Ahhh…New Year’s Resolutions? What’s yours? To save more money, pay off debt, start a 529 account for your kids? Well, according to a recent TD Ameritrade study, Generation Y is already saving more for retirement. This article lays out the key points. Most interesting was that one in four Gen Y’ers utilizes TWO retirement vehicles, a 401(K), a 403(b) and an IRA.
Impressive. Since it’s the new year, list one financial resolution you can make this year that will change your financial future. Increase your retirement savings 1 percent. Automate your finances. Cut out one thing from your budget. Make it a habit now and save some money. Happy New Year!
‘Tis the season for taxes AND financial literacy. Presented by Money Management International, Financial Literacy Month is about YOU taking time to understand your finances. America has one of the lowest savings rates in the industrialized world and according to the Federal Reserve, we carry $2.4 TRILLION in consumer debt.
So, this month, what can you do to get a better hold on your finances? What can you do to be a savvy saver?
Read our blog of course! But also visit the Financial Literacy Month site, for a 30-step path to financial wellness, pledge your commitment to savings and educating yourself or take a quiz to understand where you’re at today.
Here are some of our favorite club member tips:
* Make a budget, monthly and annually
* Review your credit report once a year, for free at Annual Credit Report
* Start your retirement savings and if you’re already saving, increase your contribution by 1 percent
* If you shop, ALWAYS look for a coupon or promo code online before you buy
* Talk to your partner about your goals in life. What are you saving for? Clarity is good for the soul and the pocketbook.
I recently came across a comprehensive (check)list to gauge financial health. Not only did it remind me to focus on the basics, there were a number of “checks” that I had never done before in my life – like create a home inventory – a list I should know for insurance purposes.
Many of these are no-brainers that we should all be doing: increasing our retirement/savings 1% each year, evaluating insurance deductibles… but I have never “read” my tax return and probably should. One thing it did was to inspire me to list out financial affairs with corresponding passwords for loved ones in case of emergency.
So, ladies, take a few minutes, review the checklist, print it out, discuss with your loved ones. Get your financial house in order since it’s still early 2011. Make this the year of financial prowess.
With 2011 just days away and many of us thinking of our resolutions, consider making one related to your finances. As women, we often put saving and finances on the back burner while we care for our families, enjoy time with friends or give back to the community.
Maybe you’re already rebalancing investments or have reviewed your will and insurance options. Instead, evaluate your savings deductions or review your mortgage options. Or if you believe you’ve done it all, help a friend, share this with another woman in your life. We, as women, should all understand our finances, one checked box at a time. That’s my resolution this year.
Some of you have asked for some sample holiday budget spreadsheets. Here are a few that we’ve found and liked. If you know of any others, share in the comment section.
They recently shared a great budget spreadsheet, the Lifehacker Holiday Planner. I like it because it tracks purchased gifts, whether or not you’ve received them if you’ve ordered them shipped to you, if you’ve wrapped them and if you’ve delivered them.
Here’s their budget spreadsheet. I like it because it tracks shipping, wrapping paper and holiday cards and stamps — costs not to be underestimated. The stamps for the holiday cards I’m sending out cost more than $70 alone! And yes, I thought about scaling back my holiday-card mailing list, but that just seems so sad.
(*Savings side note: I designed our holiday photo “card” in PhotoShop, using an image, adding a seasonal greeting on top and a border around the edges. I saved it as a jpeg file and uploaded it to Walgreen’s, then used a coupon so the 150 4×6 “cards” I ordered were 30 cents each. Admittedly, not as fancy as original photo cards, but made with love nonetheless.)
Our Own Invention
The past couple years, Holiday Gifts Budget Tracking Spreadsheet. I like it because it factors in gift ideas and then what I actually bought. Also, I added a section for December and January birthday gifts — they can get lost in the shuffle of the holidays, but especially with the additional spending of the holidays, it’s still important to budget for these. I also have separate tabs for past and future years — so I can look back and have a historical account of what I gave and not repeat similar gifts to the same person.
Are there any other gift spreadsheet ideas I’m missing or other things I should think of to track?
Our second Women’s Saving Club kicked off with a bang – all of us made amazing progress on our financial and savings goals!
Luckily, one of the gals brought champagne (Women’s Saving Club Rule #2: bring snacks from your pantry – no buying anything), so we celebrated nice and proper!
The homework for this month was to write down your goals with dates. Last month, everyone talked generally what they thought their goals would be, but this time, we really wanted to narrow it down, bring it focus by writing it down and give us a deadline. Some gals had already started and so updated their progress.
Interesting side note:
A new gal joined us this month, Suzanne. She mentioned talking about the Women’s Saving Club idea with her hairdresser earlier in the day. Her hairdresser immediately assumed that the club was for single ladies, seeing as “they’re on their own and need to worry about their own finances.” Suzanne told her that actually, the club had more couples and that it truly was for everyone as we all should take the time to focus on our finances.
Anyway. Back to the goal update.
Goal #1: Open a IRA by next month.
Last month’s progress toward goal: Researched IRA and decided to go with Vanguard.
One of Katie’s factors was how easy Vanguard was to work with – as opposed to her current bank who makes her actually go to the bank to open an IRA/make IRA changes. Fellow club member Tara mentioned she has Vanguard as well for her Roth IRA and is in their STAR fund, an index fund with low fees.
Goal #1: Replace car by March 2011
Progress toward goal: Has determined a budget. Researched makes and models. So far have 10 cars she’s considering.
Club members mentioned various car purchasing strategies, including purchasing a car by e-mailing dealers with the car you want and asking for their price. See MotleyFool articles outlining this process step by step. One gal used a broker to find a specific used car she wanted; another used an individual who would attend car auctions to purchase cars on behalf of clients.
Goal #2: Put back at least $3000 into money market savings account by June 2011.
Progress Toward Goal: Have small automatic contribution right now and will increase it as new projects manifest themselves.
Goal #3: Transferring profits from side business into savings.
Progress Toward Goal: Charmed by Suzanne has its own account. Business is taking off via Etsy webpage and so now would like to turn the profits into savings.
Goal #1: Build a more liquid savings fund.
Progress Toward Goal: Reduce 401k contribution so it’s no more than company match and move those additional funds to general savings account for emergencies. Opened money market account. Also opened Roth IRA (even though it’s not liquid savings, it’s still along the same lines). Cut out bills – negotiated phone bill and cable bill down.
Interesting side comment:
Katie mentioned handy web tool, billshrink.com, and Kristy talked about how she loves negotiating with cable companies. Another company idea “Negotiators for Hire” – an organization that offers trained negotiators to get your bills down as well as free hostages.
Goal #2: Set up savings fund to attend friend’s Cabo wedding and Vegas bachelorette.
Progress Toward Goal: Listed items, just need to put dollar figures to them and determine what needs to be put away monthly.
Goal #3: No balance on credit card this year, period.
Progress Toward Goal: Follow the motto found in Creating a World Without Poverty. “Restraining wasteful consumption…make space for a new set of voices,” as in today’s marketplace encourages you to spend and right away. But what if you had new voices encouraging responsible consumption?
Suzanne commented on just watching the Book of Eli, and how it offered interesting commentary on what if the future there was no more stuff and we remembered “back in the day” how we used to just throw things away. Tara mentioned the article “The Joy Dividend” for additional practical tips on how to buy less and still increase personal happiness.
Other tips included writing your goal on your credit card in black Sharpie, so that it was always in front of you. Tara once wrote “LONDON” on her credit card. Cara toyed with writing “Do you really need this?” but then was afraid shop keepers would ask her that and she’d say “no” and then would have to slink away and leave the purchases on the counter.
Interesting side comment:
Could we start a credit card business? Offering your goal right on the card and the rewards going to that goal. Or setting limits on certain areas such as dining. Say you have $100 a month dining out budget on the card. If you’re close to that, you’re card will (gracefully) decline. I mean, if the Kardashians have a MasterKard, surely we can think of something too.
We debated a little on the need for credit cards, moving to all cash/debit. But the general consensus was that you kind of need credit cards to do things like rent cars. However, responsible usage is key. Or, one gal’s mom gets a preloaded credit card and uses that when she travels.
Gift cards also came up. What do you do if you have gift cards that you’re not going to use? One gal’s grandma bought some gift cards. Another option is giftcardswap.com or you can sell them on via giftcardrescue.com.
Back to goals.
Goal #1: Understand more the household budget as my husband, who is in finance, manages household financial matters.
Progress Toward Goal: Has a copy of our household budget and is moving toward understanding household finances.
Goal #2: Have new goals for next time.
Progress Toward Goal: Left job recently to pursue political passion so financial situation has changed. Need to truly evaluate financial situation and what needs to get cut.
Goal #3: Find a job “so I can save”!
Progress Toward Goal: If you’re interesting in hiring a smart, go-get-em gal — contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Goal #4: Learn about women and men cultural spending/saving habits.
Progress Toward Goal: Katherine discussed article on how women are not as bad as saving money as people think. There’s data out there that show women are better savers, better at investing, etc. For whatever reason, culturally, it’s thought that women are bad with money (read: category of pink books in Amazon for “women and money,” but no “men and money”). Where did this come from? Read more of Katherine’s commentary and see link to the article in a coming blog post.
Interesting side comment:
While, yes, ideally we’d like to be considered financial equals, we couldn’t talk as openly if men were involved in this Saving Club. We discussed why this might be – perhaps because of the supporting and nurturing nature of women?
Interesting side comment:
How do you handle “my money” vs. “our money”? Is it all ever really equal if earning power is different between husband and wife? Should wives have an emergency fund – otherwise mentioned as an “Across the Border” fund? Does one party or the other feel guilty that we’re “spending” the other’s money? Or does one feel that they shouldn’t have to justify their purchases? How do you reconcile the feelings of “I’m Woman, I don’t have to depend on anyone” with “Thanks honey, I appreciate your taking care of me”? And, once you’ve had the financial talk and get married, have you bought into each other’s debt/income situation and can’t ever really bring it up again? This is another blog post for later.
Goal #1: Read through the “stuff to be read” drawer.
Progress Toward Goal: Done and filed away in system. “I put my big-girl pants on and did it.” But throughout this process realized…
Goal #2: Get a Desk
Progress Toward Goal: “One of the things I’ve learned since husband and I moved in together; I don’t have a desk. I need a place for my estrogen booty to get stuff done.”
(Katherine side goal: She needs a desk, too.)
Goal #4: Schedule time with husband to talk about finances
Progress Toward Goal: He’s busy with his freelancing business, which is good; but we just need to set aside time to talk.
Goal #5: Need to refi student loan debt.
Progress Toward Goal: A realization. That student loan debt while laid off can be put into forbearance – this has happened once before; and the fear that this might happen again prevents any movement of the money.
Goal #6: Switch Banks
Progress Toward Goal: Started a checking account with credit union, but not comfortable. Again, a quote: “It seemed like the B Team was running the show…and the staff were talking to clientele like they were stupid.”
Katherine suggested USAA credit union due to their great reputation, but you have to be member. Aha moment for Kristy – she is a member so is going to check it out.
Goal #1: Move 401k sitting in la la land to new job offering by Dec. 1
Goal #2: Establish realistic budget by Jan 1.
Goal #3: Monetize my blog by January.
Progress Toward Goal: The night of the meeting, Amanda updated her blog with Google Adsense.
Goal #4: Establish an LLC in case blog does get bigger.
Progress Toward Goal: Reserved website, emails and tags.
Goal #1: Within two months, do all the financial things I’ve been meaning to do: Set up new bank.
Investigate what appears to be a pension from an old job.
Goal #2: Within two months, set up household budget. Really look at our expenses, see where we can save. Automate saving, spending. Even though a balance is never carried month to month, is it a good idea to pay off credit card weekly as it helps budgeting? Katherine offers the suggestion that it’s not as credit cards offer float, so if you’re investing money, instead of paying off the card, you can put the money to use.
Goal #3: Within a year, create accounts and start automating saving to reach the following savings goals:
- Six months living expenses
- Down payment on car for husband
- Annual trip abroad
Progress Toward Goal:
- Set up accounts at new bank with high CD rates.
- In process of moving funds over
- Not afraid to call them and ask questions, get it set up. You almost HAVE to call them.
- Have had savings discussions with my husband.
- Holiday shopping is done. Spent half of what I did last year and now can enjoy the holidays.
Christy wasn’t able to make it to the meeting, but her goal from the previous meeting was to start her 401k at her job. She sent a text saying she’s done it!
Cool resources discussed at this meeting:
Apps for phone:
mobiCoupons – Turn it on when near stores and coupons will come up. Savings feature, will track what you “save” by using coupon.
AAA discount – Offers discounts based on your location
Groupon – Also offers discounts
Katherine’s friend started Goalmine.com. From their website: “You just can’t get around it: owning stocks is one of the best ways to build wealth over the long run. And you don’t need to be rich to start. With GoalMine, you can start building wealth by opening your very own mutual fund or savings account with just $25.”
Possible future topics:
- Buying vs leasing cars? Donating car vs selling?
- Further discussion on handling money in a couple.
We wrapped up by swapping CDs and packing away the food that we cleaned out from our respective pantries: Cheetos Puffs, guacamole, chips, pita chips, red velvet cupcakes, brownies, pasta salad with fresh veggies, caramel popcorn, wine and champagne!
Phew. Busy gals. But the good news is that we’ve made definite progress toward saving!
Instructions coming soon.