What the Coronavirus could mean for your money
Among the many concerns that COVID-19, or coronavirus, has brought to Americans and people worldwide is that of finances.
With school systems shutting down and some states even enacting a state-wide policy that allows only certain businesses to operate during certain hours, those who are still able to go to work may be wondering what they should expect as far as their paychecks – while those who have already been called out of work are wondering how to stretch their paychecks as far as they can. Read on for information on what the biggest concerns are, and how you can combat them.
Overall financial concerns
There is good and bad news here. You’ve seen the stock market took a hit. Bad news. But as a result, the Federal Reserve is taking extra steps to keep the economy afloat as everyone tries to predict how long this crisis will change our daily lives, such as lowering interest rates for student loans and home loans. Good news.
Financial experts are all saying the same thing: Don’t panic-sell anything! Now is not the time to throw years of investments and planning away because things seem so dire right now. Eventually, this crisis will pass – and you will need your investments when it does.
Adapt to change
When changes like this occur, it’s smart to evaluate and take a fresh look at your budget. For instance, you may be working from home right now – but that means you are using way less gas than usual. Your grocery fund will go up, but your school activities will be at a standstill. Reallocate your funds as needed to get you through the next few weeks.
Stretch it out
This isn’t a comment on your time at the gym (please don’t go to the gym). You can find creative ways to stretch your dollars even beyond their usual point. Turn the week’s leftovers into a meal all its own. Buy off-brands instead of your usual store brand for groceries. If you can work from home outside of your typical job description (i.e., help the front desk send emails, do some digital filing, etc.), take the hours that you can so you can keep some cash flow coming.
Cut it out
How many digital streaming services do you have? Probably more than one – so why not stop subscribing to some of them for now? We know that having your kids home with no Netflix may sound like the worst idea ever, but split the difference and keep the one service your family uses most. Also consider reducing the level of service you purchase to save a few bucks.
Refinance student loans
Remember what we said about interest loans being reduced? Since you have a lot of extra time at home right now, why not look into refinancing your student loans to see if you qualify for a lower interest rate? That may not change your immediate situations, but it will certainly be useful down the line when we all return to our usual routines.
Save for emergencies
Again, we realize that you may be scraping by while things are uncertain. But as soon as you’re able, go ahead and start an emergency fund. A good rule of thumb is to have three months of your salary stashed away. But you can start small. That change from the gas station? Drop it in a jar. The next time you find a $10 bill in your wallet, put it aside. A little here and there will mean big changes later on.
No one can predict the future – but you don’t have to let it control your finances. Spend wisely, save daily, and remember that this is temporary.
How compound interest can change your life–really!
Nobel Prize winner and renowned physicist Albert Einstein is rumored to have called compound interest the eighth wonder of the world. Regardless of whether he said it or not, it might actually be true, at least in the mathematical world. Compound interest is a powerful income-generating, wealth-building tool that can substantially impact your financial future.
If you don’t know what compounding interest is, or better yet, how it works, don’t worry—you’re in good company. According to ValuePenguin, who asked 2,000 Americans if they could accurately define some financial terms like net worth, credit score, and compound interest, nearly 70 percent of Americans had to ask Siri for help. Let’s see if we can fix that.
Simple vs. compound interest
There are two different types of interest: simple and compound. Simple interest is interest earned on only the principal amount of your investment. Consider a certificate of deposit (CD), for example. At the end of the term, you’ll receive your initial investment amount plus a fixed amount of interest.
Compound interest, on the other hand, is interest earned on interest, and it’s the quickest way to bump up your balance. Each period’s interest (daily, monthly, quarterly, or annually) is earned on the initial amount of your investment plus all the previously accumulated interest.
Here’s an example:
If you invest $10,000 at 7% simple interest, $700 in interest will be added to your account after Year 1. In Year 2, another $700 in interest will be paid to your account… and again in Year 3, Year 4, and so on. As long as the interest rate remains the same, you can count on earning the same $700 amount year after year.
If your $10,000 investment paid 7% compound interest, you’d see the same $700 interest in your account after the first year. However, in Year 2, your interest will be calculated on the new balance of $10,700, not your original investment of $10,000. The interest payment for Year 2 will be $749, which is then added to the $10,700 in order to calculate the interest for Year 3, and so on.
The effect of compound interest is extraordinary. At 7% simple interest, your $10,000 investment would be worth $27,500 after 25 years. With compound interest, the value would have grown to more than $50,000. It’s easy to see which one puts your money to work, and makes the biggest difference.
Invest sooner than later
You don’t need to be a mathematical whiz to benefit from compounding interest.
When you’re saving or investing money, compound interest will continually give you a financial boost. The more time your investment has to run the cycle of earning interest, adding it to the investment balance, and then earning interest on the new balance, the better. Want to see how much a specific investment amount could grow with compound interest? Check out this compound interest calculator.
Put your money to work
Compound interest works the same way, regardless of the amount of money you invest, and it adds up faster than you think. At 6 percent compound interest, your money should double in about 12 years and be worth four times as much in 24 years–that’s the Rule of 72. Simply take the interest rate and divide it into the number 72, which will estimate the number of years it will take for your money to double in any one investment.
Compounding interest can be an important component of your overall financial strategy. It’s ideal for investors with longer time horizons, but it also works for investors who’ve gotten a late start saving for their future. Whatever your situation, don’t wait another day. Put your money to work now and take advantage of the power of compounding.
Four things to think about if you’re ready to start investing
Saving and investing are two of the best ways to build wealth. For many people, though, the leap from saving to investing is a big one. In fact, a recent survey commissioned by Ally Financial reported that 70% of Americans age 18 to 39 know they need to become more financially secure, but don’t know how to go about getting there.
If you’re saving, you’ve already taken the first and most important step. But, we know that investing can be intimidating, especially if you don’t know where to start. Keep in mind that accumulating wealth is a gradual process and not something that happens overnight.
It can be, however, virtually painless and help create additional funds for retirement, recreation, education, or whatever other investment goals you have. It can help you start a business, send your kids to college, buy a beach house, travel around the world, or spend more quality time with your grandchildren.
Need more concrete encouragement? $1,000 invested at the stock market’s historical return rate for 20 years would grow to almost $6,000. Apply that to 30 years, and it would leap to $15,000. Now, with every investment, you assume some level of risk, and past performance doesn’t guarantee future performance, but you can see the possibilities.
If you’re ready to start investing, here are some steps that will help you identify the most appropriate products and investments to help you reach your financial goals.
Determine your investment goal
What financial goals do you want to achieve by investing? It may be to simply start accumulating wealth, or you may have a specific goal in mind. It could be to buy a home, pay for a wedding, go on a vacation, or fund your child’s education. Goal-based investing is a process that helps ensure that you have enough money when you plan to spend it in the future. It impacts the type of investments you might choose and whether their strategy is growth, income or stability focused.
Determine your investment budget
Regular and systematic investing is the easiest way to invest your hard earned dollars. That means that a percentage of your income is automatically invested into an account every month. It effectively allows you to leverage the long-term benefits of dollar-cost averaging (DCA) and helps to better manage short-term investment volatility.
Creating a monthly budget and earmarking funds for investment helps separate them from your spending dollars. When you “pay yourself first” by treating your investment account as an expense, you’re more likely to make smarter financial decisions with your remaining monthly funds. And, it helps ensure you stay on track with your investment plan.
Determine your risk tolerance
Every investment comes with some level of risk and generally, the more risk, the greater the potential return. It’s pretty safe to say that most people want to make money as quickly as possible, but if your risk tolerance isn’t up for the challenge, the anxiety it brings will never be worth the chance of realizing the reward.
Be honest about the amount of risk you’re comfortable assuming. Most investment plans are designed for long-term growth. If you’re checking your account balance on a daily basis and you’re riding a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows as a result, your investments are not in line with your risk tolerance. Investing doesn’t have to be scary. There are options for every type of investor.
Determine your time horizon
Your time horizon is the amount of time you have until you need to withdraw your funds. With a long time horizon, you can afford the privilege of slow and steady gains that limit your risk. For example, if you begin saving for retirement at age 20, you have 45 years to weather the ups and downs of the market. If you begin at age 35, you’ve lost 15 years of compounding growth and need to earn more money in less time, which, to accumulate the same amount, might entail more risk. If you begin saving for your child’s college education when they’re born, you have a lot more time than starting when they turn 10. To offset a short time horizon, you can consider increasing your investment dollar amount or possibly assuming more risk for the chance of a higher potential reward.
Most investors begin with a company-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA. There are typically a limited number of investment options and the plans generally lean toward conservative investing, although there are exceptions.
If you’re new to investing, don’t rule out the help of a financial advisor. You don’t have to be a financial guru, especially when you’re smart enough to leverage the expertise around you. They can help you sort through some of the ideas above and work with you to establish a solid financial plan for your future.
What is a financial advisor and do I really need one?
Some think that only wealthy people need financial advisors. Whether it’s a financial planner, wealth manager, money manager, retirement planner, or a slew of other similar titles, they generally all mean the same thing: financial guidance for people who want a strategy to achieve some future monetary goal.
Planning for life events
Eventually, we all experience some big life event, whether it’s paying for college, or buying a home, starting your own business, or caring for aging parents. Often times, your financial goals can overlap, collide, or simply seem unmanageable. A financial advisor will not only help you navigate the journey, but they’ll also work with you to prioritize your efforts. Sometimes you just need a more structured savings and investment strategy that can lead you to a more comfortable and less overwhelmed mindset.
Maximizing your current assets
Sometimes the help of a financial advisor is about managing the funds you already have. Many people use an advisor’s expertise to invest their savings and maximize the opportunity to put their money to work. They can help manage an investor’s tax liability, too. A financial advisor that specializes in tax-deferred investment vehicles can help you determine the most advantageous time to take a distribution from your retirement plan or identify beneficial tax-sheltered options.
Regardless of intellect, an investor may lack the appropriate knowledge when it comes to choosing investment options. Trying to balance the relationship between risk and return with your time horizon and your financial goals can be tricky. A smart investor seeks out and leverages the guidance of experts, even if they have investment experience. Don’t ever underestimate the value of professional advice.
Getting back on financial track
For some, their finances are one step away from crashing and burning. If you’re struggling with debt, a consolidation plan might be a wise first step. Financial advisors can develop a plan–not a get rich quick fix–where you’ll learn discipline, recognize your spending habits, and be held accountable so you can move toward improved financial health.
When you work through your goals with an advisor that has in-depth knowledge of your financial situation, you’re able to create realistic expectations and learn to plan accordingly. Recommending appropriate investment vehicles and a savings strategy can help guide you through the uncertainty.
While some advisors require a long-term arrangement, there are many who offer free consultations and no-obligation appointments to review your financial plan–or lack thereof. Check out the services offered by your local bank or credit union and set up a meeting. If they don’t give you a gold star and a pat on the back, they’ll be sure to recommend a realistic strategy. Either way, you win!
Information about Meltdown and Spectre
You may have heard news reports about Meltdown and Spectre, two computer bugs affecting electronic devices. We want to assure you that the security of our members’ information is our top priority and we have, and will continue to protect it from viruses such as these.
We have a robust Information Security Program to keep our members’ information safe and we have been working closely with our vendors to address these bugs specifically. For more information about Meltdown and Spectre, please click here.
15 ideas for how to get out of credit card debt
When it comes to money, there are few things more gut-wrenching than seeing those credit card statements pile up in your inbox every month. You hesitate to open them because you already know that they’ll be worse than last month. High interest, late fees, impulse purchases…it’s out of control and you need a game plan.
According to Investmentzen.com, the average American household has $16,748 in debt. And with an average interest rate of more than 15%, that’s no small chunk of change. Compounded with the worry and stress of managing that burden, the number of consumers looking for realistic ways to pay down their debt grows every day.
We came up with 15 easy but effective ways to help you dig yourself out of debt as quickly as possible:
- Create a spreadsheet. Be sure that it details all of your debt so you can see the full picture. You’ll know where you started, be able to track your progress, and know when to celebrate the milestones.
- Toss offers for new credit accounts. The more credit you have available, the greater the opportunity you have to build up a balance. It’s too much of a temptation!
- Stop making purchases with credit. Pay cash whenever possible. It will take some sacrifice at times, but you’ll be sure to spend less and only buy what you need.
- Negotiate a lower interest rate. If you’ve been a long-time customer with an on-time payment history and a worthy credit rating, your current creditors may be willing to lower your rate to keep your business.
- Track your spending. Some consumers honestly don’t know where their money goes. Write down every dime you spend for one month, and you’ll soon find out where your money goes when it disappears.
- Create a realistic budget. Start with the necessities. It’ll help you identify those areas where you can lower your expenses—like cable subscriptions, gym memberships or cleaning services—so you can redirect it to paying down your debt.
- Find ways to earn extra cash. Would a part-time job fit into your schedule? How about consigning some clothes on Poshmark.com or Swap.com? Ever wanted to be a mystery shopper? House sit, babysit?
- Curb your social media interaction. Keeping up with the Joneses takes a lot of hard work. New clothes, new golf clubs, a fancy family vacation…they all cost money. Don’t let them tempt you.
- Start cooking at home. It’s a lot easier–and tastier–to eat out, but it also costs more. It’s time to channel your inner Rachael Ray and get cookin’. That includes lunch, too.
- Send extra cash to your highest-interest credit card. Just don’t forget about making the minimum payments on your other credit cards to keep them current.
- Consider a balance transfer. If your credit card has a high interest rate, you may be able to find one with a 0% promo rate. Be careful though– read all the fine print about transfer fees and interest rates after the promotional rate expires.
- Consolidate your debt. A debt consolidation loan from a bank or a credit union may help you pay off your credit cards all at once. Then focus on making one large monthly payment to repay the debt consolidation loan.
- Track your progress. It’s hard not to obsess over your progress. Set reminders every few months to measure your success and find a fun, inexpensive way to celebrate!
- Keep your goals front and center. Will paying down your debt help you buy a home? Finally get a good night’s sleep? Pay for your daughter’s wedding? Whatever it is, it’ll keep you motivated when you slip up, or things aren’t moving as quickly as you’d like.
- Talk to a credit counselor. If your debt is too overwhelming, there are highly reputable, non-profit consumer credit counseling organizations that are experts in this area. Their services are free of charge. They’ll help you create a budget, review suitable options for dealing with your debt and design an action plan specifically for your situation.
Once you’ve reached your goal, it’s important to guard against the bad habits that helped you get here in the first place. Following a budget and using credit responsibly will help you maintain healthy financial habits. With that comes less stress and greater peace of mind, and who doesn’t want that?