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About J. Shane Mercer

I am the digital marketing specialist at The Village Family Service Center. Keep up with Village news and events at https://www.facebook.com/thevillagefamily and on Twitter at @VillageFamily

‘Small Personal Finance Changes = Big Results’ or ‘What a Billionaire Can Teach You About Personal Finances”‘

Magnified Chart

By Alicia Kellebrew
The Village Financial Resource Center

I’m always on the lookout for an inspiring story or good advice. Here’s one that supplies both. Sir Richard Branson is known as one of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, but I had never heard the story of how his success began. Branson was traveling to Puerto Rico when his flight was cancelled, leaving him and many other passengers stranded at the airport in the middle of nowhere. At that point, he tracked down a private chartered plane, divided the total cost of this flight by the number of seats available, and offered the seats to the others at a price of $39 each. Even though he had no money to rebook his own flight, he managed to sell all the seats on the chartered plane which made his new flight free! This is the story of the humble beginnings of the Virgin Group, which, today, is made up of over 400 companies, including Virgin Records and Virgin Atlantic. And, to think it all started with an inconvenience and a little problem-solving!

There are a couple of lessons in this tale. First, don’t let a lack of money (or other resources, for that matter) stop you from trying. And, second, the best way to make money is to solve someone else’s problem (but I would add this can work for yourself as well).

How do we apply these ideas to our everyday lives especially when it comes to our personal finances? Well, for starters, it’s human nature to sometimes feel overwhelmed to the point that we don’t know where to start in facing a difficult situation. So we do nothing at all – which is always the worst possible solution. Clients often tell me that they don’t have enough money to have a budget, save, or knock down debts. But you have to start somewhere even if that means starting small. By starting small you are putting the wheels into motion and taking control of what you can do rather than focusing on what you can’t do. Sir Richard Branson could have just decided to wait on the airline to get another plane there for free (who knows how long that could have taken!). But, instead, he took the initiative to seek out another solution and try to make it work.

The second lesson from this story is that the best way to make money is to solve someone else’s problem. This can be applied in many different contexts in life. The first one that probably comes to mind for most people is being as valuable as possible to your employer, which will hopefully translate into a higher salary and/or promotion – a sure boost to your personal bottom line. Another way to look at it, though, is that there are problems we can solve for ourselves and “make” some cash either by saving existing money or generating more money. For example, tracking expenses draws our attention to where our money is going and makes us evaluate whether or not certain expenses are really necessary. By becoming aware, we can reduce costs that are not high priorities to us. Or maybe you find yourself in the situation where you can’t find a babysitter or dog walker so it may spark the idea to start providing that service, or something similar, in order to generate cash or use it to barter for your own similar needs. You’ll be solving someone else’s problem as well as one (or maybe even two!) of your own.

If a multi-millionaire can create his empire out of one difficult situation why can’t you?


About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Bartering in the Modern Age

By Alicia Kellebrew, NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

I have been accused of being somewhat of a “throwback.” I can’t help but see a lot of value in the way our parents, grandparents, and beyond used to do things and feel that some of those old practices could serve us well in the present age. By far, my favorite one of those is the barter system.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term barter as “to exchange things (such as products or services) for other things instead of for money.” Back in the times before established currency forms, people would mostly trade a good or service that they specialized in for another that they didn’t specialize in (but needed). Unfortunately, somewhere along the line this fell out of popularity especially in modern times. I, for one, would love to see it make a comeback in a HUGE way. In fact, there are many facets in my life where I use the barter system, and while initially it may be met with some weird looks or comments, everyone is usually happy with the end result.

So what are some of the most common goods I barter with? Well, the commodity that I find to be the most popular is homemade baked goods. Baking is something that I enjoy, and it’s a good way to get out of my own head for a while. But, of course, having too many baked goods on hand can be pretty dangerous! So trading extra baked goods for things I need help with really works out nicely.

I started developing my bartering skills in college. When I first started at UND I couldn’t afford a car so I had to take the city bus to and from work. Even though it meant I had to leave an hour before I had to be anywhere, I really didn’t mind because the fare was drastically reduced for students. The only snag was that the bus didn’t run on Sundays, and I would always work a full day. So in order to convince my friends to drop me off and pick me up, I would offer to bake them a dozen of whatever their favorite baked treat was. Fortunately for me, baking is another somewhat lost art form in our times. So that offer was usually met with enthusiastic agreement.

Although baked goods are my primary form of bartering “currency,” there are many other things a person could use such as babysitting services, dog walking, house cleaning, errand running, snow shoveling/leaf raking, car or home maintenance/repairs, prepping or cooking meals, hair cutting/styling, crafting, etc. The key is to stick with something that you have a knack for and to find someone who has a knack for something else and politely propose a swap. After all, none of us is good at everything.

A few other situations where I have engineered barters include trading babysitting services for dinner that night while watching the parents’ extended cable package, swapping a craft lesson for a baking lesson, or even a customized handmade jewelry set for tutoring in college.

This could also work nicely if you are planning a wedding or any other party. If you have talented friends (and who doesn’t?), you could ask them to provide a good or service as their gift (instead of a purchased item). Examples could include help with invitations, flowers, photography, cooking/baking, etc.

Bottom line: It doesn’t hurt to think outside the box and propose a swap. The worst thing that can happen is the other person will turn down your offer, and the best thing that can happen is you find a lifelong bartering partner and friend — all without having to open up your wallet. Sounds like a win-win to me.

 


About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.

 

10 money habits that are robbing you blind

How to Quit Ten Bad Money Habits That Rob You Blind

Dropping bad money habits makes it easier to power up your financial life. Following are 10 bad habits, and tips for ending them.

1. Carrying a credit card balance
High interest rates on credit cards make plastic one of the most expensive ways to borrow. Build a better habit: One approach to erasing the card balance is to devote every spare penny to getting rid of it. If you have other pressing debts, you’ll need to make a plan for dealing with all of them. Keep the balance from building again by making it a new habit to pay off the entire bill every month—no exceptions ever.

2. Failing to fund a retirement plan
How much should you save? “Ten percent is the minimum [monthly contribution] for anyone in any situation,” Arlington, Virginia, financial planner Claire Emory tells Women’s Day. Build a better habit: Imagine yourself at age 70 or 80. Picture concrete details—how you’ll look, your surroundings, how you’re spending time, and who’s with you. The more real your future self is to you, the more likely you’ll care for her or him today.

3. Not shopping for monthly services
Hopefully, you comparison shopped when signing up for insurance policies, and phone, Internet, and cable service. But you may be missing savings if you’re not checking prices again once a year. Build a better habit: Be willing to put some energy into improving your financial life. Once a year, spend 30 to 60 minutes price shopping for monthly services.

4. Paying for cable and landline
Cable prices are going nowhere but up. Free and cheaper alternatives make experimenting worthwhile. But will you get out of your rut and try something new? Build a better habit: Before trying a change, just observe yourself and your habits. Record your viewing habits for a week or two to see how and … (Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center website.)


–Reprinted with permission from partner site Moneytalksnews.com

 

How a school bus can drive you to good financial decisions

By AlicBus Backendsia Kellebrew, NFCC Certified Financial Professional
The Village Financial Resource Center

When people walk into my office, they may notice the little, bright yellow die cast school bus prominently displayed on my bookcase. It sits there right in my line of sight, and that of my clients, for a reason. Every now and again someone will notice it, smile, and ask me what it is doing there. I always respond with the short version of why it is there: to remind us all that WE have to drive the bus. Of course, that’s the short version because it is a metaphor, not only for money management, but also for other life issues as well.

Here are just a few of the things that we can take away from my little yellow school bus:

  1. First, “YOU have to DRIVE the bus!” No matter what type of situation or struggle that is going on around us, we have to do our part to be proactive, take charge and do what we can with and in the situation. No situation gets resolved by doing nothing; in fact, that is usually the worst idea. “Driving the bus” may include determining and evaluating options, seeking advice or assistance from others, or simply deciding on a plan of action and putting the wheels in motion.
  2. There are are a lot of people counting on the bus driver: the school, the parents, and the kids. What would happen if the bus driver didn’t take care of themselves and couldn’t drive the bus? Not only would they be compromising themselves, but they would also be creating a ripple effect that would cause issues for many others as well. Who is it that counts on you? Your family? Your friends? Your employer? Before we can do anything else, we have to make sure that we are taking good care of ourselves, which means prioritizing essentials above other expenses, even debt payments.
  3. The stop sign on a school bus reminds us that sometimes we have to stop and carefully consider all options and consequences before making any big financial decisions. The point at which we have the most say in the matter is BEFORE we sign any contracts not AFTER. If things become difficult after we sign a mortgage, car, or student loan, there may not be as many desirable options available to us as we would like. This shouldn’t stop anyone from trying to communicate with creditors if they are having issues though, as there may be ways they can help.
  4.  The door on the bus reminds us that we have to stay open-minded when looking at possible solutions to financial difficulties. Even the options that are not our first choices or the most desirable should be considered. Sometimes we end up making the hard choices by eliminating the options that just won’t work at all and then picking the best of what is left.
  5.  The cheery yellow color of the bus reminds us that even the most difficult situations are easier to deal with if we can stay positive. When clients who are struggling with finances come into my office, I try to be an encourager to show them that no matter what the situation is, things can get better; it just takes time.Bus Backends


About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.

 

Sharing Credit Card with a Parent can be Risky

Think twice before becoming an authorized user on your parents’ credit cards — even if you are handling their finances for them. If they have great credit, being an authorized user can help raise your score. On the other hand, if you have great credit but your parents don’t, being an authorized signer on their cards is risky. If the banks report you as an authorized user on credit cards with an iffy track record, your credit score could fall fast.

Except on a temporary basis when necessary — for example, when a parent cannot get out and needs someone to do the shopping — financial experts don’t recommend becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card. Co-mingling finances is just too risky.

— Adapted from article by Sally Herigstad on www.creditcards.com. Used with permission.

Change your perspective on money to change your financial life!

old lady young ladyThere’s an classic optical illusion that features a drawing of an elderly woman or a young woman depending on how you look at it. It’s purposefully ambiguous. The nose of the elder woman could be seen as the chin and jawline of the younger. The ear of the younger could be seen as the eye of the elder.

The difference is in how you look at it.

As a financial counselor, I work with people to help them reach their financial goals. The process almost always entails, at minimum, a discussion about goals, a comprehensive review of assets and liabilities, putting together a comprehensive budget, and creating an action plan that details steps a person can take to reach their financial goals. And once that’s done, the real effort begins as the person sets out to follow through on steps to reach the goal.

Now, to a budgeting nerd like me, that sounds exciting. The chance to sit down with someone and plan out the steps needed in order to reach some life-changing goals sounds thrilling … to me. But in truth, for most people, there isn’t a great sense of excitement surrounding the process. Talking money isn’t sexy. People are rarely excited to talk to me about personal finances. No one in my office is sitting at the edge of their seat chomping, at the bit to dive into the process.

Working toward financial goals requires discipline over time; many times it requires sacrifice. And sometimes working toward your goals or dealing with a financial problem can become monotonous and tedious. In fact, some people do avoid it, which just compounds the problem or delays the progress.

But that’s just one way to look at the situation. If you shift your perspective just a bit, you can see something very different. It may not be thrilling to pore over numbers and make tough decisions. But do you know what is thrilling? Pulling out of the car lot in the vehicle you just purchased, taking your seat in the plane as you wait for takeoff to an exotic locale, pulling into the driveway of your new home, retiring early. And I could go on and on.
Don’t let the way you look at the task of dealing with money keep you from making changes for the better. Focus on your goals and remind yourself why you are working so hard. Don’t let tedium derail you from working toward your goal. Set smaller milestone goals and celebrate the successes. Working toward financial goals doesn’t have to be boring. Find your own ways to get excited about it, and see it from a different perspective – the perspective of possibility.old lady young lady horiz


Joshua Huffman, The Village Financial Resource Center

 About the author
Joshua Huffman is an NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Service Center.
Joshua Huffman is an NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Service Center. He can be reached at (800) 450-4019.

How New Credit Reporting Agency Rules Impact You

credit rules impact pinterest

Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission from our partner site www.Moneytalksnews.com.

The country’s three major credit reporting agencies have announced plans to overhaul how they collect information about consumers and how they interact with consumers seeking to correct reporting errors, according to a press release.

For example, medical debts won’t be reported until after a 180-day waiting period. This will allow insurance payments to be applied. In addition, medical collections that have been or are being paid by insurance will be removed from credit reports, the press release states.

The agencies will no longer report debts like tickets or fines that didn’t result from a contract or agreement by the consumers to pay. Also, they will no longer accept reports that don’t include a consumer’s date of birth. Other revised rules will make it easier for consumers to dispute credit report errors that might hurt their credit ratings.

Here are the free steps you can take to repair your bad credit:

Step 1: Access free copies of your credit reports

Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. Once they’re in hand, thoroughly analyze the information for errors, omissions, and fraudulent accounts.

Also, be on the lookout for negative marks that should have dropped off your report because they are more than seven to 10 years old. Most bad items drop off in seven years

Perhaps you received your three free credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com earlier this year and do not want to pay for new reports from the credit bureaus. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you are still entitled to a free copy of a credit report if

  • You are denied credit, insurance, or employment, or offered unfavorable rates because of the content of your credit profile. You have to ask for the free report within…

credit rules impact

Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center website.

How to fight fair to resolve conflict

fighting fair facebookHow you spend your money is just one of the things on which you and your spouse will disagree. You are bound to have different viewpoints about a variety of topics, so it’s important to learn how to deal with your differences respectfully and effectively. The University of Texas at Austin provides the following ground rules for fighting fair.
Remain calm. Try not to overreact to difficult situations. Your partner is more likely to consider your viewpoint if you remain calm.

Express feelings in words, not actions. If you start to feel so angry or upset that you feel you may lose control, take a “time out.” Take a walk, do some deep breathing, play with the dog, write in your journal—whatever works for you.

Be specific about what is bothering you. Vague complaints are hard to work on. Deal with only one issue at a time. Don’t introduce other topics until each is fully discussed. This avoids the “kitchen sink” effect where people throw in all their complaints while not allowing anything to be resolved.

No hitting below the belt. Attacking areas of personal sensitivity creates an atmosphere of distrust, anger, and vulnerability. Avoid accusations. Talk about how your partner’s actions or words made you feel. If you make accusations, your partner will be likely to defend their actions rather than focus on understanding you.

Try not to generalize. Avoid words like “never” or “always.” Such generalizations are usually inaccurate and will heighten tensions. Avoid make believe. Exaggerating or inventing a complaint—or your feelings about it—will prevent the real issues from surfacing.

Stick with the facts and your honest feelings. Don’t stockpile. Storing up lots of grievances and hurt feelings over time is counterproductive. It’s almost impossible to deal with numerous old problems for which recollections may differ. Try to deal with problems as they arise.

Avoid clamming up. Positive results can only be attained with two-way communication. When one person becomes silent and stops responding to the other, frustration and anger can result. However, if you feel yourself getting overwhelmed or shutting
down, you may need to take a break from the discussion. Just let
your partner know you will return to the conversation as soon as
you are able and then don’t forget to follow-up.

Establish common ground rules. You may even want to ask your partner to read and discuss this information with you. When both people accept positive common ground rules for managing a conflict, resolution becomes much more likely.

Fair Fighting: Step by Step

  1. Before you begin, ask yourself, “What exactly is bothering me? What do I want the other person to do or not do? Are my feelings in proportion to the issue?”
  2. Know what your goals are before you begin. What are the possible outcomes that could be acceptable to you?
  3. Remember that the idea is not to win but to come to a mutually satisfying solution to the problem…

Read the full article on The Village Financial Resource Center website.

fighting fair fint

What a Financial Pro Learned About Money From Her Parents

By Alicia Kellebrew
NFCC Certified Financial Professional

I would say that the two most common comments that my clients make to me in my office are “My parents never talked to me about money” and “Your parents must have talked about money with you a lot for you to know what you do.” I absolutely credit my parents for my money know-how, but what people have to understand is that it isn’t always what you SAY but what you DO and model for your family. My parents have always led by example, and I am very thankful for the example that they set. I would like to share some of what I learned from them with you as it has served me pretty well in my life.

  1. Cars are a mode of transportation. Hence, the most important consideration is “Does it get you from point A to point B safely?” If so, it is serving its purpose. My family’s philosophy on cars has always been buy used cars for reasonable prices, take good care of them, and hope for the best. I understand used cars can sometimes be a gamble.That’s why buying them for the right price, maintaining them well, and knowing when it’s time to move on to something else is key.
  1. More wisdom on cars: If you must take out a loan try to put down a sizable down payment without cleaning out your emergency fund to lower your payment. Finance the loan out for the five years to make sure the payment is manageable, but, by all means, pay it off as quickly as possible. Lastly, even after you pay it off, continue making that payment to a separate “car fund” for as long as you are able. This will give you money for repairs, and, when it is time, a down payment on something else. You are already used to making that payment so you may as well build up an additional cushion.
  1. There is a definite difference between a “need” and a “want.” I remember being a kid and always wanting the name brand clothes and shoes. I also remember being really irritated when my parents told me shoes were shoes. But I am so thankful now that they stood their ground. While there is nothing wrong with splurging every now and again, if you make that a habit it can really get you in trouble.
  1. If you make being careful and smart with your money a priority, it will pay off in so many ways. I always watched my parents save money wherever they could which gave us the freedom and ability to take care of what we needed to when it came up (and a little extra for some fun too!).
  1. Having a financial cushion provides a sense of security. While no one “enjoys” carefully accounting for their money or saying “no” to their wants or those of their family, it gave all of us a sense of security and peace knowing that we had a cushion in case something unexpected happened. Seeing it work so well for my parents when I was young made me want to strive for the same for myself. Besides, it is much better to be able to “borrow” from yourself!
  1. Buying and/or receiving stuff doesn’t equal happiness or love. While it is nice to buy things for people sometimes, the emphasis in my household is always on spending time together. Those are where the memories are – my mom spending hours upon hours teaching me how to craft or my dad dropping everything to take me to see the Stanley Cup, for example.
  1. Life is not a competition of who has the most or best stuff. It is about who you are and what you do. We often compare ourselves to others based on what we have or don’t have and what they have or don’t have. What we must remember is we don’t know the whole story; for all we know, they might be struggling with a large amount of debt to keep up the appearance that things are going well.
  1. Life is about sacrifice and compromise. Sometimes you have to say no to something in order to say yes to something greater. For instance, in some jobs there is high pay but it may come at the cost of time with your family.
  1. “Lifestyle inflation” is very real and something we have to watch out for. Have you ever wondered to yourself how you made it on the income from your first job? I do and when you really look at it you realize that back then you made it on what you had because you had to.Sometimes it is helpful to look back and take note of what we trimmed or cut out to make everything fit. If we could do it then chances are we could do some of it now to free up some funds for other purposes or goals.
  1. Never loan something to someone you can’t afford to lose – money or possessions – as it might result in the loss of the item/money loaned AND the relationship.

About the author
Alicia Kellebrew is a NFCC certified financial professional with The Village Financial Resource Center.

Dishonesty and disagreements related to money are common

Nearly half of all participants (47%) in the January online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC) responded that disagreements about money are most likely to cause the greatest stress in their relationships.

Disputes about money management can begin as early as the first date, but they become lethal to relationships when they go unaddressed. As the years go by, what could have started as a constructive conversation about finance becomes a heated battle over who is right. Observations become accusations, and trust becomes suspicion. Growing levels of mistrust can lead to financial infidelity, which registered on the survey as a top stress point for 25% of the respondents.

The NFCC recommends that couples press the pause button before things spiral out of control and have a constructive conversation about money. “Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner. Left unaddressed, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples. Understanding those differences means having honest discussions early in a relationship so the rules are mutually accepted and the financial goals are clear. No matter the differences or challenges, the best approach is to start communicating early” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC.

Financial counselors at The Village Financial Resource Center recommend the following guidelines for couples:

  • Be honest with yourself and each other when it comes to financial matters. As financial challenges appear, work together to address them directly instead of ignoring problems and wishing they will resolve themselves.
  • Establish money rules for the relationship and hold each other accountable. Discuss what will be jointly managed and set rules for making independent spending decisions.
  • Don’t conceal debt or sources of income from each other. Financial infidelity should be taken as seriously as any other form of cheating. Adhere to a policy of financial transparency to strengthen trust in the relationship.
  • Set a time and place where financial matters can be discussed on a regular basis, free of distractions.
  • Keep the tone of the conversation casual, and remain open to what each other has to say.
  • If a disagreement should go unresolved during a conversation, take a moment to find acceptable ways to compromise or consider revisiting the issue after a short time-out.
  • If a financial mistake is made, couples should work together to find solutions without assigning blame. Be willing to accept a fair share of the responsibility for the problem and the solution.
  • When tracking joint financial goals, understand that changing circumstances require a degree of flexibility from both partners in a relationship.
  • Understand that a single financial setback impacting one person ultimately affects the entire relationship, no matter how large or small the issue.

Often, money issues may reveal deeper problems in the relationship that require outside intervention. Sometimes, it helps to seek advice from a relationship counselor if matters cannot be resolved through normal communication. The same is true for the financial side of the equation. Seeking advice from a Village financial counselor can help address challenges and restore financial health, making it easier to focus on other aspects of the relationship.

Call The Village Financial Resource Center at 1-800-450-4019 to make an appointment.