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Financial literacy is extremely important and a growing national concern. All students should learn to manage their money wisely, both during school and after graduation.
Do you want to make good financial decisions? Budgeting is much more than tracking your expenses! It is about knowing how you spend money, understanding your monthly statements, making major purchases and more. Use this guide to discover where you spend your money today, and make educated decisions about how you want to spend it in the future.
Making significant progress on achieving your financial goals means knowing your income sources and financial obligations. To get started, make a list of your income sources, fixed expenses and variable expenses. Fixed expenses such as rent, car payments and insurance costs, don't change from month to month. Variable expenses, such as utilities, clothing and food, can change each month.
You may discover some income sources you haven't considered as well as some expenses you're fortunate enough to not have at this point in your life. No matter what your situation is, you'll have virtually everything you need to create your annual budget and develop a clear picture of where you are now and where you want to go.
Types of Bills and Income Statements
Are you having trouble finding all your monthly bills and income statements? For a more complete picture, set aside a space in your home — on your counter or in a box or folder — to place every bill, statement and pay stub you receive in the next month. You should have most of what you need by the end of the month.
If you have more income than expenses, now is the time to start a savings account or add to your existing savings. If you have more expenses than income, search for ways to reduce your spending.
Saving money is easier than you may think. Here are some cost-cutting tips to help you reduce your monthly expenditures. Some suggestions are relatively painless, while others require a concentrated effort.
Save a Little
Possible monthly savings: $50
Save Some More
Possible monthly savings: $250
Save Even More
Possible monthly savings: $500
Do you need a guideline for understanding where your money should go? The Bureau of Labor Statistics offers the following percentage breakdown of the average person's after-tax expenses.
As with any journey, a great way to get started is to find out where you stand today. Make an expense diary to track what you purchase throughout the week. Write down what you buy, how much it costs and how you pay for it. After a week or a month, review your diary. You may be surprised to learn how much you spend on incidental items and how you choose to pay for them. This will help you determine where you can reduce your expenses and how you should pay for future purchases. It only takes five minutes a day!
Credit can open the door to buying a home, car or other item, but it can also lead to significant stress. Take time to understand how credit works and its impact on your life. This section contains information and links that will help you determine your current credit situation as well as ways to improve it.
What is Credit?
Credit Card Benefits
Credit Card Risks
Making Minimum Payments
Convenient Credit Card and Loan Alternatives
If you have student loans, many resources are available to help you manage your payments. Use the link below to estimate your monthly student loan repayment and discover your repayment options.
Understanding Your Debt
Almost everyone has debt. Some types of debt are good and some are bad.
Debt related to something that grows in value or increases your personal value — such as a home or an education — is usually good debt. For a strong financial future, consider limiting debt for items that lose value over time, such as cars and clothing. To determine whether something is worth incurring debt for, ask yourself these questions:
When the item is paid off, will:
If you answer "yes" to all three questions, the debt is most likely a good use of credit. If you answer "no" to even one question, consider saving your money until you can pay cash.
How to Read a Credit Card Statement
Credit card statements generally contain five types of information:
General Statement Information
Account Summary Information
Transaction Summary Information
Interest Rate Summary Information
Credit Card Repayment Calculator
Credit card balances can take decades to pay off. By paying more than the minimum due each month, you can substantially reduce the amount of time it takes to pay off your balance. For example, a $2,500 balance with a 15 percent interest rate will take nearly 24 years to pay off with minimum payments. The same balance can be paid off in approximately nine years if you pay more than the minimum amount due. Use the link below to calculate the amount of time it will take you to pay off your credit card debt with minimum payments.
Understanding a Credit Offer
Under federal law, all credit solicitations and applications must include certain key information. This information appears in a disclosure box similar to the one shown below.
Since your savings can grow substantially over time, now is the perfect time to get started. The earlier you save, the more money you'll have in the future.
There are many choices when it comes to saving money. First, identify whether your goals are long term or short term. Short-term goals are goals you want to accomplish in five years or less, or money you'll need to access in an emergency. A down payment for a house or car would be considered a short-term goal, as would saving for a vacation.
Long-term goals, such as funding your retirement or child's college education, are goals you plan to reach in 10 years or more. If you have long-term goals, it might make more sense to invest.
Investing can be risky, so traditional savings are encouraged for accomplishing short-term goals. If you're trying to put a down payment on a house, for example, a stock market investment could lose 10 percent or more of its value just before you need to access the funds. Saving with a bank or credit union, on the other hand, insures your money and protects it from losing value.
Saving vs. Investing
Rule of 72
Imagine you have $1,000 and decide to put it into a savings account or invest it. How long will it take to double your money? The rule of 72 will give you the answer. To apply this rule, divide 72 by the interest rate you're earning. The result is the number of years it will take you to double your investment.
Example: Suppose you're earning 8 percent interest on your $1,000 investment. To figure out how long it will take to double your money, divide 72 by 8. The result, 9, means your $1,000 will grow to $2,000 in nine years. In another nine years, that $2,000 will double to $4,000, as long as you continue to earn 8 percent interest.
Where to Save
Note: When choosing a financial institution, select one that is FDIC insured so your money is protected, even if the bank or credit union fails.
Banks and credit unions offer several savings options for accomplishing your short-term goals.
A checking account is a good way to start accumulating money. It offers the lowest interest rate of all account options but allows the most transactions. When opening a checking account, look for one with low fees or no fees at all.
If you have $100 or more, you might want to consider opening a savings account. Savings accounts generally pay higher interest rates than checking accounts but do not offer as much flexibility.
Money market accounts
With larger amounts of money, other options become available that pay more interest. Money market accounts have higher interest rates than checking or savings accounts but limit the number of times you can withdraw your money.
Certificate of deposit (CD)
If you won't need your money for six months or longer, a CD is a good option. With CDs, the longer you agree to lock away your money, the higher your interest rate will be. Most CDs require a minimum deposit (usually $250 to $1,000), pay a higher interest rate, and don't allow any deposits to or withdrawals from the account for a specified amount of time (usually six months to five years). If you take your money out early, you could be charged a penalty, usually equal to three months' interest.
Now is the best time to save for the future. Putting money away today can lead to significant rewards down the road by putting a home, car, travel and a secure retirement within reach. If, after graduation, you start putting $100 a month into an account that accrues 8 percent interest, you'll wind up with $149,036 after 30 years.
Use the link below to see how much your savings can grow over time.