Finances

Saving for a Rainy Day

By Faye Griffiths-Smith Extension Educator, Family Economics and Resource Management

rainy dayThough we can’t accurately predict the future in detail, we can anticipate that there will be events in our lives that will be challenging. The loss of a job, home repairs such as a leaky roof or the need to replace a furnace, major car repair and medical bills are just a few examples of the financial dilemmas that families sometimes face. A recent report stated that almost half of American households don’t even have a few thousand dollars in emergency funds.

Your Emergency Fund

In the paper “Financially Fragile Households: Evidence and Implications”, authors Lusardi, Schneider and Tufano* reported that almost half of American households stated that they would be unlikely to be able to come up with $2000 within 30 days. It can be very stressful to find ourselves without the funds to take care of our families’ needs.

Using credit cards or taking out a loan may make the situation worse by adding high interest rate charges to the initial debt. Wouldn’t it be great to reduce your family’s chances of being overwhelmed when similar situations occur? Having money in reserve allows us to be more control and provides more options in difficult circumstances. You can be better prepared to handle some of life’s challenging circumstances in the future by taking steps now to start or increase your emergency savings fund.

  • An emergency fund is money that you set aside in a readily accessible account
    and it’s specifically for unexpected events. It is an essential part of your financial plan. How much money will you need to put away? This will depend on your unique circumstances, but striving for at least six month’s worth of basic living expenses is a common goal. An individual who is self-employed or has an irregular income may want to set aside more over time.
  • Emergency funds need to cover basic living expenses
    That typically includes such things as a rent or mortgage payment, utilities,

Are your finances ready for an emergency?

food, car payments, gasoline and oil, insurance, child or elder care and other debt payments.

  • Your emergency fund should cover six month’s of basic expenses
    But if that goal seems overwhelming, it may be helpful to focus first on securing one month’s worth of basic expenses, and as that amount is reached, go on to work towards a second month’s worth and so forth. Some people may find putting a tax refund towards an emergency fund as a good way to increase an emergency fund. Setting up automatic deposits is another way to make this process easy.
  • What is an emergency when it comes to your personal finances?
    Merriam-Webster defines an emergency as:

    • An unforeseen combination of circumstances or the resulting state that calls for immediate action and
    • An urgent need for assistance or relief.

This means that a great deal on a high-definition television or bargain price for a vacation by cruise ship are not likely to qualify in most situations. However, it is appropriate to use these funds when faced with circumstances such as paying a deductible to repair a roof damaged by a tree in a storm. Keep in mind that an emergency situation is really more about necessities rather than wants.

Additional accounts for other family goals can be set up once the emergency fund is fully established.

Where should you keep your emergency fund?

  • Keep in mind that you may need to access this money quickly so it needs held in an account which can be easily converted to cash. Another important consideration is safety. The purpose of an emergency fund is to be more like insurance rather that an investment where you may choose to take some risk to achieve a higher return. It is also a good idea to confirm that such funds are federally insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA). As it is important that these funds be available when needed, these monies need to be in accounts with little or no risk of loss.
    • Starting or increasing an emergency fund provides you with a cash cushion…
      and that can help make your financial future more secure.

 

Connecticut Saves Campaign Promoting Family Saving is Launched

America Saves logoOnly 39% of Connecticut residents reported spending less than they earned in 2012. Fifty percent did not have emergency funds and 57% haven’t set aside money for their children’s college education according to the 2012 National Financial Capability Study by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. UConn Extension is launching the Connecticut Saves Campaign as a new effort to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households in Connecticut to save money, reduce debt and build wealth. Connecticut Saves is part of America Saves, a national campaign led by the Consumer Federation of America. The research-based campaign uses the principles of behavioral economics and social marketing to change behavior.

 

Connecticut Saves Week takes place Monday, February 24 through Saturday, March 1, 2014. UConn Extension is encouraging Connecticut citizens to assess their saving and save regularly for their goals during this special week. Connecticut Saves has planned a variety of events and workshops in celebration. Governor Dannel P. Malloy has issued a proclamation in honor of Connecticut Saves Week. The Connecticut Saves Campaign is coordinated by UConn Extension with the support of these partners: Connecticut Department of Banking; Connecticut Department of Labor; Connecticut State Library; Connecticut Treasurer’s Office; FDIC; Hartford Job Corps; Human Resources Agency of New Britain, Inc.; Naugatuck Head Start; New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc.; New Haven Free Public Library; and People’s United Bank. Please see the Connecticut Saves website at: www.connecticutsaves.org. The Bank of America Foundation is supporting the Connecticut Saves Week Campaign through a mini-grant. For more information about the Connecticut Saves Campaign, contact Faye Griffiths-Smith of UConn Extension at faye.griffiths-smith@uconn.edu or call 203.407.3160.

America Saves Week 2014

America Saves Week 2013 Campaign Led by UConn Extension

America Saves logoAmerica Saves Week (ASW) is an opportunity individuals and families to assess and improve their own savings status as well as a special time for organizations to promote good savings behavior. Nationally, it is coordinated by the Consumer Federation of America and the American Savings Education Council. Started in 2007, thousands of organizations participate in the Week, reaching millions of people across the nation encouraging individuals and families to save money and build personal wealth.

Held February 25th through March 2nd of this year, the week included a Financial Education Expo sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Banking at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford; saving workshops for Hartford Job Corps students and HRA of New Britain program participants, and discussions with Naugatuck Head Start parents about savings goals. Dream boxes were decorated by participants with pictures representing their different savings goals. There was a drawing for personal finance books targeted to older teens and young adults. Participants had the opportunity to make a pledge to save money regularly for specific goals such as further education, an emergency fund, a car or a down payment on a home. Those making a pledge also were entered in drawings for grocery store gift cards. A mini-grant to support this project was provided by Bank of America. People’s Bank and Bank of America donated coloring books, financial information and other materials.

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UConn Extension launched its first campaign this year with the support of these partnering organizations: Connecticut Department of Banking; Connecticut Department of Labor; Hartford Job Corps; HRA of New Britain, Inc.; Naugatuck Head Start; New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc.; New Haven Free Public Library; People’s Bank and Bank of America Foundation.

Plans are being developed now for America Saves Week 2014 which will take place February 24th through March 1st.  Employers, financial institutions, businesses, colleges and schools, community and faith-based organizations and others are invited to learn more about how they can participate by contacting UConn Extension at 203.407.3160 or faye.griffiths-smith@uconn.edu .

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Gift-Giving Simplified and Easy on the Wallet

As the holidays approach, are you concerned about keeping spending on gift giving in line with your other financial responsibilities? As this is a time when many people may be facing the same concern, it’s a good time to rethink your holiday gift purchasing habits. Here are ten ideas for gift giving that celebrates the season and is also easy on the wallet.

1.  Food – Consumable items are very popular at the holidays. The recipients may enjoy the product themselves or share it with others when entertaining. Consider special breads, beverages, regional favorites and gourmet coffees and teas.

IndoorPlantPic2.  Go green. Find locally grown plants, flowers and dried wreaths. Another option might be to purchase colorful washable napkins, placemats, dishcloths, reusable bags and lunch bags with individual containers for sandwiches and snacks.

3.  Set limits. This could be a dollar amount per gift, completing your shopping in only one or two trips, shopping for gifts locally, purchasing one gift per family, limiting your purchasing to sources in your own community.

4. Made by you. Share by making your own food specialty, handcrafting an item, providing a framed photo or holiday ornament.

5. Hobby-related gift or gift certificates – Consider the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Are there gardeners, chefs, woodworkers, knitters, readers and gamers on your list? Gift accordingly by providing them with the tools or materials to do what they enjoy.

6. Agree on a gift challenge. Discuss this idea well in advance of the holidays with those whom you regularly exchange gifts, but make it fun. You might suggest handmade items only, gifts under $5, one gift for a whole family, consignment or thrift store finds only or pick a theme such as useful or consumable items only.

7. Purchase the same type of gift for everyone—it could be a nice pen, a journal, stationery and stamps, board games, puzzles, books or flashlights and batteries.

8. Recipe Book – You could make up a recipe book with family favorites or provide a blank recipe book for the great cooks in your life.

9. Coupons for your services – Offer your time and abilities. You can create coupons related to your skills. Perhaps it is cooking a favorite meal, snow shoveling, home repair or an oil change, mending, guitar lessons and so on.

10. Create a special memory. Look in newspapers or online for special events this holiday that are free or low cost. Instead of purchasing gifts, make a date with your family and friends to enjoy an event together and get together for desserts and coffee.

Enjoy your holidays!

Financial Literacy and the Financial Facts of Life

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Photo credit: University of Maryland Extension

It’s back to school season and across Connecticut, families are getting young people ready for school so that they can learn what they need to know to become productive, responsible and successful adults. In their late teens and twenties, young people face many important decisions – among them may be signing a lease on an apartment, applying for a credit card, taking out student loans and possibly buying cars and homes. How do we prepare students to be in the best position possible to understand both their options and responsibilities so that they can make wise decisions?

UConn Extension provides financial literacy and personal finance education workshops in partnership with schools, youth-serving agencies and organizations, businesses with young employees as well as cities and towns. Financial education programs are available for parents of children in pre-kindergarten programs, elementary school children to young adults in their early twenties.

Offered in partnership with schools, community organizations and agencies, the Welcome to the Real World, Connecticut Edition Simulation gives young people (middle school to college age/young adults) the opportunity to imagine their lives as young employed adults. They select occupations, find out their incomes and estimated taxes, and open checking and savings accounts. They then visit tables and interact with adult volunteers as they make common spending decisions. Through the learning exercise, they learn about managing money, living within their incomes, identifying spending priorities, saving and dealing with unexpected expenses.

Parents are an important key in a child’s financial education. Yet the seventh annual Financial Literacy Survey of U.S. adults, conducted in 2013 on behalf of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Inc., showed that 40% of adults surveyed gave themselves a grade of C, D, or F on their knowledge of personal finance. UConn Extension offers a variety of financial education workshops for adults and young people. The Parents, Kids and Money Workshop provides parents with education and resources to help them teach their children about money.  Teaching the Financial Facts of Life Workshop encourages those working or volunteering in youth-serving organizations to incorporate financial literacy skills within their programming. The Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck Workshop Series focuses on helping people develop and apply financial plans to help them reach their goals.

For more information about these and other financial education workshops throughout the lifespan, contact Faye Griffiths-Smith at 203.407.3160 or faye.griffiths-smith@uconn.edu.

Connecticut Families and Finance

The America Saves Campaign will be launched by the University of Connecticut Cooperative Extension System this winter.  This is a social marketing campaign designed to encourage people to start or increase their saving.  The theme is:  “Set a goal.  Make a plan.  Save automatically.”  America Saves Week will take place February 25 through March 2, 2013; but the campaign will continue throughout the year.  Many people make a new year’s resolution to save more money. The America Saves Campaign offers many ideas on ways people can improve their financial situation.  Educational workshops, webinars, and online resources, as well as printed and other resources, are available to help savers stay motivated. Anyone interested can sign up as an individual at http://www.americasaves.org/

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The Welcome to the Real World, Connecticut Edition Simulation reached teens and young adults in several communities this past year.  This program, adapted from the University of Illinois Extension, gives young people the opportunity to imagine themselves as working adults in the occupations of their choice, making decisions about how to manage their finances.  They open checking and savings accounts, visit tables representing different expense categories staffed by volunteers, and learn to live within their incomes.  Participants also must draw a chance card which outlines an event that may add to or subtract from their income.  Some of the program participants have included: approximately 500 students at Platt and Maloney High Schools in Meriden, student interns at Pratt and Whitney and the Department of Transportation, and community agencies in New Britain, Bridgeport, and New Haven.

The Credit Jeopardy workshop was a part of Junior Achievement’s Financial Literacy Day at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU).  Faye Griffiths-Smith served as lead judge for the Connecticut LifeSmarts State Competition.  LifeSmarts teaches teens to be smart and responsible consumers and citizens by focusing on five key areas of consumer knowledge that teens need to know to function effectively in today’s marketplace: Personal Finance, Consumer Rights and Responsibilities, Health and Safety, Technology and the Environment.  This quiz bowl competition was also conducted at CCSU.  Ms. Griffiths-Smith presented a talk on “Financial Literacy for Social Workers” at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU).  She also serves on the executive board of Connecticut JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy and chairs the Family Economics and Resource Management Community of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences.

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For more information about any of these programs, contact Faye Griffiths-Smith at faye.griffiths-smith@uconn.edu or 203.407.3160.  You can also follow us on Twitter @CT Families&Finances.