Looking for a New (Financial) Year

You don’t need to wait until the next holiday to make a financial change. Read this list of ways you can increase your financial freedom. Get started in 2016!

Get online. Get on track. Personal Financial Management

Adapted from MU Office for Financial Success Finance Tip of the Week blog post by Robert Weagley, Ph.D., Department Chair, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension via Missouri Families enewsletter
Karen Blumenthal, a financial journalist for more than 25 years, wrote an article for The Wall Street Journal based on the holidays of the year and actions that people can take related to each holiday to fix their finances. It’s a good way to remember to “check in” with your finances throughout the year.

In a similar vein, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) released their survey of the financial New Year’s resolutions of 6,100 households. The NFCC found that the number one New Year’s resolution for households ranked as follows, each with the percentage that chose that action as their number one resolution.

• Decrease debt: 76%
• Improve my credit score: 11%
• Decrease dependence on…

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One step beyond Google Wallet and Apple Pay

In case you didn’t watch Sixty Minutes last night, you may not have heard 1024px-an_m-pesa_payment_tillabout new technology that is revolutionizing commerce in Kenya. It’s a step beyond what we have here in the United States with Google Wallet and Apple Pay. Money is texted from one person to another.

And with much of technology this was developed to solve the problem. In this case  it’s people working in cities who needed to get money to relatives back home. If they gave money to a bus driver to take, which has been the typical way money was sent, “the money evaporates” as the CEO of Kenya’s largest cell phone provider says.

How does this technology work? A person with cash (shillings) takes it to an M-PESA kiosk. The attendant takes the shillings and loads money into the person’s M-PESA account.

This is making it simpler for people to make purchases and send money. It’s even used to help remote villagers have solar energy for light at night.

What will they think of next?

If you want to read a transcript of the entire story, go to http://www.cbsnews.com/news/future-of-money-kenya-m-pesa-60-minutes/ .

Looking for an online degree program? Beware

It’s bac8738253104_231df3c719_o (1)k-to-school time and for adults considering a new career, it may also be time to find an online degree program.

There are so many online programs to choose from – some with promises of quick, effortless degrees that seem too good to be true….sometimes are. Students who are scammed are left with a hole in their wallet and no legitimate credential.

While anyone can fall prey to an online degree scam, international students and first generation college students can be particularly vulnerable to degree mills.

US News and World Report has an excellent article that details seven warning signs for online degree scams.

It was 1987…

…when I had a wake-up call about planning to save and invest for retirement. Before then, I recall seeing my grandmother’s Social Security check one time. But that was about all I’d thought about the topic of retirement.

Shortly after college graduation, I started working as marketing director for Lifeline Blood Services. One day on my short drive to work, I heard the announcer’s segway into the next story. Following his announcement that “social security will be insolvent in the year 2029,” I sat in the car doing the math. I would be just at retirement age that year.

Suddenly, I began to study planning for retirement. Back then there weren’t as many options as we’re familiar with today. But one thing was obvious, I had to save and invest for my future. This was a wake up call thanks to a radio new story. Spending wisely today is key to preparing for retirement.

One thing is certain…retirement is coming. Will you be ready? For ideas on saving for now and investing in the future, make a plan. Enroll in Personal Financial Management Made Easy to get started.

Giving it your best

On the way to work, I often listen to my friend Steve Bowers on WNWS. I need to make sure he hasn’t commented on my efforts to make him healthy and wealthy that he says just kill all the fun. Another highlight is hearing the common sense words to live by from local pastor Randy Carter.

This morning he shared the story of a student turning in a paper to his professor. For 10 times when the student went to turn in the paper, the professor asked, “Is that the best you can do?” Apparently, the student knew it wasn’t, so he rewrote the paper and turned it in again–10 times. Finally, the student replied, “Yes, this is the best I can do”. The professor replied, “Good, now I’ll read it!”

The point is that we should all give our best to whatever we do. Are you giving your best to sticking to your financial plans? It’s never too late to start changing your financial future.

April 15, 2016 will be here before you know it

Get online. Get on track. Personal Financial Management

Tax Day is here. I’ve found there are four types of people when it comes to taxes…Those that wait until the last minute because they will be paying; those that wait because they have the procrastinator personality; those that file as quickly as possible because they need the tax refund check; and those that just get it done because it has to be done.

I admit that I’m in that last category. I just want it to be done–usually sometime in February. No matter which one of those categories you fall into, there are a few things you should do now to be ready for next year.

First, while you have your personal information out, get it organized and prepare for organizing this year’s receipts. This will save you much time next year and may take some of the dread from the situation. Whether you use a safe or filing system for…

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Financial four: It’s time again for bracketology!

Millions of Americans are scrambling this week to chart their tournament brackets. With the Financial Four, people also have a way to chart their financial goals.

The National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) and the Financial Planning Association® (FPA®) are partnering on the fourth annual Financial Four (www.FinancialFour.org), an interactive bracket of 32 concepts that helps users identify the financial areas that are most important to them. Expert financial planners and advisors also used the bracket to weigh in on what they recommend people should be thinking about as their top financial priorities throughout 2015.

“Identifying and managing priorities is the key to keeping your financial life in order. The Financial Four takes the madness out of ranking your financial responsibilities,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE. “There aren’t any upsets in this bracket.”

Experts identify their Financial Four

Is the priority establishing an emergency savings or using credit responsibly? Is it more important to have open and regular communication about finances with family members or calculate how much you need for retirement? Financial advisors-turned-bracketologists logged on to www.FinancialFour.org and ranked their top priorities for Americans to focus on this year. Based on their voting results, here is the 2015 Financial Four:

  1. Start Saving Early. The top goal among financial planners and advisors is ensuring that time is on your side when it comes to saving. It’s never too early to start putting money toward your goals and the sooner you begin, the more stable your financial security will be. Remember, with the power of compound interest even small amounts can make a big difference.
  2. Use Credit Responsibly. A close second in the rankings from financial planners and advisors is to stay within your means when it comes to credit. Try to limit credit usage to one account. Above all, always pay bills on time and pay more than the minimum payment due.
  3. Live Within Your Means. Spending less than you earn and living within your income is the surefire way to meet your financial goals. Take the time to understand your financial values and the difference between needs vs. wants.
  4. Ensure Job Security. Take the steps necessary to make certain your employer knows they cannot succeed without you. Make yourself indispensable at work by investing in continuing education and training opportunities.

What is your Financial Four? Complete your own bracket at www.FinancialFour.org. And prioritizing your financial goals is just the first step. For resources, tools and encouragement on successfully managing your finances, visit www.smartaboutmoney.org.

Source: National Endowment for Financial Education

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