Finances

Saving for the Unexpected

In Celebration of America Saves Week and Connecticut Saves Week February 25th through March 2nd, 2019

shutterstock money treeHave you ever been taken by surprise by an expense such as a car or home repair, a refrigerator that needs to be replaced immediately, or school expenses? Often we need to act quickly so that we can get to work, keep a small problem from getting bigger, or make it possible for a child to participate in school activities. Managing regular bills can be hard enough without shock of additional bills. In one of the professional development workshops I teach, I ask the participants work together in small groups to list examples of unexpected financial events in their lives and those of their clients. As you might guess, once they get started, they have no trouble creating very long lists.

Several recent studies have indicated that many of us are not prepared financially to deal with the unexpected events in our lives. The Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well-Bing of U.S. Households in 2017 (https://www.federalreserve.gov/publications/files/2017-report-economic-well-being-us-households-201805.pdf) pointed out the 40% of households could not cover an unexpected $400 expense. DataHaven’s 2018 Community Wellbeing Survey (www.ctdatahaven.org/reports/datahaven-community-wellbeing-survey) found that 50% of Connecticut adults estimated that their savings would last less than 6 months. As challenging as it can be to deal with unanticipated bills, there are steps we can take to improve our ability to weather such events in the future.

Create an Emergency Fund

Having a cash cushion can help increase your family’s or household’s financial stability. Knowing you have money available can help reduce financial stress and give you more options for how to handle different situations.

How do I get started?

Make it your goal and develop a plan to achieve it. Even a small amount of money saved over time adds up. If you could save $10 a week for a full year, you would $520. Will you be receiving a tax refund? Plan to save at least a portion. A review of your current spending can be helpful in identifying opportunities to save money. Many of my workshop participants have suggested setting up a separate savings account specifically for this purpose. Direct deposit is an excellent way to make saving a habit.

How much money do I need in an emergency fund?

While the best answer to this question really depends on the specifics of your situation, here are a couple of suggestions. If you currently do not have money set aside for emergencies, set a goal with a dollar amount such as $500 or $1000 and timeframe by which you plan to achieve it. Identify the steps you are going to take to help you move closer to that goal. If you already have some money set aside, calculate how much money you would need to cover basic living expenses for a period of six months or possibly longer. If that amount of money seems like more than you can possibly save, do not let that be a deterrent. Break it down into a series of short-term goals. For example, focus on what you feel you can reasonably do over the next three months and keep track of your progress.

Anticipate the Unexpected—Plan!

It is human nature not to want to face certain realities. However, we could likely prepare better if we anticipated some likely events and planned how to deal with them effectively. For example, appliances have a limited life expectancy and will need repair or replacement. Tires for a car anticipated to last for an approximate amount of mileage. A home will require maintenance to its various systems. Just as a weather forecaster keeps track of different conditions to anticipate what is likely to happen with the weather, we can also do that in regard to our finances. Though we will not be 100% correct all the time, we can develop a plan to help us be better prepared.

For more information, contact Faye Griffiths-Smith, UConn Extension Personal and Family Financial Educator at faye.griffiths-smith@uconn.edu or visit www.financialliteracy@uconn.edu.

Connecticut Saves Week February 25 through March 2 is a great time to assess your savings and make plans to improve your financial security. Part of the national America Saves Campaign, the Connecticut Saves Coalition is coordinated by the UConn Extension Financial Education Program with the support of these partnering organizations: the Connecticut Department of Labor; the Connecticut Department of Banking; Connecticut State Library; Hartford Job Corps Academy; the Better Business Bureau Serving Connecticut; Human Resources Agency, Inc.; the Connecticut Association for Human Services; Chelsea Groton Bank; and others. Visit www.connecticutsaves.org.

Article by Faye Griffiths-Smith

Take the Connecticut Saves Pledge!

3 steps for saving moneyCT Saves Campaign February 24- March 2nd
Take the Connecticut Saves Pledge by texting “CTSaves” to 877877 or pledging online at www.ConnecticutSaves.org.

Save with a plan. Did you know savers with a plan are twice as likely to save successfully for things like retirement and their (or their children’s) education?

Save the easy way…automatically. Never miss a beat when it comes to saving. Make it so easy that you never have to think about it. Set aside money automatically.

Save for the unexpected. Putting aside a few dollars a week into a savings account for unexpected costs can build financial security—and relieve a lot of anxiety!

Save to retire. Studies show few Americans have adequate savings for retirement but it’s never too late or too early to start saving.

Save the extra. Did you know you’re more likely to save a windfall than a small amount consistently over time? Hack that psychology by saving your bonuses, raises and tax refunds.

Save as a family. Good saving habits start at home. Model good financial habits for your children, and teach them to do the same. Help them open their own savings accounts!

For more information please visit https://financialliteracy.uconn.edu/.

Cooking Matters

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

EFNEPChild First Groton funded a Cooking Matters Families program open to all school age children and parents. The plan was to improve family relations and learn a skill together. UConn EFNEP worked in collaboration in the planning, marketing and executing this successful program. We were overwhelmed with responses and had to start a waiting list for further programs. The Groton Elementary School supplied a staff member who was an asset to this program in education and facilitation. During our first class we had 13 people attend: 6 parents and 7 children, ranging 4-8 years of age. The children were very involved and one boy said “This is the best day of my life,” setting the stage for the next 5 weeks of out program. The cooking facility was very small to accommodate this large group of 13 with 4-5 staff. But everyone who participated worked together to ensure safety and fun.

At the conclusion of the program the group had really grown and come together. The comments we received from the families were “The kids are helping more in the kitchen,” “We are closer as a family,” “When is the next class, we want to sign up?” ” I never thought they would eat those things.” Hearing these comments help volunteers, teachers and staff motivated to keep doing what they are doing. Watching the children eat their creations each week is a complete success in itself. ” I didn’t think I would like it but I did,” “I have never tried ground turkey before! I will use it at home.” The families were each sent home with ingredients to make the recipe again and the stories were very interesting. “We froze the ingredients so they wouldn’t go bad and made it 2 weeks later,” “We took the ingredients and some extras to make it ours.” Each week seeing the families working together as a team meant we were doing the right thing. One obstacle that occurred included fitting the class into the families’ busy schedules, with conflicts with school, work, and health issues. Working to find times that best fit everyone’s schedules helped the participants, and they felt valued by the adjustments that were made. In conclusion all the participants stated that they would attend another session, they had fun and benefited from getting to know each other better.

Improving Nutrition in New Britain

The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families learn about healthy eating, shopping on a budget, cooking and physical activity. EFNEP staff strive to empower participants, providing knowledge and skills to improve the health of all family members. Participants learn through doing, with cooking, physical activity and supportive discussions about nutrition and healthy habits.

EFNEP classes will help you to prepare delicious, low-cost, healthy meals for you and your family. Some of our past classes are highlighted in this series. Contact the office near you for more information. 

dairy smoothieThe New Britain Mount Pleasant Program was a collaboration between the Family Resource Center and Housing. The program collaborators were skeptical about participant attendance and follow through. On our first session only 5 people had signed up for the nutrition class, and 18 people showed up. Each week we had a great turn out with 10 graduates attending 10 hours of education. The amazing part of the class was how many students started to make changes. For example, B, was a student who immediately began eating more vegetables. He also changed his morning bacon and sausage routine to oatmeal. He stopped drinking soda. Instead he showed up to class with his own fruit infused water. He followed my mantra of only drink water or 1 glass of milk. Another student wrote a heartfelt note thanking me for the class. She said she “suffered from depression, and had a hard time leaving the house and being around people, and class gave me something to look forward to.” She also mentioned purchasing a blender to make healthy smoothies for breakfast (another one of my recipes). The students did not want the class to end, and vowed to come back as experts in the fall when we hold another class, and made comments like ” I was inspired by your first class” and There should be more classes like this.”

The program was centered on grocery shopping – each lesson had a grocery shopping component. Students reported saving money on their groceries through the use of mobile apps we learned about in class. They also reported changes in their grocery shopping habits. As mentioned above, a direct benefit was improved dietary habits as a result of the lessons. An unintended indirect benefit was the benefit of social support from a peer group, which helped one participant with her depression. The improvement in her depression made such an impact that it motivated her to make changes to improve her dietary intake and overall health.

Online Course Catalog of Extension Programs

course catalog imageThere are more than one hundred UConn Extension specialists working throughout Connecticut. These educators are teaching and training in local communities, sharing their experience and knowledge with residents through a variety of programs. These instructional activities now will be easily accessible with the creation of an online extension course catalog.

Extension classes address a wide range of topics, including issues related to agriculture and food systems, the green industry, families and community development, land use and water, nutrition and wellness as well as numerous 4-H and youth activities. The website uses these groupings and an A to Z index so finding offerings is simple and straightforward. Each program links to a page with information on the objectives, goals, components, intended audience, the time of year and how often programs run and a link to the program’s website, that provides additional information.

As part of a nationwide network through the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment.

View the course catalog online at http://s.uconn.edu/courses.

Join Us for America Saves Week

America saves photoUConn Extension has partnered with America Saves Week again this year, and we are celebrating from February 27th through March 4th. Connecticut Saves Campaign is a statewide initiative to encourage Connecticut residents to take positive financial actions and save regularly to turn their dreams into reality. Here you will find workshops and events around the state, tools to help you set goals, develop strategies, and start saving. Join others from around our state in working toward achieving your financial goals. You can take the pledge online.

Let America Saves help you reach your savings and debt reduction goals. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. That’s what this pledge is all about. And it doesn’t stop there. America Saves will keep you motivated with periodic information, advice, tips, and reminders sent by email or text message to help you reach your savings goal. Think of us as your own personal support system.

UConn Extension Hosts Fall Open House

New Haven officeNorth Haven—UConn Extension’s New Haven County Extension Center invites the public to a Fall Open House on Thursday, September 15, 2016 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 305 Skiff Street, North Haven.

The New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc. (NHCERC, Inc.), a volunteer organization supporting the educational outreach programs based in this center, is hosting this event. Faculty, staff, and volunteers will be available to discuss Extension outreach programs offered via this Extension Center. Brief spotlight presentations will be made on “4-H STEM Activities to Do with Kids”, “Your Garden in Fall” and “How we sometimes get sick from the food we eat”. Educational displays and materials will also on hand. At 5:45 pm there will be a very brief Annual NHCERC, Inc. Meeting followed by The Extension Volunteer Recognition Ceremony. The public is welcome to attend all or any portion of this event. Light refreshments will be available. Call 203. 407. 3160 for more information. RSVPs are appreciated.

The New Haven County Extension Center, one of eight county-based UConn Extension Centers, provides a wide variety of educational outreach programs for families and individuals, youth, staff, farmers, professionals, businesses, and social service and public agencies, among others, in New Haven County and beyond. UConn Extension faculty and staff, based in the New Haven County facility, work in fields such as 4-H youth development, food safety, master gardening, financial literacy, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM) and coastal storm preparedness. For more information, visit http://www.extension.uconn.edu/extension-centers/newHaven.php.

UConn Extension connects the power of UConn research to local issues by offering practical, science-based answers to complex problems. UConn Extension enhances small businesses, the economic and physical well-being of families and offers opportunities to improve the decision-making capacity of community leaders. Extension provides scientific knowledge and expertise to the public in areas such as: economic viability, business and industry, family and community development, agriculture and natural resources. UConn Extension brings research to real life.

UConn is an equal opportunity employer and program provider. 

Connecticut Dairy Leads New England

By Bernard Dzielinski

President, Fairfield County Extension Council

 

dairy barn
Mary Margaret Cole at the Kellogg Dairy Barn on Jan. 16, 2014. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

Hoard’s Dairyman recently provided a comprehensive review of total milk production in the United States. The data is summarized in the report by region.

Milk production in 2015 was a new record of 208.6 billion pounds, a modest gain of 1.3 percent. The story of the Northeast, including Connecticut, is that it added 500 million pounds for a 1.7 percent increase in 2015 over production in 2014. The west region had a major decline in milk production due to the California drought.

Statistic highlights for 2015 include that Connecticut dairy farmers lead the dairy farmers in the six New England states in milk production per cow at 20,842 pounds. This record is achieved with 120 dairies and average herd size of 158 cows (Vermont is second at 155 cows per herd). Production per cow beats Vermont by 3 percent. Connecticut dairy farmers also lead in average total milk production per herd at 3,299,983 pounds, beating Vermont by 5 percent.

Connecticut dairy farmers achieved these impressive records with the largest herd size in New England because our farmers are willing to invest and increase herd sizes to produce that recent record of 396 million pounds of milk in 2015. Innovative practices and cow comfort allows our dairy farmers to maximize efficiency. The dairy farmers confidence comes about from support the State of Connecticut provides through the safety net payments in the dairy support fund, which is part of the Community Investment Act.

The Community Investment Act was signed into law in 2005, and the dairy support program began in 2009. It counterbalances the drastic price swings of national milk pricing. According to a study led by UConn and Farm Credit East, dairy production and processing has a $1.3 billion economic impact statewide, and generates 4,286 jobs. As dairy farms continue to thrive, the economic benefits to Connecticut will also grow.

Price Study of CSAs in CT

2014 Price Study of Community Supported Agriculture Operations in CT

By Molly Deegan and Jiff Martin, UConn Extension

extension.uconn.edu
*For more information about this study, contact jiff.martin@uconn.edu

tomatoes
Photo: Jude Boucher

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): an arrangement whereby customers pay growers in advance of the growing season for a guaranteed share of the season’s harvest.

Background: In summer 2014 we investigated CSA prices that farm operations advertised on websites and producer association listings. Our goal was to have a better understanding of prices that farmers were charging for a standard summer vegetable share. This is the third year we have collected CSA pricing data, so we are able to track how pricing has changed, and also make county comparisons. Below is a SUMMARY of our findings, as well as a FULL LIST (pages 2-5) of the 92 CSAs and their prices that were included in the study.

SUMMARY

We found CSA pricing data for 92 farm operations. Standard summer vegetable shares were typically listed as July to October, and featuring vegetables, herbs, and sometimes flowers or small fruit. We did not attempt to compare the contents of CSA shares, nor did we evaluate pricing for add-on items such as flower shares, fruit shares, meat shares, egg shares, etc. When a range of weeks was promised for a given CSA share price (i.e. 16-18 weeks), the average number was used (i.e. 17 weeks). page1image15120 page1image15544 page1image15704

Average weekly price of 2014 Summer Vegetable CSA = $31 Maximum price = $50
Minimum price = $15 page1image17680 page1image17840  page1image18424

Standard Summer Vegetable CSA Pricing in CT: $31/share

Fairfield County- $31

Hartford County- $30

Litchfield- $28

Middlesex- $29

New Haven – $32

New London- $33

Tolland- $27

Windham- $34

 

To download the full summary and a listing of CSAs in Connecticut, please click here.