Talking to Your Child About Money

Money can be a difficult—and in some cases, almost taboo—topic to discuss wHappy familyith your children, but as a parent, it’s important that you help your children and teenagers develop good financial habits that they can carry with them into adult life.

Here are a few ideas to help get your children thinking about smart saving and spending habits:

Young children

It is never too early to start helping your child develop a healthy respect for money and to help them develop some good financial habits. The practice of using an allowance can be worthwhile if it does the right things.  To teach your youngsters the basics, try the following:

  • Set a weekly allowance to match the age of the child – a five year old gets $5.00.
  • Tie the allowance to some required chores, like setting the table for dinner or keeping their bedroom clean.
  • Divide the allowance into three spending categories: 1/3 for immediate spending, 1/3 saved for some specific near-term purchase (like a small new toy) and 1/3 for a longer-term goal (like a major new toy).

Teenagers

This is often the most difficult time for children to deal with financial issues.  Peer pressure, a desire to have what friends have and the growing realization that they cannot have everything they want and do everything they want can add tension to any conversation about finances.  It is also the time when children can start understanding more involved financial issues and when financial habits are formed.

The allowance approach gets more complicated for teenagers, as the costs of items they want goes up and they are doing more things that cost money.  Now could be the time to discuss how a job could help them afford the things they want.  After-school and summer jobs are an ideal way for children to learn that money is earned, and not something that mom or dad will always provide.  A job can also teach children about responsibility since their employer will be relying on them to be present and punctual.  If an outside job is not possible, consider paying them an hourly rate for more chores and insist they treat it as a job.

Helping your child establish a checking account, or even prepare his or her own tax return will go a long way to helping them understand that money is a serious matter and that someday they responsible for their own financial decisions.  If your child gets a checking account, be sure you teach them how it works and that they must reconcile their account every month.

Keep the conversation going

Be open to discussing finances with your children.  Children are naturally curious about what they see their parents doing and you can turn that curiosity into teaching opportunities.  The conversations must certainly be age appropriate, but when your child sees you writing checks, it’s an ideal time to start talking about the importance of paying bills and balancing your budget.  A question about what it means when the TV news tells what the stock market did can lead to a more serious discussion about money and long-term financial goals.  And a discussion about choosing a college can be an eye-opening experience when your child learns what it costs.

Take advantage of these opportunities and by the time your child is ready to leave home, they will have a foundation to better prepare themselves for their financial future.

Start your children on the path to financial success. When you open a Kids’ Club account for your child at Community Bank, they’ll become a member of our Green Team. As a Green Team member, they’ll receive quarterly newsletters packed with fun activities to encourage healthy financial habits, and they’ll earn rewards for saving money! Stop in to your local branch for more information!

The Importance of Budgeting

So you’re all grown up and earning a steady paycheck—hooray!CoffeeWorker

Now it’s time to consider how you’re spending it.

If you’re trying to lead a better, smarter financial lifestyle, it’s important to understand how you’re using the money that you have. Having a budget for yourself is a simple way to help better manage your income. Tracking your income and expenses each month can shed light on bad spending habits and make you more accountable for where your money goes each month.

You can start a budget using old fashioned pen and paper, or if you’re more technologically inclined, Excel or Microsoft Money can be a good way to go. For smart phone users, there are many apps available like BUDGT or Mint that can help you keep track of your income and expenses from your smart phone.

As you start creating your budget, think about how much control you have over your expenses. Things like rent, taxes and insurance are probably pretty well set. Other expenses, like food, entertainment and gifts are more controllable. Just by thinking about these items, you may be able to find ways to spend less and save more. If nothing else, you can make judgments about which expenses are most important to you.

Generally speaking, a personal budget will enable you to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. With that understanding, you will be in a better position to make informed financial decisions, to monitor your spending and to potentially identify ways to spend less on some items so you have more to spend on more important things or to save.

Creating and maintaining a budget takes commitment, and sticking to your budget takes self-discipline. But remember that there are many different apps and programs available to help with budgeting so that wherever you go, you can take your good financial sense with you!

Ready to get started? Check out this article from Investopedia for more tips on getting started!

Resolution Series: Get Out of Debt

Whether it’s a student loan, a car loan or a credit card, most people have some sort of Young couple calculating their domestic billsdebt hanging over their heads that they’d like to pay off. Take a moment and think about the debt you have. Maybe it’s a home loan or medical expenses. Maybe it’s debt you’ve carried through the holidays that you now need to start paying back. Whatever debt you have, make the resolution this year to tackle it head on! Here are some tips to help you manage your finances and pay off your outstanding debts:

  1. Know what you owe. Listing all of your debts out (along with associated interest rates) will help give you a better understanding of exactly how much money you owe, and might also shed a little light on how you got into debt in the first place. It will also help you prioritize your repayment plan of attack.
  2. Stop spending. If your credit card spending is out of control, stop using your cards immediately. Put together a monthly budget for yourself that will allow you to pay your bills without depending on credit.
  3. Stick to a budget. Budgeting is key to paying off your debt in a timely manner. Planning out your monthly expenses, trimming unnecessary costs wherever possible and holding yourself accountable for making your payments will allow you stay on track and eliminate that debt as quickly as possible.
  4. Attack high-interest debt first. Rank your debts in order from the highest to lowest interest rate. Concentrate on paying down your high-interest debt as quickly as possible; you will save money in the long run.
  5. Find out if a balance transfer is right for you. Transferring a credit card balance can sometimes be a helpful strategy to employ when you’re managing your debt. Card companies typically offer introductory offers of very low or zero-percent interest rates for several months, which can give you time to make payments without worrying about interest accruing faster than you can pay it off. When transferring a balance, be sure to always read the fine print before accepting an offer.

Making the decision to start paying off your debt is the easy part — putting it into practice requires thought, planning and discipline. If you find yourself still struggling to make payments, always be sure to contact your lender or card company before you miss a payment. In many cases, they will be willing to work with you to structure a repayment plan that works for you. 

Learn more about how you can stay debt-free with these tips!

Financial Resolutions: Saving More Money

Financial year 2015Saving money is one of the most common financial resolutions people make, but can also be one of the most difficult to keep. Starting a savings plan takes discipline and yes, some sacrifice. With bills, debt and other monthly expenses to worry about, you may easily find yourself living paycheck to paycheck, with little left over to put away. Still, having savings is incredibly important; you never know when a life-changing event like an employment change, the birth of a child or unexpected illness could occur.

There are countless resources out there to take you step by step through how to meet your savings goals, but to get you started, here are a few quick tips you can start doing today.

Pay yourself first. A good habit to get into is to pay yourself each month as though you were paying a regular monthly bill. Map out your monthly expenses and determine a reasonable amount that you can contribute (remember, anything is better than nothing). Make the first check you write each month to yourself, and hold yourself accountable—just as you wouldn’t skip paying your electric bill, don’t skip out on paying yourself.

Set up an emergency fund. While you may want to save for any number of things, building an emergency fund should be a priority. Try to save three to six month’s salary for emergencies only. This way, you have a financial cushion to help you through anything that life throws your way.

Start using a monthly budget. Keeping a budget to track your monthly expenses is a great financial habit to get into; budgeting will help you see how much you spend each month and where you can cut back. As you identify and eliminate unnecessary expenses, adjust the amount you pay yourself each month. It may not seem like much, but little sacrifices now can make a big difference in the long run!

Saving money is something you should commit to doing for the rest of your life. Establishing these good savings habits now will help you lead a healthier, more prosperous financial life for the years to come!

New Year’s Resolutions

Financial year 2015As the year winds down, many of us begin to think about our New Year’s resolutions.

For some people, a resolution might be working in an extra trip to the gym each week, or agonizing over ways to avoid that extra piece of chocolate cake. But another good (and, some might argue, more painless) option is to commit to improving your financial life. Maybe you’ve always wanted to start saving for retirement but never really had a chance to explore your options, or maybe there’s some debt you’d like to pay off. Think of 2015 as a new start, an opportunity to take control of your financial future and make smarter, better decisions about how to manage your money.

In the spirit of this season of resolutions, we’re kicking off a new blog series that will help you start working toward whatever financial goal you set for yourself this year. Check back every Tuesday in January for tools and tips on everything from saving money to sticking to a budget!

Money Management Tips for College Children

Money Management - CollegeWhile the upcoming years will prepare you for your future, you don’t want to let financial difficulties weigh you down when you graduate. Which is why we have pulled together the following tips to put you, and keep you, on the right financial path!

Write it all down
Step one is create a budget. This is as simple as writing down your income (student loans, financial aid, employment pay and any help from family) and your expenses. If listing your expenses seems overwhelming – break it down to what you spend in one day and then gradually calculate the increase to a week and then a month. There are a variety of online money management tools – but a simple Excel sheet works just fine.

Prioritize
Organize your expenses into categories. Make a careful list of the essentials (food, books, health, transportation) and things that are optional (new clothes, concerts etc.). Then take a close look at both categories and see where you might be able to save. Ask yourself the tough questions – do you really need unlimited texting? Could you better utilize all the free communication channels like Facebook and email?

If your budget can’t balance and you are still in need of cash flow – consider these ideas to save and/or generate income or save money.

  • Sell your used books online
  • Tutor other students in your best subject(s)
  • Check with your school. Local residents and businesses often contact colleges when looking for “freelance” help with babysitting, dog walking, tutoring for children, odd jobs, special events, and the like. There may even be interesting part-time jobs available that will fit into your academic schedule.

Credit cards
By now most people are aware of the dangers of credit cards, but a credit card can be a great tool for building credit. That’s why we suggest for everyday expenses, use a debit card linked to your checking account, but have a credit card on hand for emergencies, or to make small purchases on a regular basis. Just remember to pay off the balance as soon as possible.

Keep track
Frequent attention to your budget and cash flow is crucial. As a general rule, the tighter your cash flow, the more often you have to monitor your budget. While daily management may seem like too much, a weekly check-in is a good place to start. Never be late paying your bills – added interest and fees can create additional expenses.

Available tools like Online Banking can help you keep track by allowing you to access your accounts and check your balances easily. E-mail alerts can also help you keep an eye on your accounts by sending you a notice anytime your balances drop below a certain level.

Communication
If you are getting help from home, be sure to communicate all of your spending activity and needs frequently. Do your parents (and yourself) a favor and show them how well you are managing your money – and theirs. Make your budget an open book.

For added convenience, consider linking your accounts so your parents can easily transfer money into your account when you need it.

Beyond monetary reward
Have you ever noticed that people who manage their money well seem so confident? By managing the money you have – you remove what could otherwise be an encompassing stress. Self-discipline and a respect for your financial limitations are empowering and free your mind for learning! Share your knowledge with your friends.

Young Adult Blog Series: The Importance of Budgeting

So you’re all grown up and earning a steady paycheck—hooray!   Now it’s time to consider how you’re spending it.

If you’re trying to lead a better, smarter financial lifestyle, it’s important to understand how you’re using the money that you have. Having a budget for yourself is a simple way to help better manage your income. Tracking your income and expenses each month can shed light on bad spending habits and make you more accountable for where your money goes each month.

You can start a budget using old fashioned pen and paper, or if you’re more technologically inclined, Excel or Microsoft Money can be a good way to go. For smart phone users, there are many apps available like BUDGT or Mint that can help you keep track of your income and expenses from your smart phone.

As you start creating your budget, think about how much control you have over your expenses. Things like rent, taxes and insurance are probably pretty well set. Other expenses, like food, entertainment and gifts are more controllable. Just by thinking about these items, you may be able to find ways to spend less and save more. If nothing else, you can make judgments about which expenses are most important to you.

Generally speaking, a personal budget will enable you to understand where your money comes from and where it goes. With that understanding, you will be in a better position to make informed financial decisions, to monitor your spending and to potentially identify ways to spend less on some items so you have more to spend on more important things or to save.

Creating and maintaining a budget takes commitment, and sticking to your budget takes self-discipline. But remember that there are many different apps and programs available to help with budgeting so that wherever you go, you can take your good financial sense with you!

Ready to get started? Check out this article from Investopedia for more tips on getting started!

Look Before You Give: Beware of Charity Scams and Solicitations

There’s a great feeling that comes with giving back, and contributing to help others. And with advances in technology over the past few years, giving to your favorite charity, organization, or cause is now easier and more convenient than ever. But technology has also brought a negative side to charitable giving – it can turn your generosity and kindness into an opportunity for fraudsters to take your hard-earned money.

So how can you protect yourself from becoming a victim of charitable fraud? The Federal Trade Commission offers these tips:

Watch for red flags. While fraudsters have become more sophisticated and use a variety of methods to solicit funds by phone, mail, or online, there are some warning signs to look out for. Beware of organizations that –

• Request cash-only donations.

• Fail to provide information on their organization, including their mission and how your donations will be used.

• Cannot provide proof that your donations are tax-deductible.

• Pressure you to make donations.

• Ask you to wire money or express unnecessary immediacy in receiving funds.

Do your homework. Take these simple steps before you dish out any money or provide your credit card number to anyone:

• Get the full legal name of the organization and conduct an Internet search using the company name and words like “scam,” “fraud” or “complaint.”

• Call the charity to verify that the request for donation is legitimate. This will protect you in the event that a fraudster calls you or sends you an email pretending to be from a reputable charity.

• Contact the National Association of State Charity Officials to see if the charity is registered with a state.

• Find out the percentage of your funds that will go to the actual cause or fundraiser.

• Visit the Internal Revenue Service to see if your contributions are tax-deductible. Note there is a difference between an organization being tax-exempt versus offering tax-deductibility on contributions. Tax exempt simply means the organization doesn’t have to pay taxes.

Be a smart giver. Once you’ve verified the organization is legitimate, take these steps to protect yourself:

• Never send cash. It’s much safer and easier report contributions if you pay by check or credit card.

• Keep track of all your donations.

• Set aside a charitable budget to ensure you don’t give away more than you can afford.

Give back by reporting any scams If you think you’ve been a victim of charity fraud, take a moment to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. That simple step will help you give back by ensuring other innocent donors aren’t victimized

How to set (and stick to) a budget

How much do you spend? How much do you earn? If one equals the other, you’re in trouble. And, if you spend more than you earn, you’re in really big trouble.

The solution? Set a budget, and stick to it!

The goal? Live within your means, avoid falling off a cliff and into debt, and start saving https://www.cbtc.com/personal/savingsTypes.aspx?id=14 – for emergencies, special occasions, and for your future.

Easier said than done? No. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and a little commitment. And, taking that first step.

Getting started
Check these 8 easy tips for creating a personal budget http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/10/18/8-steps-to-creating-a-personal-budget. Pay particular attention to Step #8: “Don’t set yourself up for failure. Making sacrifices is part of managing expenses, but if you set restrictions too high and too soon, you will be less likely to follow your budget over the long term.”

The first step to successful budgeting is knowing, and tracking, where your money goes. You can do it with pencil and paper, or consider one of the personal finance software programs http://www.forbes.com/sites/moneywisewomen/2012/01/03/budgeting-software-options/ such as Quicken or Mint.

Setting priorities
The second step is to set priorities. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index4.htm Try to cut back your spending to about 90% of your income.

Stretching that dollar
If you think it’s impossible to save anything, or to save more than you’re saving now, you might be surprised that it is possible and, maybe, painless. Here are 10 tips for saving on a tight budget. http://americasaves.org/for-savers/make-a-plan-how-to-save-money/saving-on-a-tight-budget

And, if you simply can’t image how to spend less than you’re spending now, start thinking about new ways to reduce your monthly bills. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson2/index5.htm

Sticking to it
Don’t get discouraged. If Plan A doesn’t work, come up with a Plan B to focus on your finances http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/family/budget/stick-to-a-budget .
Budgeting will be easier once you find the path that works the best for you.

7 Ways to Keep Your Credit in Check

Keeping your credit in checkWhether you’re looking to obtain your first credit card, purchase a car, or even buy a second home, at one point or another in your life, you will need to borrow. To be able to borrow affordably you’ll also need a strong credit report. A credit report is the tool that lenders use to determine whether to grant you a loan and the interest rate to offer you. Continue reading