get older, teach them how to politely negotiate with sellers. After all, haggling is all part of yard sale fun!
For older kids, head to a consignment or thrift shop to find some fantastic deals and incredible prices. Talk about evaluating the condition of the item, quality, and price. They’ll be quick to understand that one man’s discards are another man’s treasure!
12. Pay it forward
Teach your children to be generous. While healthy spending and saving are important, the value of generosity trumps them both. Whether it’s with money, time, or talent, it’s important to give back to the community. You can volunteer together to pack lunches for the homeless, visit a nursing home, or fold clothes at a thrift shop. Whether they bake chocolate chip cookies for a mom with the flu or make an effort to play with the new kid in the neighborhood, cultivating their generous nature will always ensure they have a rich heart!
Class of 2018: 8 Ways to Prep for Financial Adulthood
Whether you’re graduating from high school or college, a diploma and a job represent the beginning of your personal — and financial — adult life. It’s an exciting, sometimes overwhelming time.
When you have the inevitable “I have no idea what I’m doing” freakout, remember these tips:
Set clear financial priorities
You probably can’t save, invest and pay off debt all at once, so prioritize in this order:
- Save $500 for emergencies, because there will be emergencies
- If your employer offers a 401(k), contribute at least enough to get any “employer match” — it’s free money
- Pay down high-interest debt, like credit cards
Learn a simple budgeting strategy
Identify your after-tax income on your pay stub, then use the 50/30/20 rule as a budgeting guideline:
- Use 50% for necessities like rent, groceries, transportation, utilities and minimum loan payments
- Put 20% toward savings and debt repayment
- Spend 30% on nice-to-haves like restaurants, travel and entertainment
If 50% isn’t enough to cover living expenses, dip into your nice-to-haves bucket.
Learn how credit works and why it matters
Credit is adulthood’s currency. You need good credit to qualify for travel rewards credit cards, get the best rates on loans and insurance and eventually buy a house.
To have a good credit score, you generally must:
- Use credit by taking out loans and opening credit cards. You don’t need to carry a balance on them, though
- Consistently make payments on time
- Use less than about 30% of your available credit. If you have a card with a $3,000 limit, for example, charge no more than $1,000
Check your credit score to see where you stand. If you have bad credit or no credit, consider getting a secured credit card or credit-builder loan to boost it.
Do some money multitasking
In fact, credit-builder loans can help establish credit and save money at the same time.
You can get credit-builder loans through some credit unions, community banks or the online lender Self Lender. Borrow a small amount — say, $1,000 — and repay in installments over a year or two. The lender holds the cash until the loan is repaid. Then you’ll get the money, minus some interest.
Assuming you make full, on-time payments, you’ll get some positive credit history under your belt — and have cash on hand for that emergency fund or retirement account.
Leverage your youth to build wealth
Speaking of retirement, saving for it is one of the best uses of your cash now. Compound interest over decades is like magic: A small amount invested today will be worth more than a larger sum you invest 10 years from now.
For example, every $1,000 you invest at age 22 becomes nearly $20,000 at age 72, assuming a 6% rate of return, according to NerdWallet’s compound interest calculator. If you put off starting by a decade, you’d have to save almost double to have the same amount by age 72.
Start saving for retirement
We didn’t use age 72 by accident — that’s the age at which the class of 2018 can expect to retire, assuming they contribute 6% of their incomes to a 401(k) and have a 50% employer match, according to a 2018 NerdWallet analysis.
If your employer offers a 401(k) with a match, sign up and contribute at least enough to get the match. Increase your contributions annually or whenever you get a raise.
If you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account, open a Roth IRA through a credit union, brokerage, or robo-advisor and contribute up to $5,500 yearly. The account’s earnings will be tax-free.
Make a plan for your student loans
Student loan payments typically come due six months after you leave school, giving you time to get a job before payments begin. But interest accrues during this grace period — except on federal subsidized loans — so begin making minimum payments sooner if possible.
Once you have very good credit and a job with a steady income, consider refinancing your student loans to save money by lowering your interest rate.
If payments on your federal student loans are overwhelming, review your options carefully. Income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness may offer relief, but both require meticulous attention to detail and annual maintenance to pay off.
Research your job’s market value
Advocating for yourself can be a particularly challenging part of adulthood. As your career progresses, you’ll feel empowered to negotiate your salary if you back your ask with hard numbers.
Research the going rates for similar roles in your field, at your skill level. Then, reference your findings during the negotiation conversation. Even if the employer declines, they’ll likely respect your preparedness and confidence.
Refund Mania! Here are six smarter ways to spend your tax refund
The April 17th tax deadline has come and gone, which leads us to the much happier half of the season – TAX REFUNDS! If you were an early-bird filer, you probably already have your tax refund in hand, while the procrastinators will have to wait a little while longer. Either way, you’ll need to come up with a solid plan for that chunk of change.
The average 2017 tax refund in Georgia is expected to be $2,793, slightly lower than the national average of $2,895. Regardless, that’s a hefty sum, especially when you receive it in one big fat check. You may think of it as new-found money, but you need to remember that you worked hard in 2017 and your refund is not just some random windfall. Will you spend it, save it, or invest it?
What’s the plan?
Consider your current financial situation and your priorities. What decisions can you make now that might positively impact your financial future? Here are six smart moves to think about.
1. Transfer it. One of the best recommendations we can offer is to immediately move your refund from your checking account to your savings account. This seemingly insignificant move could be the smartest step in the entire process. Why? Because it’s easy to spend $20 here and $50 there, and when it’s all whittled away, you’ll have nothing of real value to show for it. What to do next is up to you.
2. Catch up on your savings. B-O-R-I-N-G, we know, but excitement isn’t always the goal. Do you have an emergency fund that needs a little boost? Have you fallen a little behind on your child’s college fund? Need to replenish your personal savings? Paying bills and saving for the future is essentially a requirement when you’re adulting. Plus, having some cash stashed away for an unexpected expense would give you some financial peace of mind, and that’s incredibly valuable in today’s economy.
3. Invest in your future. With the help of a financial advisor, find an investment that will help you earn more money in the long-term. Consider an IRA, a 529 plan, or even a traditional brokerage account. Whichever option you choose, be sure to discuss your risk tolerance, time horizon, and ultimate goals before making a decision.
4. Pay off your high-interest debt. Revolving debt is one of the heaviest financial burdens you can carry. As interest compounds monthly and you rack up new charges, your existing balance climbs fast. Now is the time to knock down some debt and regain control over your finances.
5. Spend it on your home. After all, it is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. Shouldn’t you take care of it? Consider some maintenance or improvements that will increase your home’s value, or double up on your mortgage payments so you can pay it off sooner and reduce your accumulating interest.
6. Have a little fun. You need to make a smart decision and use your refund wisely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself, too. Go out to dinner, take in a Braves game, opt for some wireless earbuds or a trendy new pair of kicks. Just make sure it’s not too extra.
What to do if you’re a victim of Identity Theft
Every day, thousands of honest, hard-working people unknowingly have their personal information stolen by identity thieves. Information including your full name, social security number, credit card or bank account number, and medical insurance account number can be fraudulently used by a thief to assume your identity for their own financial gain.
With your personal information in hand, a thief can use it to apply for credit, steal your tax return, open a phone, gas or electric account, rent an apartment, and even receive medical care. Any one of these acts can substantially damage your credit when bills go unpaid because (1) they aren’t your charges and (2) you’re unaware of the activity. It’ll also cost you a considerable amount of time and energy to restore your good name and credit standing.
Best ways to prevent identity theft
While we all may be at risk for identity theft, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your personal information:
- Keep your social security number secure; don’t carry your card with you and only provide the number when absolutely necessary.
- Be selective when providing personal information by phone, mail or online and never respond to unsolicited requests.
- Keep passwords private and protect them from view when typing on a computer or ATM. Make sure they’re complex and not easy to guess.
- Request a free copy of your credit report once a year. Review it for open accounts, credit inquiries, delinquencies and any other suspicious activity.
- Review your monthly credit card bills for any unauthorized charges and pay attention to billing cycles.
- Promptly collect your mail every day and put a hold on your mail when you are out of town.
- Shred receipts, credit card offers, account statements, expired cards, and any other documents that include personal or account information.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
Look for the signs
Your identity is one of the most important assets you own and should be guarded and monitored with that in mind. Look for the warning signs that your identity may have been compromised, which can be alerts from your bank, unfamiliar activity in your credit card accounts, changes in your credit score, missing bills for standard services like gas or electric, or any other suspicious activity.
What if you’re a victim?
If you’ve been a victim of identity theft, it’s important to act quickly. Here are the steps you can take to minimize the negative consequences and to alert the necessary authorities in the most efficient way possible:
1. Put a fraud alert on your credit reports
A fraud alert notifies lenders and creditors to take extra precautions when verifying your identity before extending credit. Contact one agency, (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion) and they’ll contact the remaining two. Initial fraud alerts are free and remain in place for 90 days.
2. Check your Social Security number
One of the first things to do is check and see if your social security number has been compromised. If your number is part of the theft, it’s important to contact the Social Security Administration (800-269-0271) and the Internal Revenue Service (800-829-0433) to report and correct the activity.
3. Report the fraud to your financial institutions
If your credit card was stolen, report it to the credit card issuer. If your checkbook or debit card was stolen, contact your bank. It’s especially helpful if you have a list of institutions and phone numbers prepared in advance. Make sure this file is encrypted and not able to be easily accessed by identity thieves.
4. Contact the authorities
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allows citizens to file an Identity Theft Affidavit to create an Identity Theft Report. In order to fully file an Identity Theft Report, you need to report them the theft to local law enforcement. Have the police department send you a copy of the report and take down the report number. You can file an identity theft report online by clicking here or call the FTC at 1-877-438-4338. Filing an Identity Theft Report is a smart way to help credit reporting agencies identify who the thief may have contacted and determine where accounts were opened in your name.
5. Check-in with the Post Office
It’s not uncommon for identity thieves to submit a fraudulent change-of-address in order to access checks and new credit cards. It’s smart to check with the Post Office to see if any unusual activity has occurred. If there is fraud, you may need to contact the Postal Inspection Service to file a formal report.
Learning that you’ve identity has been stolen can be incredibly stressful, especially when the consequences can wreak havoc on your finances. Being diligent and protecting your personal information can help save you from that anxiety. But even if you do fall victim, acting fast and knowing who to contact will still offer some sense of control.
What are ancillary products (and are they really worth it)?
If you’ve ever purchased a vehicle, you’re probably familiar with the same old spiel – the finance guy (or gal) at the dealership sits you down and begins offering you product after product to protect your interest, and if you’re like most people, you end up feeling overwhelmed and confused. So, the question is, what are ancillary products and are they really worth it? Ultimately that decision is up to you, but we’ve highlighted some features and benefits about different loan protection options to help you make an educated choice the next time you’re faced with the decision to add ancillary products. Check them out below.
GAP insurance (or Guaranteed Asset Protection) is protection offered by finance companies, either through a dealership or through your credit union, to cover any difference on your loan (that your insurance doesn’t pay) if your vehicle is totaled and/or stolen.
- The cost of GAP can range from $300 to as much as $900 depending on where you purchase this coverage (e.g., through a credit union versus a dealership).
- If you are upside down (meaning you owe more than the vehicle is worth), GAP can be a huge money-saver. For a relatively small investment of $300 (competitively priced GAP), you could save thousands down the road. On the other hand, if you end up paying $900 (on the higher end of GAP coverage), your margin of savings will be much less.
- The key is knowing your Loan-to-Value (LTV). LTV is a percentage based on the amount you owe divided by the value of your vehicle. Example: if you owe $20,000 on your vehicle, but it’s worth $15,000, your LTV is 133%. Generally speaking, if you are over 90% LTV, you could benefit from GAP coverage. On average cars depreciate roughly 19% in the first year, and as much as 50% in the first 3 years – unless you plan on paying off your car in 3 years, GAP could be a huge money saver.
- Another factor to consider is some GAP policies will also pay your insurance deductible, so instead of paying $500 or $1,000 or higher (depending on your deductible), you pay nothing out-of-pocket.
Mechanical Repair Coverage
Mechanical Repair Coverage or extended warranties are offered in addition to the manufacturer warranty. The cost of extended warranties varies greatly depending on the make and the model of the vehicle, and who you purchase the extended warranty through.
Here are a few key questions you should ask yourself before considering the purchase of an extended warranty:
- How many years/miles does my manufacturer warranty have left on it? Most manufacturers offer a 3-year/36,000-mile factory warranty.
- What is the difference between the basic manufacturer warranty and the powertrain warranty? The basic warranty typically covers everything bumper-to-bumper, whereas the powertrain warranty only covers the powertrain and the associated parts.
- How long do I intend to keep the vehicle?
- How much will repairs cost if I encounter them down the road?
Most extended warranties cover you well over 100,000 miles – if you plan on keeping your car for longer than that, an extended warranty could be a great money-saving option. Some institutions will allow you to extend the term of your loan in order to absorb the cost of coverage while keeping your monthly payment the same. Of course, doing initial calculations and analyzing your budget and needs is necessary before making any financial decision.
Loan Protection is just like it sounds: protection that covers your payments or the entire loan balance following a significant life event, such as loss of life, unemployment, disability, and family medical leave. Some institutions, such as Georgia’s Own, provide additional protection for accidental dismemberment, terminal illness, hospitalization, and loss of life of a non-protected dependent.* The cost and coverage vary from institution to institution, so it would be wise to do your homework. Most institutions have a cost per hundred dollars of the current loan balance.
Highlights of loan protection programs:
- The events covered by most loan protection programs are: loss of life, disability, unemployment, and family leave.
- Most institutions offer various loan protection packages that can cover one, two, three, or all four of the life events mentioned. Some institutions offer additional coverage.
- Loan protection programs are available for most types of loans.
- There is typically a cap of coverage over a certain dollar amount.
Benefits of loan protection programs:
- Loss of Life protection can ease the burden on your family, and your debt can be completely cancelled.
- Disability protection could cover your payments for you when your income might be drastically reduced due to a disability event (most competitive employers only offer as much as 60% of your salary for a short-term disability).
- Unemployment protection could be invaluable in a time where you’ve lost your job unexpectedly and are unable to make your loan payments.
- If you are unable to work for an extended period of time, family leave coverage can help you maintain the same level of income.
The bottom line: There are a number of loan protection options available to help protect you when faced with the unexpected. Although these services come with a cost, it may be worth investing in the peace of mind these protection programs offer.
*Beginning August 1, 2017, Life Protection under Members Protection Plus will include even more. We’ve added accidental dismemberment, terminal illness, hospitalization, family medical leave, and loss of life of a non-protected dependent to our coverage.