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Financial Literacy - Top 10 Money Tips for Life

Financial Literacy

Financial Literacy Feature Article

Review our Top 10 Money Tips below.  Whether you're a teen or a Baby Boomer, there are helpful thoughts, documents, resources and links below to put your life and financial well-being on the right track.

Tip #1: Have Financial Goals

Free Goal Setting Worksheet

Print Our Free Goal Setting Worksheet

In order to get a grasp on where you are at financially, a good place to begin is to get a sense of where you currently are and where you are planning on going in life. 

What are your goals?  What steps are you taking now in order to reach those goals?


Stage of Life has created a free downloadable goal setting sheet that will get you to start thinking about your financial and life goals.  Our free goal worksheet will ask you to explore the ideas of...

  • Reducing your debt
  • Increasing your investments
  • Saving more money
  • Planning for large purchases on the horizon
  • Donating time or money in your community or through philanthropy
  • And more

In addition, our Goal Worksheet will get you thinking about different types of goals in your life, including health & wellness, education, home, community, friends & family, travel, personal and of course your long-term goals.  Your first step for expanding your Financial Literacy is to clearly establish these goals!

NEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemDownload and then print the Stage of Life Goal Setting Worksheet...

Free Goal Setting Worksheet

OTHER GOAL SETTING RESOURCES:

  1. Smart Financial Goal Setting
  2. Goal Setting

Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have a Goal Setting Resource to suggest

Tip #2: Follow a Budget

Print Stage of Life budget worksheetPrint Our Free Budget Planning Worksheet

On a fundamental level, your core Financial Literacy will stem from your ability to follow a budget.  So the first question becomes, do you have a budget?

For some people, the word "budget" conjures up images of accounting software or other complex financial tools.  But this doesn't have to be the case.  Essentially, a budget is a comparison of what you take in (your income) verses what you spend (your expenses).

Stage of Life has created a free downloadable budget worksheet that will get you thinking about how you make and then spend your money.  Filling in our free budget worksheet will get you thinking about
your money in new ways such as...
  • Do you know what you spend your money on each month?
  • Are you paying yourself each month via putting some money into savings, investments, etc.?
  • Are there things which you spend money on but could live without, thus increasing your ability to pay off debt or save more?
Take 10 minutes to fill in our free budget worksheet and see if you discover something new about where and how you spend your hard-earned money.

NEXT STEP: 

Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemDownload and print the Stage of Life Budget Worksheet

Free Budget Planning Worksheet


OTHER BUDGET PLANNING RESOURCES:

1. Budgeting and saving tips from Practical Money Skills
2. Budget Pulse


Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have a budget planning resource to suggest

Tip #3: Respect and Build Credit

Apply for Stage of Life Visa Card - support digital literacyTips for Using Credit to Your Advantage

Credit cards are powerful financial tools.  They help you establish a credit history.  They give you payment flexibility and protect you from needing to carry cash.  They also come with rewards programs, allowing you to earn points, miles or cash-back for your regular, everyday purchases.

But for some people, credit cards can be negatively powerful as they allow those who don't follow a budget (see Step #2 above) to spend above their means and rack up massive amounts of debt.  While "planned debt" (such as borrowing to remodel your home or making a large purchase such as a car) is something most of us plan for and build into our monthly budgets, "unnecessary debt" and the interest payments that go with it should be avoided at all cost. 

Here are our three top tips for using credit cards:
  1. Pay off your credit card balance each month.
  2. Make sure your credit card has a rewards program so that as you pay off your card each month, you still earn points, miles or cash-back that can be used later for special perks for you or your family.
  3. Make sure your credit card has an interest rate under 15%.  If you can't pay off your card balance each month, you don't want to have a card with a high interest payment as it will be more difficult and take longer to pay off.
Finally, we recommend making sure you know your credit score and having a credit report safety check in place so you can monitor if someone uses your credit cards illegally or starts taking out cards in your name.

Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEPS - TAKE ACTION:

Take these next steps...


OTHER CREDIT CARD RESOURCES:

  1. Federal Reserve's Credit Card Calculator
  2. FDIC consumer strategies
  3. Federal Reserve's Five Tips - Credit Scores
Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have Credit Card or credit tip resources to suggest

Step #4: Education and Learning Matter

Don't Stop Learning!

Educational ResourcesThere are statistics upon statistics pointing to greater career success, higher income and other beneficial life benchmarks when you add education to your life.

This doesn't mean everyone has to get a four-year Ivy League college degree. 

Far from it.

Increasing your education could come from...

  • Going to trade or vocational school after high school
  • Learning how to invest and how to save
  • Taking a community class
  • Attending a local college
  • Going back for your GED
  • Applying for a four-year degree university
  • Working towards your Masters or Ph. D.
  • Enrolling in an online class or college
  • Taking classes, seminars, or workshops through work
  • Attending a conference
  • Reading a book
Whatever your education path may be, find areas in your life to expand your learning and education.

Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

As an education-based website focusing on digital literacy, we have some areas here on Stage of Life where you may learn something new...
  1. For Teachers: Explore Stage of Life's free Education Resources
  2. For Bloggers:  Explore Stage of Life's recommendations on how to promote your blog
  3. For Teens and College Students:  Explore Stage of Life's Teen Trends reports

RECOMMENDED EDUCATION RESOURCES:

  1. Saving for College
  2. College Savings Calculator
  3. Smart Saving for College - FINRA.org

Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have an Education Resource to suggest

Step #5: Save Money - Use Coupons

Use StageofLife.com CouponsUsing Coupons Can Save You Lots 'O Money

Why pay full price for anything when you have access to so many great coupons, discounts and offers out there?  Yes, it takes a little time to find and "clip" those coupons, but the time is worth it when you can save hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars each year.

Consider these coupon statistics from Nielsen Company, eMarketer and others that support the philosophical basis for putting discounts and coupons near the top of your priority list:

  • 92.5 million adult Internet users will use online coupons in 2012
  • 96.8 million adult Internet users will use online coupons in 2013
  • Every hour spent couponing is worth an estimated $100
  • 74% of consumers search multiple coupon sources each week
  • 25% spend up to an hour shopping for the best online discount deals
  • Moms are roughly twice as likely to search for coupons online as women without children
  • 52% of coupon users spend more than 15 minutes per week searching for coupons
  • 25% of coupon users spend between 30 minutes and 60 minutes searching for coupons per week
  • 332 billion coupons were distributed in 2010 (saving consumers more than $3.7 billion) the most ever recorded in the U.S. (even more than in the "Golden Age" of coupons during the 1950's and 1960's).

Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

Take these next steps...
  1. Print grocery store coupons and shop online any time using Stage of Life's free, My Life Rewards® program.  100's of national brands work with Stage of Life to provide offers and discounts that give you Rewards for Life's Journey®

OTHER MONEY SAVING or COUPON RESOURCES:

Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have other Money Saving resources to suggest

Step #6: Protect Yourself - Get Insurance

Insurance gives you piece of mindInsurance can bring you peace of mind

Insurance for your home, health, automobiles, business and other personal or professional assets is designed to do one thing...protect you in case of emergency. 

Yes, it's true that nobody particularly enjoys watching insurance premiums go out each month from our bank accounts.  However, given the choice between making a few monthly payments (as a part of your budget) in exchange for the protection and peace of mind insurance can bring to you and your family, it goes without saying that insurance is indeed worth the time, energy and investment.

Consider these insurance statistics:

  • Health Insurance Statistics: 
    • "About one quarter of uninsured adults go without needed care every year... Having health insurance makes a difference in whether and when people get medical care. Those without insurance are less likely than those with to receive preventive care, which leads them to be diagnosed at later stages of illness." -Sept. 2011, Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.
    • "In 2010, there was an estimated 48.2 million people in the United States under the age of 65 who lacked health insurance." -the CDC, the 2010 National Health Interview Survey
  • Life Insurance Statistics: 
    • "20 percent of American’s long-term savings is in life insurance and annuities. These savings are key to the protection and guarantees these products provide." 
    • "In 2010, life insurers provided payments in excess of $557 billion, helping families guarantee long-term financial security now and in retirement." 
    • "With 90 percent of the industry's $5.3 trillion assets invested in the U.S. economy, life insurers are one of the largest sources of investment capital in the nation."  --All three of the above insurance statistics come from American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI), and based on: National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) 2010 annual statement data; U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2010 data; U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 data; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 data; and U.S. Treasury Department, 2010 data.
  • Home (Flood) Insurance Statistics: 
    • "Every year, flooding causes more than $2 billion of property damage in the U.S...since 1969, the NFIP has paid $12.7 billion for flood insurance claims and related costs." 
    • "About 4.5 million people currently hold flood insurance policies in more than 20,000 communities across the U.S. Hurricanes, winter storms and snow melt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding. New land development can increase flood risk, especially if the construction changes natural runoff paths." --both statistics above from CNNMoney

Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

    Take these next steps...
    1. Find a trusted insurance agent or company that can help you get protected.
    2. Make sure you understand what your insurance coverage will give you when the time comes to use it.
    3. Here are the typical insurance types you'll want to explore...
    • Home Insurance
    • Car Insurance
    • Life Insurance
    • Health Insurance
    OTHER INSURANCE RESOURCES:

    1. Smart Money's Which Life Insurance is Best?
    2. Insurance Calculator
    3. Health Care Resources

    Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have insurance resources to suggest

    Step #7: Plan for your Future - Save & Invest

    Plan for your retirementAre you saving, investing, and planning for your financial future?

    Sit down and ask yourself these questions...
    • Am I saving money each month?
    • Could I live off my savings for six months if I lost my job?
    • At what age do I want to retire?
    • How much money will I need to retire?
    Between high school and retirement, you have approximately 50 years to work, save and build up a "nest egg" so you can live comfortably in your golden years.  Planning and committing to a savings and investment plan over 50 years is...well...for most of us, a daunting task.

    But it doesn't have to be overwhelming.  The idea of preparing for your financial future can start small. 
    • 1)  Open up a savings account.
    • 2)  Put a little bit of money away every month, or have it automatically deposited if you don't feel disciplined enough to do it yourself.
    • 3)  Talk to your bank or a financial advisor to discuss other investment options beyond the traditional saving account.

    In one visit to your local bank, you can be on your way to planning for your financial future and adding security to your life.

    Consider these retirement statistics:

    • According to the Huffington Post (2012), 1 in 2 Americans ARE NOT saving at all for retirement; the youngest and the poorest cited as the least likely attempting to save.
    • According to CNNMoney (2012), many workers barely have any savings, with about 60 percent of workers reporting total savings and investments of under $25,000.
    • Due to the recent economic downturn, baby boomers born between 1948 and 1954 will need to save an additional 4.3 percent of their annual pay to counteract the impact of the financial and housing crisis in 2008 and 2009, according to Employee Benefit Research Institute calculations. For many people this will require working beyond traditional retirement age in a job market already tight and challenging for older workers. (US News Money, 2012)

    Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

      Take these next steps...
      1. Sign up for Mint.com.  It's a free online money resource that can help you organize your finances and banking relationships.
      2. Sit down with a financial planner and establish a financial road map for your retirement. It doesn't matter if you're in high school or college.  The earlier you start saving, the easier it'll be to accomplish your goals with the financial resources and retirement fund you'll be able to build.
      3. Talk with your bank and set up an automatic savings account that's tied to your checking or deposit account.
        OTHER INVESTMENT or FINANCIAL PLANNING RESOURCES:

        1. PDF on SEC's Guide to Saving and Investing
        2. PDF on saving and investing

        Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have banking, investing or saving resources to suggest

        Step #8: Own Your Home

        Stage of Life Home Ownership TipsDo you own your own home?

        Home ownership is a long term investment that over time (typically 15 - 30 years of paying off a mortgage) will leave you with an high-value asset.  Several of the big questions to ask as you look into buying a home are...
        • Do you have 20% saved as a down payment on your home?  This may sound "old school" in a world where saving money is a foreign practice reserved for grandparents, but walking into a home purchase situation with cash for the down payment will lower your monthly payment, eliminate mortgage insurance, etc.
        • Do you have a realtor who is willing to work with you to find good properties that are within your budget?  Too many people are "house poor" - that is - they purchased a home with a price tag that was out of their budget once the monthly payments started.
        • Do you have a mortgage broker who will line up a loan option with a competitive interest rate from a strong, solid bank?
        • Do you have a trusted home contractor to use if the home will need repairs when you move in?
        There's obviously a lot to consider when buying a home, and we'd love to hear from about other questions, resources, or tips to consider.

        Consider these housing statistics:

        • The U.S. Census Bureau reported in Feb. 2012 that the nation's homeownership rate fell to 66% in 2011, continuing a seven-year drop from a fourth-quarter peak of 69.2% in 2004. (USA Today)
        • The West is home to three of the states most affected by foreclosures, which have hurt homeownership rates. Nevada, Arizona and California were the top three states last year with the highest foreclosure rates, market researcher RealtyTrac says. (Found in USA Today)
        • Americans in the 35- to 44-year-old age group are faring the worst, with their homeownership rate dropping almost 9 percentage points to just over 61 percent. Only those 65 and older showed any signs of stability in homeownership rates throughout the market downturn. (US News, 2012).

        Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

          Take these next steps...
          1. Find a good realtor to help you.
          2. Find your dream home (within your budget).
          3. Find a good mortgage broker and compare competitive interest rates from banks on a possible home loan.
            OTHER HOME OWNERSHIP RESOURCES:

            1. MyMove.com - valuable resource for new movers and homeowners
            2. Article from The Economist
            3. Buying a Home - HUD recommendations

            Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have mortgage or real estate resources to suggest

            Step #9: Draft a Will

            Stage of LifeAre your affairs in order?

            For many, discussions about death can seem uncomfortable or morbid.  We avoid it.  We don't want to talk about it.  Or maybe it's simply a matter of procrastination.  In any case, as one famous saying goes, "Death is certain...life is not."  We've even incorporated the symbol of aging (and death) into our own logo (watch the leaf fall from the tree).

            Regardless of whether it's uncomfortable to discuss...death is a part of life.

            Aside from the spiritual, emotional, and physical aspects of dying, as well as its effect on loved ones, a piece often overlooked is the financial outcome of death.  Not everybody wants to talk about death and money when there are more important issues like enjoying time with loved ones and actually living.

            The time invested in estate planning is well worth it, however, both for you and for those who will be left behind and will have to deal with how your worldly assets are distributed once you're gone.  If you do not plan your estate, the state in which you live will distribute your property according to state law.  While this may be acceptable for some, just about everyone wants some variation from what state law would provide as the default.  For example, you may wish to leave a gift in your estate to one or more charities about which you care deeply, or to provide that money will be distributed to children at certain ages rather than all at once when they may be too young to manage it responsibly.  If you have minor children, you need to have a will to nominate the people you want to serve as their guardians should you die before any of them reach age 18.

            Drafting a will doesn't need to be daunting task.  Get recommendations from friends and family for estate planning attorneys with whom they've had good experiences.  If you're contemplating drafting a will or revocable trust agreement yourself, note that in many states a handwritten (holographic) will often is ineffective and not recognized under some state laws.  Do-it-yourself will kits and software may provide a legally binding will, but often raise problems after death with unintended results from provisions not properly understood by the decedent.  Remember that cheaper does not always mean less expensive.  Very often, wills drafted without the assistance of a competent attorney lead to much larger attorney costs after death to fix ambiguities or other unanticipated problems, and some of the problems may not be fixable at all.  Your best bet is to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney, who can make sure your documents are drafted--and executed--correctly and can help talk through questions you wouldn't have thought to ask.  Moreover, most reputable estate planning lawyers should be willing to provide an initial consultation at no cost unless you ultimately decide to hire them (confirm that on the phone or in e-mail before meeting).

            Consider these questions (among others) when having a will drafted:
            • How much of your estate do you want to go to your family?  Which family members, and in what amounts?  Should they receive the distributions all at once, or over time at certain ages, in trusts?
            • Do you wish to make gifts to individuals outside of your family?
            • Do you understand the gift tax consequences of gifts to people other than your spouse?
            • How much of your money or assets do you wish to go to your favorite charitable organizations?
            • Who should serve as your personal representative, executor, or trustee?
            Other important documents to have include beneficiary designations for retirement accounts and life insurance (it is critical that these be coordinated properly with your will or revocable trust agreement, especially when they make up a significant part of your overall assets), health care directives, and financial durable powers of attorney.  Health care directives should contain statements about what kind of treat you want and don't want and in what circumstances (often called a "living will"), as well as appointment of a health care agent to make decisions on your behalf when you are not capable of making decisions (sometimes referred to as a "health care power of attorney").  A financial durable power of attorney appoints an attorney-in-fact to handle your financial affairs in the event you are incapacitated.
            There is much to consider, and wise financial and legal advisors can help you sort it all out.  Having your affairs in order will give you great peace of mind and the knowledge that your property will go to your intended beneficiaries once you're gone.  

            Consider these statistics for having a will:
            • Once all funeral-related costs are factored in, the typical traditional funeral service will cost the average family close to $8,000 - $10,000, says Mike Testa of Funeral-Tips.com (June 2012 stat).
            • According to a 2012 AARP survey, 2 out of 5 Americans over the age of 45 don't have a will.  Some surveys put the percentage of adults without a will close to 60%.
            Other considerations:
            • If you have funeral or cremation preferences, don't put them in your will, as that won't be probated until well after the time for the funeral.  Funeral instructions can be left in a separate document, or incorporated into a health care directive / living will.  Most importantly, let your closest family or loved ones know what you want.
            • Social media is a part of daily life, so what happens to the online content that you created once you die? If you are active online you should consider creating a statement of how you would like your online identity to be handled, like a social media will. You should appoint someone you trust as an "online executor" (not to be confused with a legal executor).  This person will be responsible for the closure of your e-mail addresses, social media profiles, and blogs after you are deceased. (USA.gov)

            Stage of Life - Financial Literacy Action ItemNEXT STEP - TAKE ACTION: 

              Take these next steps...
              1. Talk with your spouse or partner, if any, about what is important to you and initial thoughts on estate planning.
              2. Get recommendations for reputable estate planning attorneys in your area.
              3. Call around to find an estate planning attorney with whom you are comfortable, and then arrange a meeting to talk with him or her to determine the best plan for you.  Most good lawyers should be willing to provide an initial consultation without charge unless you decide to hire them (confirm on the phone before meeting).
              4. Follow through to execute your documents, complete beneficiary designations, and title assets as discussed with your advisor.
                Contact Stage of LifeContact Us if you have will, living trust, estate or other resources to suggest.



                NOTE:  Stage of Life LLC does not provide legal or tax advice and articles should not be relied upon as such.  It is for educational and informational purposes only.  Laws may vary by state.  Contact to your own legal and tax advisors for advice on your particular circumstances.

                Step #10: Share Your Tips

                Share Your Story on Stage of LifeWhat's Your Financial Literacy Advice?

                We know that our readers and members have stories and tips to help others visiting Stage of Life increase their Financial Literacy.  Maybe you've been through a financial hardship and have some insights to help others avoid the same situation?  Or maybe you've been extremely successful financial in some area of your life and you'd like to share tips with others to help them find similar success?

                Maybe you have a resource to suggest for this page?

                Take a moment to share your Financial Literacy advice or stories now or contact us to submit a resource for us to list on this page.

                Share your Financial Literacy advice

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                StageofLife.com was launched in 2009 as the premier destination for people of all ages to find information, coupons, and stories about one of ten key stage of life transitions:  high school, college, on my own, wedding, married without children, having a baby, home ownership, parenting, grand parenting, and empty nest/retirement.  Nearly 1 million visitors come to the site each year to find information about their stage of life.  Stage of Life users (teens, college students, Millennials, Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers) can also share and archive their life stories via their Stage of Life profile page.  Specialized content includes statistics, quotes, videos, financial tips, coupons, news, writing contests, and more tailored to each of the 10 life stages featured.  My Life Rewards® is the free discount program for all Stage of Life users, readers and writers dedicated to providing printable coupons and coupon codes tailored towards each stage of life.

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