3 Quick Tips To Improve Your Finances

Improving your financial status can seem like an uphill battle, however, it is actually fairly simple if you make a few small changes to your daily life. Follow these three tips to make those small changes and turn your financial situation around.

1. Live Within Your Means

What does it actually mean to live within your means? Well, for starters, it means to develop a budget or spending strategy to make sure that you aren’t overspending and depleting your savings. To do this, you must know a few things like how much you make each month and what your recurring expenses are. Knowing what you can and cannot purchase each month is a great way to begin a spending strategy. The next step is to separate wants and needs; this will also help keep your monthly spending to a minimum. Knowing what you need to purchase each month can help you set up a budget to track exactly the amount you need to cover all expenses. Once you’ve started living within your means, the next step is to pay off your debt.

2. Pay Off Credit Card Debt

More people each day sign up for credit cards in the United States. The majority of these individuals have more than one credit card and on average carry a balance on at least one of them. This day and age it’s easy to swipe your credit card for purchases without thinking about how much money you are actually spending.

One of the best ways to pay off your credit card debt is to first start by limiting your spending. As mentioned before, it’s recommended to live within your means. Using your credit card for only emergency purposes is a great way to keep your balance low. However, if you do have a balance, try to pay it off as quickly as possible to avoid interest charges. To start, pay over the minimum payment each month—the more money you can allocate to paying off your credit card each month the better. After paying off your credit card debt, the next step is to create a savings plan.

3. Have a Savings Plan

Lastly, having a savings plan is always a good idea regardless of your financial situation. The best way to start saving money is to have a portion of your paycheck deposited into a savings account. If you are curious about how much money to have pulled from your paycheck to be deposited into a savings account, start small, try sending 20 dollars each pay period into your account, it will add up quickly!

The best way to maximize your savings is to do your research on banks before opening a new account. Some banks have different fees associated with their accounts, like a minimum balance and overdraft fees. Find a bank that has accounts with no hidden fees, this way you can maximize your savings, without worrying about charges lowering your account balance.

We hope you find these tips helpful and are able to turn your financial situation

Smart Saving Strategies

Money management and building long-term financial health is a careful balancing act between long- and short-term financial needs, and now is a perfect opportunity to re-examine your goals. People sometimes focus on short-term needs, making sure they can cover routine bills and living essentials. However, many Americans do not have the resources to cover an unexpected expense, much less save for the future.

Data from the U.S. Financial Health Pulse shows that Americans are savings-constrained, over-indebted and underinsured. In fact, despite it being the longest period of economic expansion in modern times, 79% of Americans are not financially healthy, and many live paycheck to paycheck just to cover bills, rent and basic living expenses.

As a result, 60% of households are unprepared for a financial shock, with 41% unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing money or selling a personal item. This makes saving incredibly challenging, especially for many low-income households.

“The data makes it quite clear that a significant segment of America is struggling to create a meaningful savings account, whether it’s intended as an emergency fund or a means of attaining a goal without incurring debt,” said Deborah Winshel, global head of social impact at BlackRock.

Last year, the firm launched its Emergency Savings Initiative, a program designed to help people living on low incomes gain access to, and increase usage of, savings strategies and tools to help establish important safety nets.

As with any financial matter, there’s no one “right” way to save. Individual circumstances require a customized approach to determine the best method to fit needs. In addition to traditional saving methods, Common Cents Lab, Commonwealth and the Financial Health Network are working with financial institutions and other enterprises on an initiative to create new and experimental programs that address the challenges many consumers face when it comes to saving money.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider these options and consult with your credit union, employer or financial institution to learn more about the options available to fit your unique lifestyle and savings goals.

Automated Savings

Often offered as an option through employer payroll, this approach allows you to designate a portion of your paycheck to be deposited in a savings account. Whether you choose to make it a flat amount or percentage of your income, it’s an easy method that allows you to consistently funnel money into savings with a one-time setup process.

Round Up

Some financial institutions offer programs in which every transaction you make on your account, or perhaps just those made using your debit card, are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar. The difference between that whole dollar amount and your actual purchase amount is then directed into your savings account.

Prize-Linked Savings

Marrying the fun of winning prizes and a savings account, this type of program incentivizes personal saving by offering an on-going, risk-free chance to win a prize, such as additional cash, by making savings account deposits. Promising both security and opportunity (and perhaps some fun), the amount deposited by the account holder is never at risk, unlike lotteries and games of chance.

Windfall Moments

When you receive a substantial amount of money from a source like a tax refund or a work bonus, it can be tempting to splurge on immediate needs or something fun, like a vacation. Allowing yourself to enjoy a portion of the money isn’t a bad idea, but you can also take advantage of the unplanned income as an opportunity to launch, or grow, your savings account.

Collective Savings

Accountability is a common barrier to better saving habits, but when others are counting on you to contribute your share, there’s a greater level of responsibility at play. A collective savings account may be a good solution for a shared goal like a trip, special project or funding a special event for a loved one.

To learn more about the savings problem and some of the work being done to help employees, customers, gig workers and students take essential steps toward long-term financial well-being, visit savingsproject.org. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Financial Health Network

4 New Ways to Make Money in 2020

If you want a financial makeover in the New Year, you’re going to need to put in a little work. Unless you have a genie nearby who pops out of a lamp and grants your wish for unlimited money, you can’t sit around and expect piles of cash to fall into your lap. In the list below, we’ll show you how you can make money by leveraging different kinds of investments and income strategies.

Let’s investigate some of the most effective ways you can make your wallet and bank account flush with green below:

  1. Invest in real estate

Investing in real estate is a great venture if you have the money to make it happen. Compared to other types of investments, real estate is relatively low risk. It also has a lower tax rate, so you can keep more of your profits.

The real estate industry can be complex, so if you decide to go this route, make sure you know what you’re doing. If you’re looking into investing in commercial real estate for example, choose the right commercial real estate platform before jumping in. It’s also a good idea to chat with people in the real estate industry to get an idea of what to expect.

  1. Open a high-yield savings account

One of the easiest ways to earn money in a passive way is by opening a high-yield savings account. A high yield interest account has a higher APR or annual percentage yield. For you, this means that your money grows at a faster rate. For example, if you put $10,000 in a high yield account that had an APY of 2%, you’d be making $200 just for keeping that money in your account.

Shop around and check out your bank options. Your local credit union might offer better terms compared to big banks.

  1. Join the gig economy

The gig economy has enabled millions of people to make money in their spare time. And for some, the gig economy makes up the entirety of their income. Just a few examples include: joining Lyft or Uber, signing up on a freelance site, or tutoring.

If you are a talented knitter, it might be time to finally open an Etsy shop to sell your wares. Or perhaps you love editing and have helped numerous people in your life craft the perfect resume or cover letter. If that’s the case, consider looking into how you can turn that love into money. Perhaps you might want to copyedit on the side! The interest has revolutionized how people find work opportunities, whether it’s a short-term in-house gig or a long-term remote position.

  1. Ask for a raise

If you already have a job but want to make more money, one of the easiest ways to get some more cash is by asking for it. Set up a meeting with you boss or wait for your quarterly or yearly review.

Of course, you don’t want to go into a meeting asking for $100k more than you already make (or maybe you do). It’s important to go into the meeting with your boss with a solid reason why you deserve more money. In this case, numbers speak louder than words. If you have metrics you can use to show measurable profit growth due to your influence – that puts you in a great position.

Come into the meeting with a plan but be open to negotiation. Even if you don’t necessarily get a raise at the meeting, your boss may lay out a path to get that raise.

And at the end of the day, if you feel like you’re way underpaid, it might be time to look elsewhere for a job that pays better.

Takeaways

As much as we all wish a long-lost sibling would contact us with a generous share of lottery winnings and retire early, that’s not going to be the reality for most Americans. With that said, there are plenty of ways you can make money. Whether it’s asking for a raise at your job or even looking for a new one, there are plenty of money-making opportunities out there. Investments, high yield savings accounts, monetizing your hobbies – the world is your oyster!

Last-Minute Options for a Financial Emergency

Life happens sometimes and it’s not uncommon for individuals to run into unexpected financial emergencies. However, without time to plan for unforeseen expenses and without enough funds to face a financial challenge, emergencies can strain your finances. In our post on ‘Planning for the Future’ we discussed how putting money into an emergency fund or having insurance coverage can help with unforeseen medical or other emergencies. However, if you have neither of those, we’re going to provide you a few more options when you’re in a financial emergency.

Traditional Loans

Traditional loans include both secured and unsecured through banks or credit unions, with the latter requiring a credit check. The better your credit the better interest rate you will likely qualify for. Credit unions are generally a good option as unlike banks they are cooperative financial institutions controlled by their members. They are typically non-profit enterprises which means that they usually tend to lend money at more favorable rates than banks. Investopedia suggests that credit unions may also have more generous lending terms, and while interest rates will differ state by state, APR and application fees, for example, may be less than with the big banks.

Title Loans

When you find yourself in a troubling situation and have bad credit and limited options, a title loan offers some benefits over traditional loans. Finance expert Justin Pritchard explains that one benefit is that you don’t need good credit, as the loan is secured by the value of your asset. Additionally, they can be secured in a matter of hours or within a day. Title loans are available countrywide and you’ll need to provide a clear title in your name. For example, the title loans in Lorain, Ohio will let borrowers continue to drive their vehicle even after the ownership papers are posted as collateral. This is especially useful for those who need capital but also need their car to work. Fortunately, title loans are available in most states with high profile lenders providing services in Texas, including in Round Rock, New Mexico and Nevada.

Credit Card Advance

Most credit card providers will offer cash advances, albeit at a higher APR than the normal purchase APR including an additional 5% fee for the advance. However, if you’re in need of cash fast and have no other options, this is the fastest option of the ones we have included in this article, provided your credit cards aren’t maxed out. Credit card expert Lindsay Konsko recommends that you should only use cash advances in real emergencies and take out only what you need. It’s also advisable to use a card with zero balance, as any other type of balance (i.e. purchases) will accrue additional, separate interest.

401(k) Advance

Using your own money to fund your emergency costs could mean taking an advance from the money invested in your 401(k) or IRA. This way you don’t have to borrow from someone else and the interest rates are generally low. A caveat to this method is that you will typically have to repay it by the next tax period or face penalties from the IRS. While this option uses your own money, it’s generally not advisable as there are too many variables that can impact the repayment. This includes the loss of your job, at which point you’ll have to pay the loan in its entirety or it will be considered an early withdrawal, subject to tax penalties. However, sometimes you may not have any other option.

Unique Ways to Save for Your Retirement (Other Than a 401k)

Saving up for retirement isn’t an easy task. Not only does it cost a lot of money, but it’s not necessarily the most glamorous thing to put your savings toward. Maybe you have your sights set on a new blazer to add to your Fall 2019 wardrobe, or perhaps you’d rather put your hard-earned dollars toward a weekend trip to San Diego. But if you want to eventually enjoy your retirement at its fullest when the time comes, you’ll need to start saving well in advance. But before you make excuses for your company’s lack of a 401k program, remember that there are plenty of other ways you can start building your retirement savings even if you aren’t eligible for an employee-sponsored retirement plan.

If you’re looking for unique ways to save up for your retirement without having a 401k, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss 4 creative ways you can start building your savings today.

1) Use your assets wisely

Since your income will likely be limited when you retire, it’s important to use the financial assets that you currently have to your advantage when saving for retirement. If you have property, for example, you might consider leasing it out as you can to bolster your savings. Perhaps you can lease out a section of your home to a tenant or on a vacation rental site for a less permanent solution.

Another way you can use your property as a retirement savings asset is with a reverse mortgage. A reverse mortgage converts the equity you have in your home into cash that you can ultimately fund your retirement. Of course, there are plenty of considerations to make with any major financial decision, so be sure to do your research. This reverse mortgage explained article provides some more helpful insight to determine if this option could work for you.

2) Build your investments

In addition to real estate investments, you may have some other financial assets like stocks, bonds, or CD accounts that could build a great foundation for your retirement savings, even if you don’t have a 401k savings.

If you haven’t developed your financial profile thus far, here are some tips to help you do so:

  • If you are investing as a beginner, use an investment app to help you make and manage your investments.
  • Before liquidating your assets, consider the market and other indicators to decide if it’s really the right time to sell.
  • Don’t invest blindly—consider a number of different industries and investment avenues to choose the best investment method for your current finances and retirement situation.

3) Save up your bonuses

If your hard work’s paid off throughout the year and you’re lucky enough to receive a bonus, you might be tempted to spend it on something to reward yourself now, but saving it for the future could be even more rewarding in the long-run. That’s not to say you can’t treat yourself to a well-deserved treat, but you may want to allocate a certain percentage toward your retirement savings too!

In addition to saving your bonuses, you can also do the same for any tax returns you’re issued at the end of the tax season. Typically these kinds of contributions are larger than those you’d make periodically throughout the year, so they’ll definitely make a sizeable difference.

4) Get a part-time gig

Even if you already know the importance of saving up for retirement, you might feel like it’s impossible to do so when you have rent to make and bills to pay. And although every dollar counts, it might not feel like you’re making enough progress. One consideration you might make is getting a part-time job to fully allocate toward your retirement savings. This way, you’ll accrue a more substantial amount and you can keep your primary income and secondary income separate.

There are plenty of opportunities to make a few extra bucks here and there, even if you don’t have tons of time to spare. Here are a few ideas:

Final thoughts

Saving for retirement without a 401k isn’t always the easiest route, but it’s entirely possible if you follow these tips!

Is Investing in Real Estate a Quick Route to Riches?

If you’re on the hunt for sensible ways to make money and live the lifestyle that you deserve, it might seem like there are very few dependable options. One tactic many people consider is whether real estate is a good strategy for quickly building up wealth. Whether you’re interested in an entrepreneurial house-flipping business or just curious about investing in a real estate project, you’ll want to know how to do it wisely. Before we answer the titular question, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons for you to consider before you take the plunge into real estate.

Pros:

First, we’ll cover a few reasons why investing in real estate might be an enticing option.

  • Real estate investing is a form of passive income (in some cases), so if you’re successful you won’t have to worry about clocking in and out – your check will simply be in the mail from your recent real estate deal, or from tenants renting out your property if you do choose to lease it. This makes property ownership a good option for retirees who are looking to augment their retirement savings with extra cash flow.
  • Real estate is a reasonably steady, long-term investment option. Property values do tend to rise and fall (more on that in the Cons section), but over time, a good amount of real estate appreciates in the long-term. So, this may not be a quick route to riches, but it certainly could be a slow and steady one.
  • It’s widely available in some growing areas. Parts of the country like Colorado, Nevada, and Texas are growing rapidly. However, they also have a lot of land. That means that there’s still plenty of room for your real estate investments to appreciate, making even riskier options like Fort Worth hard money loans actually seem somewhat attractive.
  • Property is actually a tangible asset. Unlike investments in the stock market that serve no purpose before you sell them, property can actually be used. For instance, if you’re flipping a house to resell it, you can still live in it during renovations. Or, if you’re just waiting for property values to increase before selling, you can lease to renters and make some more income that way.

Cons

Now we’ll go over what you should be careful of before you get started investing in real estate.

  • There are a lot of real estate scams. If you don’t do diligent research before investing, you could wind up with a property that rapidly depreciates or isn’t worth anywhere near what you paid for it. Be careful and do diligent research before putting your money toward any real estate investment opportunity.
  • Real estate investing takes time. If you are looking for a way to make money quickly, purchasing a house in hopes that property values will increase could take a decade or more. House flipping might be an easier way to make money more quickly, but this requires significantly more time and investment, as you’ll have to renovate the home well enough to warrant a high asking price.
  • Property management can be a headache if you can’t find good tenants. If you do go the leasing route, it’s important to find tenants who will respect your property and treat it well. The last thing you want on your list of costs is repairs necessary after troublesome tenants move out.
  • A substantial amount of your net worth is tied up in your investment. If you find that you need money quickly, you might be in some trouble. Real estate is difficult to convert into liquid funds fast enough to cover a last-minute need for emergency cash. That’s because you’ll have to sell the property successfully to make your money back. Plus, if you have tenants, you might not be able to just evict them to liquidate in your property, further stalling access to funds.

So, is real estate a quick route to riches? In most cases, real estate is not a way to get rich quickly. That’s because, as with any investment, it can take time to fully appreciate. While flipping houses can be a good way to earn money, it’s not always easy to quickly get rich this way – in many ways, it’s like owning any small business, as the overhead costs are substantial and don’t allow for immediate profits. Let us know whether you’ve had any teachable experiences from real estate investing in the comments below!

Struggling to Understand Your Taxes? Start Here

Trying to understand taxes is like trying to learn a foreign language. We may have a little understanding, but for the most part, we have no clue what’s going on. If you’re like most Americans who don’t fully know how taxes even work, you’re not alone. To help you navigate through tax season and please Uncle Sam, refer to our Understanding Taxes Guide below.

When is the tax filing deadline?

First and foremost, it’s important to know when the last day to file your taxes is. Each year, Tax Day in the United States falls on April 15th, unless the 15th happens to be a weekend or a holiday. In that case, Tax Day will fall on the following business day. It’s important to mark your calendar because if you fail to file or pay your taxes, you can face hefty fines and penalties. These include:

  • Failure to File Penalty: If you fail to file your taxes, you can face a fee that 5 percent of your unpaid taxes, up to 25 percent. After 60 days, you’ll either have to pay $135 or 100 percent of the taxes you owe, whichever is less.
  • Failure to Pay Penalty: If you fail to pay your taxes, you will face a charge of 0.5 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month late, up to 25 percent.
  • Failure to File and Pay Penalty: If you fail to file and pay, your failure to file penalty will be reduced by your failure to pay penalty. Even if you don’t have the money to pay for your taxes by the deadline, it’s important to at least file. This way, you won’t face extra fees, penalties, and interest and will be able to avoid a tax blunder.

How do I pay for my taxes?

Some people may owe taxes to Uncle Sam for a variety of reasons. Some reasons include having too little withheld from their pay, having extra income not subject to withholding (such as money from stocks), and self-employment tax.

If you end up owing a large chunk of change on April 15th, you can always sign up for an IRS payment plan that reduces the threat of increased collection actions. Or, you can apply for a tax extension that will give you 6 more months, until October 15th, to file your taxes.

What documents do I need when filing my taxes?

Another area of taxes many Americans struggle with is collecting all the proper documents that are needed to file taxes. It’s important to keep your finances fresh throughout the year and organize all of your documents, so you don’t end up tearing your house apart looking for your W4 Form or receipts you need for proof for a deduction. Below is a list of all the important paperwork you should have prepared well before Tax Day:

Income Information

○     1099-Misc: Used for self-employment

○     1099-DIV: Used if you received dividends

○     1099-G: Used if you received benefits or money from the government

○     1099-K: Used for transactions made through third-party transactions, like Venmo and PayPal

○     1099-R: Used for distributions from a retirement plan, IRA, pension, etc.

Personal Information

  • Social Security Card or tax ID number
  • Date of birth for you and everyone on your return, including spouses, children, and dependents

Self-Employment Information

  • Mileage records
  • Home office expenses
  • Records for business expenses
  • Receipts for quarterly estimated tax payments

Medical Information

  • Unreimbursed medical expense receipts
  • Health insurance coverage forms filed on Form 1095
  • Social Security Benefits

Life Information

  • Property tax receipts
  • Home improvement invoices or receipts
  • Annual mortgage statement
  • Childcare receipts
  • Contributions to college savings plans
  • Charitable donation receipts
  • Documents related to marriage, divorce, death of a spouse, adoption papers, child custody documents, etc.

As you can tell, being a taxpayer means you’re responsible for keeping track of a lot of documents. The best way to stay organized throughout the year is to make copies of important documents and file them. Or, you can scan and upload them to cloud-based software that will securely store and encrypt your personal documents. It’s always important to ensure you have all the necessary documents to prove your income and deductions so you don’t end up in a tax fraud case, causing you more money and stress.

How do I file my taxes?

Once you have all of your documents needed for proof of income, deductibles, and so forth, it’s time to begin filing. There are three ways you can file:

  1. By yourself: You can file your taxes by completing all necessary forms and mailing them to the IRS or using Free File on their website.
  1. With an accountant: If you want to ensure you file properly, you can consult with an accountant who can do your taxes for you.
  1. Online tax services: Online tax services blend the best of both worlds, allowing you to file your taxes by yourself with the help of tax software that will ensure you have all necessary documents.

Wrapping Up

We get it, trying to understand taxes isn’t easy. However, using this guide during tax season will help you ensure you have all the necessary paperwork to please Uncle Sam. By planning for the future and staying organized throughout the year, you’ll get through tax season with ease.

Keeping Your Finances Fresh Throughout the Year

For many Americans, reaching and maintaining financial stability is a goal that tops their checklists. However, the strategies necessary for achieving that goal can quickly fall by the wayside.

Consider these tips from Bank of America Credit Cards Executive Jason Gaughan that you can put in place to help keep your finances in check throughout the year.

Make Financial Goals More Attainable

The key to achieving financial goals is to make them measurable. Try to focus on achievable outcomes that slowly push you in the right direction financially. For example, if you are planning to make a large purchase, give yourself a specific, short-term goal like saving $50 from a paycheck so you can effectively measure your progress and build toward your purchase over time.

Redeeming your credit card rewards wisely can also help you more seamlessly reach your financial goals. Some cards allow you to redeem cash rewards directly into a checking or savings account or to apply to your credit card balance. In some cases, rewards can also be applied into longer-term investments like 529 accounts for college savings or a retirement fund, letting your everyday spending help fuel your future goals.

“Earning cash back on everyday purchases can provide extra funds to invest, splurge on a family vacation or put a down payment on a new car,” Gaughan said. “Whatever your financial goals are, a rewards card can help you get closer to achieving them.”

Reduce the Number of Credit Cards in Your Wallet

A Bank of America survey found 52% of Americans weigh down their wallets with multiple cards to earn rewards across different categories. By choosing a flexible credit card that allows you to earn benefits across various categories, you can consolidate and eliminate the need to juggle a variety of rewards cards.

One flexible card option is the Bank of America Cash Rewards credit card, which allows you to choose from one of six categories – gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores or home improvement – to earn 3% cash back on purchases each month along with 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, up to $2,500 each quarter. Cardholders also earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. Cards such as this reward all your purchases, especially those in the places where you spend most frequently so you can maximize your cash back.

Cut Unnecessary Spending and Tackle Debts

If you’re dreaming of financial freedom, a budget is one of the first steps toward getting there. Start by reviewing bank and credit card statements from at least the past three months to gain a better understanding of your spending habits and identify areas you could improve. While cutting back on non-essentials is typically a good place to start, this is also an opportunity to identify areas you can get better deals by switching providers for things like car or homeowner’s insurance as well as your cellphone, internet and other home services.

Once you’ve addressed your expenses, consider tackling your debts. To determine which debts need to be prioritized, look at the interest rates and principal costs of each and focus on paying off debts with higher interest rates first. Reducing your debt should take priority over most savings goals.

Discover New Ways to be Rewarded

You may be eligible to enroll in a banking rewards program like Bank of America Preferred Rewards, which gives members access to a variety of everyday banking benefits including credit card rewards bonuses on eligible cards from 25-75%, home and auto loan discounts, free stock trades, ATM fee waivers and more.

Layering your banking rewards program together with airline, hotel, credit card, dining and shopping rewards programs can help boost your financial rewards earnings to the highest level.

Use Digital Banking Tools to Gain Full Visibility Into Your Finances

When using a combination of multiple rewards and savings strategies, it can be hard to keep track of where and how much you’re earning and saving at a given time.

Your bank may offer digital tools that provide assistance and resources to simplify your banking experience. For example, some digital dashboards allow cardholders to track their rewards earnings and redemptions, and discover additional benefits. Those using their bank’s application on their computer or phone can typically manage their rewards, deals and benefits across multiple rewards programs.

Keep Tabs on Your Credit Reports and Scores

A numeric representation of your credit, your credit score signifies to lenders what kind of borrower you are. Because it influences everything from mortgage and auto loan rates to credit card approvals, keeping an eye on where you stand can be important in achieving your financial goals. It’s smart to periodically check your credit score to make sure everything is accurate and know where you stand. You can check your score through the major credit bureaus, and some credit card issuers even allow you to view your score for free through online or mobile banking.

The key to keeping your finances fresh is to create a simple strategy that allows you to push toward your financial goals all year long. By consolidating your wallet, creating realistic goals and budgeting, you can set yourself up for financial success.

Earn Rewards Where You Spend Most

According to the spending analysis of more than 50 million Bank of America credit and debit cardholders, the average cardholder spent $3,174 on groceries, $2,430 on dining, $2,319 on travel and $1,627 on gas last year.

“Regardless of whether your spending priorities change frequently or remain steady, you should consider a flexible card that allows you to earn cash back across multiple categories that align with your spending patterns,” Gaughan said.

Find more solutions at BankofAmerica.com.

SOURCE:
Bank of America

Planning for the Future

Taking inventory of your financial health

Only 28% of Americans are financially healthy, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. Most others will have difficulty reaching long-term financial goals and are more vulnerable to the threat of financial shocks, such as car trouble, unforeseen medical bills or job loss.

Regardless of income or wealth, the road to financial health – how you are able to manage your day-to-day financial life while building for the future – can be a lifelong journey. What you do today can build toward or detract from your long-term resilience and ability to pursue opportunities. Whether you want to take that dream vacation, prepare for retirement or save for college, financial health takes effort to build.

“An overwhelming majority of the country is experiencing financial challenges that have lasting effects on people’s lives, on their ability to weather the inevitable ups and downs and on their chances to pursue their dreams,” said Jennifer Tescher, CEO of the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the nation’s authority on consumer financial health. “Each year, CFSI and MetLife Foundation join forces on #FinHealthMatters Day to highlight the importance of financial health, especially for the 180 million people who are financially vulnerable.”

These questions can serve as a starting point to take inventory of your financial health:

  1. Are you spending less than you make? Regardless of your income level, it can be difficult to get ahead if you’re among the 47% of Americans that are spending more than or equal to what they earn, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. The ability to manage cash flow directly affects your ability to build savings and deal with unexpected expenses.
  2. Do you pay your bills on time and in full? Falling behind on bills, including credit card payments, can be a significant hindrance to improving your financial health. If all your bills seem to come due at the same time each month or don’t appropriately align with paydays, consider staggering bills based on their priority level with rent and utilities taking precedence over any less necessary items like cable television or subscription services, which could even be eliminated altogether. The ability to keep up with payments shows how well you’re able to manage cash flow and daily financial obligations.
  3. Do you have sufficient liquid, short-term savings? The ability to draw on savings is important for coping with unexpected expenses such as car repairs or medical bills or a setback such as being laid off from a job. Having six or more months of living expenses in savings is considered financially healthy, but 45% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover even three months, according to the U.S. Financial Health Pulse. Try setting aside 5-10% of your monthly income to build up both your emergency fund and long-term savings account.
  4. Do you have appropriate insurance coverage? Along with sufficient liquid savings, having appropriate insurance can help you withstand an unexpected expense, such as the death of a loved one or a medical emergency. Shop around for the best rates and coverage on everything from homeowners and car insurance to life and disability policies.
  5. Do you plan ahead for expenses? Planning ahead shows you are future-oriented and proactively managing your financial situation, a behavior that is strongly correlated with financial health. Proper future planning behaviors include using a budget, coding expenses, setting up automatic savings transfers and using financial management apps, among other habits.

For more tips to focus on your future financial health, follow #FinHealthMatters on social media or visit cfsinnovation.org/news/finhealthmattersday. (Family Features)

SOURCE:
Center for Financial Services Innovation

Tax Fraud Cases: What Happened Next?

Written by Colette Cassidy, Contributing Writer for InFluential Magazine

Taxes. Even the mention of the word would nearly cause you to shudder. Most of us don’t enjoy paying them but we obligingly stump up the fees imposed by the authorities so that we don’t become subjected to legal complications. There are those, however, who willingly defy the laws of the land and simply don’t pay their taxes. They can get away with it to an extent but it’s almost certain that, after a while, their misdeeds will be rumbled and the consequences are usually quite severe.

As this infographic from All Finance Tax shows, quite a few people have deliberately committed tax fraud through a variety of methods. Some went for white-collar schemes involving aliases, offshore holdings and fraudulent companies; others simply attempted to claim tax exemptions from personal expenses and bragged openly about their metaphorical raising of two fingers to the taxman.

The list of tax defrauders includes some personalities who were already in the public eye before their misdeeds. Actor Nicolas Cage, for example, ended up owing $13 million to the IRS because of frivolous spending on bizarre novelties such as a private island and two albino king cobras. Having once had a personal fortune of $150 million, he eventually became bankrupt. A few years previously, baseball icon Pete Rose neglected to report earnings from the sale of memorabilia and ended up in jail. While his sentence was brief, the scandal brought a premature end to what been a glittering sporting career and tainted his great name.

Check out the infographic below for other instances of tax fraud and how those culpable were brought to justice.