FINANCIAL Q&A SERIES - GETTING STARTED
Everyone needs a financial plan. Everyone needs to make decisions about how they will financially care for themselves and for their families. Financial planning is not exciting and is often confusing but, it is necessary for dealing with the cost of life.
Staying on budget is the means to meeting everyday needs as well as meeting future needs. We must deal with our finances. Budgets, paying bills, planning for college, planning for retirement...every stage of life requires financial planning.
How do I get started?
This is the most asked question. The answer? Simple. You have to do it! Easy to say but hard to do! Here are some pointers to get you started:
Make the decision to do it. As stated earlier, that’s the hardest part. We continue to tell ourselves that we will start to save, set up a budget and any other cliché we can come up with in order to deal with our finances. But the simple fact is, we just have to do it. And for most of us, we have to decide every day of any moment we are in the nitty gritty of life situations – buying lunch, grocery shopping, going out, getting coffee, buying shoes...the list goes on.
Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Be flexible. You are going to make some poor choices. Learn from them and adjust where needed. If the budget is not working, find out why. Determine what changes have happened or will happen. Our finances change because we do. Remember, as the saying goes, this is a marathon not a sprint!
Create goals. Start setting goals; not only for the long run but also for the short term. Build rewards into your finances, not just the necessary goals but the fun ones too. These types of fun goals could be as follows– mini shopping spree at the end of the month, mini vacation at the end of three months, Christmas club account to enjoy the holidays. This makes financial planning so much more worthwhile. Goals for home and hearth include – setting aside money for the three month oil change, repairing the AC unit by next summer, getting the new car in 3 years and repairing the 5 year old roof in 10 years. You get the point? Good!
So let’s begin
It’s time. You have wanted to do this for so long. Make the effort and take at least an hour to think and write about your financial goals. If you need help, contact Family Life Resources, Inc. We actually love budgets!
Identity theft is a hot topic not only for those consumers who have become victims but for companies who struggle to keep your information safe in a high tech world. Whether your data was stolen from a large database servicing companies like Master Card and Visa or small databases servicing medical billing companies, what happens to your data depends on who stole it.
It is important to remember that a high percentage of identity theft is done by someone the victim knows or is known by the family. Relatives, friends, and service providers have access to your private information within your home unless you have “secured” your information under lock and key. Most of us don’t. We think our home is safe and would never suspect someone close to us to violate our private data. Our best protection is to make sure our important information is kept in a safe and passwords secured so prying eyes cannot see.
Identity theft done through hackers
Some hackers just want the thrill of compromising a database. They really crave the recognition from their community that they “broke” the code and gained entry into something that was supposed to be secure.Your data may not be used or sold so consequences of this type of theft may not really affect you.
Some hackers do it to make a point: no information is safe and it is only a matter of time when your information will be breeched not if it can be breeched. They can be an activist group trying to make a point concerning a specific company or even data security in general.
There are a group of hackers that steal data for a living. While some may want your information to open up accounts in your name, the big boys are going to steal your credit card numbers to sell. They make money by selling large amounts of information to other third party criminals. The third party buyers are the ones that utilize your data to open new account. Selling bulk information several times makes it more difficult to trace the original theft and reduces the risk of getting caught for the thieves who steal the information. Does that mean your stolen information will be used by criminals? It depends on how much corresponding information is also taken. A credit card account along with DVV codes and expiration date will bring a higher price then just an account number.
Identity theft done through stealing information in the workplace
Companies are responsible to keep your information safe and secure. There are encryptions, passwords, screening of employees and other security precautions companies take to protect your confidential information. Companies hire security specialists to review company policies and built in controls in hopes of staying ahead of the game. Periodically we see where one or two employees tap into sensetive areas and either directly steal money from accounts or steal personal information to sell. You have the right to question any company you deal with as to their security policies and how they protect your information. Companies are required to give you their policy and procedures on how they handle your personal information.
Stealing information through scanning the identity chip in your credit card.
As you walk down the street, eat in a resturant or wait in an airport, there is now technoloy that can scan your new card with the smart chip imbedded that will be done without your knowledge. Scanners have been placed on gas pumps, ATM machines and other places that make the stealing of your information invisible. If your new credit card has a smart chip in it, you can take it to the bank and ask for one that does not have the chip.
Reduce your risk
The best way to reduce your risk of identity theft is to check your accounts on a daily basis. Review your bank statement and credit card statements online to check for fraudulent purchases. Report any suspect transactions to your card issuer and replace the card. You should also change your passwords for your online accounts. You may need to place a fraud alert on your credit report to make sure additional accounts cannot be opened. Of course, contact your bank if your personal information like social security number, date of birth or insurance information is compromised. The FTC recommends that you have one card for regular use and one card for online purchases only. You may want a separate card for travel as well, keeping your use level down to specific purchases. Contact us at Family Life Resources, Inc. should you have any questions concerning identity theft. We can give you step by step information on what you should do if your information is compromised.
Are you digging one "debt hole" in order to fill another? Many of us, including our government, are dealing with poor budgeting skills, poor spending habits, illnesses, job losses and so on, that have created the many "debt" holes that we are now trying to fill. Only, there is nothing left to fill the holes. Or, maybe you're in the category that, with some organization, you can get back on track and begin refilling those holes in a way that will benefit you and your family's financial future.
Family Life Resources, Inc. makes every effort to help you determine a plan of action for your financial future. We strive to offer services and resources to help you not only understand your financial situation but to also help you improve it. Even if you believe there is nothing we can do, we can still do something. We can give you tools for the future. Jer. 29:11 promises us a “hope and a future.” With that as our guarantee in life, FLR is then confident in being a part of that promise. Although you may not see immediate results in your weekly budget, you will begin to see the peace that is promised and you will be able to move forward into the future that is there for you.
I'll admit it. I use to HATE budgeting. And that's putting it mildly. I'd rather walk across burning coals. No...burning spikes. No, burning...well, you get the picture. It was a hassle!
Worse than making a budget was keeping track of my budget. There just never seemed to be enough money to go around. I wasn't living extravagantly. I was just living.
Now I am (almost) a budget guru! No, really! That's what my friends say! It has taken time to follow the strategies I try so hard to get my clients to follow and, slowly but surely, I have incorporated the steps needed to live on a budget into my financial life.
WHAT I DIDN'T KNOW
What I didn't know was that I was doing budgeting wrong! I thought all I had to do what write down what was coming in and what was going out. The truth however is that you must gather all the bills, statements and checking account information in order to determine what is being paid out and what is coming in. I usually stopped at the list. What I really didn't know was that once my Income & Expenses were organized, there would be an action to "budgeting" and I would have to abide by my categories and not spend outside these categories (a key reason as to why we never have money). Now it started to make sense. Now I had a budget to help me determine what money should or could be spend on what. Now I know the right way.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS?
As I just stated, budgets are all about the details and the doing. Most of us like one and hate the other but, we all like or need to spend, so we better know how to prepare for what to spend.
- Income & Expense - It all begins here. Do you know there are people out there who do not know exactly what they make each pay period? Even if your income is subject to change, there is an average of what you are making. Know that number! As for expenses, list out what you are spending each month, each quarter and each year. Break every expense down to a monthly payment. Car registration fees are yearly; break it down to monthly. Christmas expenses are yearly. Determine what you intend to spend and break it down to a monthly payment that you set aside. You're going to spend it anyway so you might as well get prepared. In this way, you are ready when these expenses are demanding to be paid or enjoyed. Click on this Income & Expense link for a free form to create your own budget.
- Prioritize - Now you have to determine who should be paid first, second, third and so on. You may think your favorite coffee place comes before the car payment but we all know that is not really true. Put an order to the finances. It then helps you make that much needed decision between caffeine and car. Click on the Prioritize link for the free Stabilizing the Budget form to help you with this section.
- Cash Envelopes - This is a great trick! You actually put money into envelopes based on your budget and only spend what you have. It is usually best to use it for things like auto tags, entertainment, Christmas savings, pets, etc. You can also set up labeled savings accounts with your bank. For example, I place my escrow in a "mortgage savings account" each pay period. Then, when it is time to pay my taxes and insurance, the money is there. The labels you place on the envelope or bank account are based on YOUR lifestyle. Some people don't like coffee but love to buy shoes! But, that's the point; the budget is all about you! Click on the Cash Envelopes link to learn more.
- Planning & Goal Setting - It's all in the planning. Budgets help you plan ahead. You can prepare for those "emergencies" like car tires and batteries. You can plan for the holidays, the kids back to school clothing and getting your hair done! If the money is not there, set a goal as to when it can be incorporated into the budget. Goals help make any of the sacrifices made worth it because we will make the changes we need to reach them.
SO THIS IS PEACE!
In truth, none of this is easy. However, as you begin to control your money, you will find expenses no longer control you. When a bill is due, you pay it without a second thought. Caffeine fix? No problem! Go the envelope labeled CAFFEINE. Want to go out tonight? Go to the envelope labeled DINING or ENTERTAINMENT. If it is empty, then it may mean game night at home and another look at the budget to increase this area. The point however is that you will be more at peace financially. Worries decrease about whether the car can be fixed because it is already in the budget. Now that is peace!
IT'S WORTH THE TIME
Although budgeting can feel like an impossible mountain to climb, taking it step by step will help you achieve your climb to your household's financial top. Don't think or believe it will all come together in one day. It could take several months to get to the point of being organized and knowing what works for you. Even then, you will want to make changes because our lives change so much. That is actually the beauty of a budget. It can change with you and your financial needs.
Family Life Resources, Inc. is an accredited non-profit Christian credit counseling agency providing financial and educational services. For more information about our services, visit our website www.flrministry.com, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 1-800-553-8621.
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Student loans are a great debate topic for our politicians right now; In particular, paying back student loans. It doesn’t take to many statisticians for us to realize hard working individuals are having difficulty repaying their student loans. Whether you are affected by the economy, studied in a career field with low demand or, you’re simply making the choice not to pay for whatever reason, the number of individuals not paying has grown out of control. At this stage of the game, the causes have been become inconsequential. There are simply too many loans going unpaid.
The government, of course, wants to put a stop to this. YOU would like to put a stop to this. However, the only way to do so is to make the payments affordable for people who are having trouble enough making ends meet. So, they came up with a program. Yes, another program but, I think it is one you will like.
You can consolidate your federal student loans. By doing so, you may lower your interest rates and reduce your monthly payment. There is also a hardship plans. If you qualify, your monthly payment is adjusted to fit your income. And, if you work in the public sector, you may qualify to have the balance of your loan forgiven after meeting certain conditions.
Here are a few examples of the FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN CONSOLIDATION PROGRAMS/PLANS:
- Direct Loan Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program - Employed in a public service job? You may qualify to have your loans forgiven after you have made 120 payments on your Direct Loans (after Oct. 1, 2007). Only payments made under certain repayment plans may be counted toward the required 120 payments. You must not be in default on the loans that are forgiven.
- Standard Repayment Plans - Payments are a fixed amount of at least $50 per month. For up to 10 years.
- Income Based Repayment Plan (IBR) - Your maximum monthly payments will be 15 percent of discretionary income. Your payments change as your income changes. For up to 25 years.
- Income- Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR) - Payments are calculated each year and are based on your adjusted gross income, family size, and the total amount of your Direct Loans. Your payments change as your income changes. For up to 25 years.
There are more plans available to you as well. Family Life Resources, Inc. is now a resource to help provide you with the information you need to qualify you for consolidating your federal student loans. We can help you through the process of choosing and setting up your new payment plan.
You can simply contact us at 1-800-553-8621 and speak with a Counselor. You can also go to our website to complete some initial information and a Counselor will follow up with you - Student Loans. Either way, it is worth the investigation. Take the opportunity available to you!
JUST A LITTLE NOTE ON CREDIT REPORTS FROM FLR!
You've got questions and we've got answers. Your goal is to improve your financial situation. Our goal is to help you do so.
When it comes to finances, our credit reports contain a financial history of how well we handled our business with various creditors and lenders. Are you consistently on time? Are there past due accounts? How do you take care of balances on collection accounts? How do you even understand the credit report in the first place?!!
CREDIT REPORT REVIEW SESSION
Dealing with finances is overwhelming. Is there an easier way? Yes! Talk with a Certified Credit Counselor. Become financially savvy and take the time to review and understand your credit report. Get assistance in developing a financial plan from people who understand and will offer no judgment of the "why are in you in this situation" but will instead assist you in improving your situation. There are no fast fixes. Our goal is to help you get financially healthy and improve your ability to care for yourself and your loved ones.
QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE RIGHT NOW
- How can you get a credit report from those who manage it?
It’s a good idea to look over your credit report at least once a year. Check a current report also before making big purchases, such as a home or car.
There are three major credit bureaus and hundreds of small credit agencies that collect and maintain your personal and financial information. These corporations make money by selling credit information. Consumers are entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. This does not include scores. In most cases, there is a fee to obtain your scores from the three bureaus.
To request a copy of your credit report, contact the credit reporting agencies directly:
- How does your information get on the credit report? The moment you apply for credit, the lender contacts the credit bureau for your credit information, which adds to your credit history. Additional information may come from public sources, such as bankruptcy records, liens, etc.
- Creditor or lender where you have applied for credit
- Potential employer
- Mortgage lender where you applied for a home loan
- Apartment complexes
- Current employer on a need-to-know basis
- Person, firm, or agency who has your permission
- Person, firm or agency with a legitimate need to know
- Insurance company when you apply for any type of insurance
, as a consumer
- How can mistakes get on your credit report? It is most important that you frequently check your report, especially to see if it’s correct. It’s reported that over 50% of credit reports have major errors. These errors could cause you to pay higher interest rates and sometimes lead to credit rejection. If your report contains errors, it is often because the report is incomplete, or it may have someone else’s information.
- You may have applied for credit under different names.
- A mistake may occur when entering your personal information, such as the address or Social Security number on the report.
- Another mistake may be that a loan or credit card payment was applied to the wrong account.
If you find an error, the credit reporting agency must investigate and respond to you within 30 days
. If you are in the process of applying for a loan, immediately notify the lender of the incorrect information on your report.
THIS IS JUST A START
The above information is great general information to help you better understand the life of a Credit Report
. In order to get personal and develop a plan to help you meet your financial goals, follow up with FLR, schedule a Credit Report Review Session
and get on track to financial health. We love to see success!
HURRICANE WARNING (ARE YOU PREPARED?)
It's here. Hurricane season officially begins June 1st and the Eastern US knows it by name. Sandy, Katrina, Hugo, Andrew. These storms have wreaked havoc in the lives of millions of people and destroyed property in amazing demonstrations of power. Your only defense is to be prepared. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) each year presents hurricane preparedness week at the end of May with a website devoted to resources and advice on preparing for tropical storms and hurricanes (click here for NOAA Preparedness).
In addition to bottled water, canned foods, batteries and flashlights, there are other considerations in getting ready for the storm. The biggest question: Do we stay or do we evacuate? Heeding local authorities directives are always the best policy, but whichever you choose, you need to consider how to preserve and protect your most important documents. Birth certificates, passports, important records (such as insurance papers) and general identification documents are difficult to replace and need preserving. Especially in an evacuation, you need to have these records with you.
THE LIFEBOOK AS A LIFEBOAT (FOR YOUR DOCUMENTS)
The Family Lifebook from Family Life Resources is an all-in-one storage vault for your important papers that can be quickly retrieved in case of emergency or evacuation. Think of it as a lifeboat for your documents.
The Family Lifebook has places to record vital information and over 40 storage sleeves for bank accounts, insurance policies, titles and deeds. You'll know exactly where everything is and won't have to be searching multiple locations when trying to prepare for the storm.
For waterproofing and extra protection, place your Lifebook in a plastic storage container along with other valuables that need to be shielded from the elements. Being prepared is your best defense against disaster and your best chance of getting back to normal once the storm passes.
For a more detailed description of the Lifebook and its many features, click on the video below:
photos courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Family helping family (and friends)
A grandmother helps her daughter, who is jobless and going through a divorce. Also, she helps to care for young grandchildren by using her gas and resources as well as provide for the needs of older grandchildren who are in high school and college. Now, grandma is having financial problems as well.
The death of a father and husband upsets the delicate Peter/Paul balance he had in managing the family’s finances. Now, a mother and her college age daughter have to figure out how to unexpectedly make it financially without him and his salary.
So many financial events happen in our lives. In many cases, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. One family member’s problem can affect other family members, especially when they have not reviewed their resources prior to offering their financial help.
How to be a resource without going into debt yourself
There is absolutely nothing wrong with family helping family (and friends). Sometimes, that help has made it possible to maintain until the current financial situation improves. However, in these economic times, financial stresses can last longer and the person helping may end up with financial problems of their own if they are not carefully monitoring their budget and financial situation. As a Certified Credit Counselor, I often have parents, grandparents, sisters, brothers and friends who have sought our service because they are now in financial distress after helping someone else in financial distress. So, how do you become a resource without getting into debt yourself? Here are few pointers:
· Know your own budget before helping others. You may be willing to offer $100 to help someone but does that mean your electric will be late or not paid at all? Get out an Income & Expense form, complete it in detail and determine how you can practically help meet their needs as well as your own.
· Find out the true situation. Is this an ongoing experience? Is Uncle Ed always in financial trouble and refuses to do the right thing? Sometimes it’s not the economy or a crisis. Sometimes, it’s just poor choices. Don’t let someone’s bad decisions affect your good ones.
· Will helping them affect your savings plan? Remember, you are not a bank. If your savings, retirement or everyday expenses are diminishing, you and the person you are helping may need to look at alternatives for helping them through their financial issues. It is better you become a resource to help you both learn better financial skills.
· And let’s not forget student loans. Parents, this one’s for you. Take Parent Loans for college off the table. When the loan comes due, in many cases, the student cannot afford to pay…and neither can the parents. The difference is that you have more stuff than your child does and the lender can (and will) come looking for it (ie. a lien against your home, wage garnishment, etc.).
One more thing....
Psalm 112:5 - It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice.
Lending (or giving in most cases) is a natural act when it comes to those we love. As a matter of fact, we tend to follow scripture in that we “…lend, expecting nothing in return.” Luke 6:35. With that in mind, give freely. But I would also throw in, be wise. Find the balance and do the work of ensuring your finances are in order so that you can continue to help your “brother” put their affairs in order. Before giving money, remember these practical steps:
- Develop the budget,
- Determine what you can practically give and,
- Give without expecting anything in return.
Make use of the many resources available to help with budgeting, employment, student loans and other financial issues. Follow up with us. We’d be glad to offer you and your loved ones the help they need towards getting their financial footing again.
YOU CAN GIVE YOUR CLIENTS THE GIFT OF ORGANIZATION.
Legal, financial, real estate and other professionals now have a great new gift that they can present to their most valued clients...the gift of organization. The LifeBook is a high quality bound portfolio that tells a client that yours is a special relationship.
Many professionals assist their clients in various types of life planning and as part of that service they are helping them to gather information, documents and important papers. Estate planning attorneys, CPAs, financial planners, funeral service providers, insurance agents and others can now give key clients a way to store and organize deeds, titles, wills, directives, passports and all documents important to their lives.
The FamilyLifeBook has eight tabbed sections, over 40 storage sleeves and complete instructions on how to safely organize legal and financial records. It has pages to list critical information, service contacts and special directives.
The FamilyLifeBook is an executive-level gift that is directly applicable to the service that you are providing. It instantly connects you and your clients in a way that ordinary incentive products cannot. The leatherette binder and your ability to personalize the first page with your client's name will send a message that you consider them a valued customer and want to present them with a high quality gift that they will treasure for a lifetime.
GIVE A GIFT.....NURTURE A RELATIONSHIP
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE (quantity discounts available):
photo courtesy of Ambro-FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Your LifeBook....Don't Flee A Disaster Without It.
Is this guy carrying his LifeBook? If he's going to be rebuilding his life or if he plans to apply to FEMA for relief, he just might need it.
Hurricane season begins here in Florida in just a couple of months and, along with purchasing bottled water and flashlight batteries, people begin thinking about the possibilities of having to evacuate. Disaster experts all agree that having a good plan is important to your safety and security. Making sure that you and your family are physically safe is the first priority and your local emergency management agency can provide you with tools for that kind of planning. The Florida Division of Emergency Management can provide information on all types of preparedness issues. Contact them at www.floridadisaster.org.
WHAT DO WE TAKE WITH US?
Along with cash and items for consumption (food and prescription medicine) and personal comfort, most people will be concerned about their important and irreplaceable documents....birth certificates, ID cards, passports, etc. But most of us don't know where all of these documents are located and couldn't gather them quickly in case of emergency or evacuation. The LifeBook will give you a convenient, organized way to store and locate those papers necessary to conduct your life affairs in times of crisis. Start by thinking of those things that you will need while you are away. Contact phone numbers, banking information, medical access cards and passwords for websites are just a few.
WHAT WILL WE FIND WHEN WE RETURN?
Some victims of hurricane Sandy returned to find that their homes had sustained very little damage. Others returned to find that their homes were not at the same address where they left them. Still others never found them at all. Recovering from such a calamity is tough, but made all the more difficult if important documents have been lost. Insurance information, proof of identity, proof of ownership and access to financial assets will all be necessary as you begin the process of rebuilding. If you are under-insured or have little in the way of financial resources you may have to turn to the government for help. But don't think that you're not going to need documents. In fact, you may need more.
DEALING WITH F.E.M.A.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is where many people will turn in the aftermath of a disaster. There is funding available for temporary housing and assistance with restoration of many other aspects of life. Requirements must be met to qualify and many of those programs require documentation. For example, you can get assistance for a damaged car (you'll need proof of ownership and insurance information). There is help for rebuilding your home, but as the FEMA website describes "Below are a few types of documents that may be provided to prove ownership: Deed or Official Record, Title number, Mortgage payment book, real property insurance and tax bill." Speaking of taxes, counties can provide property tax relief, but you'll need those records. For information on assistance available please contact the FEMA website at www.fema.gov The point is: you need to make sure that you can get your hands on important papers and that they are preserved and safeguarded. The LifeBook does exactly that.
The LifeBook has eight tabbed sections that allow you to organize important papers and store them for quick reference. You'll always know where to locate passports, insurance papers, marriage licenses, bank information and titles & deeds. With everything in one portable portfolio, you'll have the peace of mind that everything can be taken with you and that the process of rebuilding will be that much easier.
<p>Image courtesy of coward_lion / <a href="http://www.freedigitalphotos.net" target="_blank">FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>