Where Do We Learn How To Manage Our Money?


By Alicia Kellebrew, NFCC Certified Financial Professional

As a part of my job I am given the great honor and privilege to meet and talk to people from all backgrounds and walks of life-in fact that is the thing I love the most about the work I do. Recently, I have had the chance to spend a lot of time with kids that are middle school age (between 12 and 15).

During these interactions I have been asking them if their parents ever talk to them about money. Often times, many hands shoot up in the air which doesn’t surprise me. The interesting part is when I ask them what their parents are saying to them about money. The top three responses are: “Money doesn’t grow on trees!” “Stop spending your money on stupid stuff!” and “You should save some of your money!” While all of these words of wisdom ARE good advice they aren’t really giving kids the “how to” just the “do or don’t do” aspects of money management and finances.

So then I ask if their parents tell or show them how they should manage their money such as how to set up a budget, showing them just how high the cost of living is when you factor in all your bills, or how to avoid getting into too much debt. Almost of them say no so then I ask “Where do people learn to manage their money?” Some of them say they talk about it in some of their classes at school or they attend financial literacy events such as the “Real World Camp” (Be on the lookout for a description of this in one of my future blog posts). Some others say that maybe people figure it out as they go along after they move out on their own for the first time. This is usually when I explain that it is ok to ask others for information such as their parents, siblings, relatives, friends, or even professionals like myself.

The point I am trying to get at is that these kids are extremely smart and they understand that money management is very important but they need a little help to put it all together. Here are a few ways that parents can help fill in the “how to” for their kids:

1. Remember that kids watch and hear the things you say and do with money. For example, they will see if you take the time to balance your checkbook, hear you and your spouse have a discussion before making a big purchase, and pick up on any family money philosophies such as whether you are careful with money or spend it as it comes in.

2. Sit down with your kids and help them plan out how they will allocate their allowance or other money that comes in. This might include talking with them about how much they will save and how they will spend, what they plan to spend and on what. Starting and maintaining an open dialogue for money management as well as other topics in general, will send the message that it is ok to ask questions and will allow you to share your experiences and values with them.

3. Help your kids to learn the difference between needs and wants and let them know that those two categories are not always black and white. While a person may need something, food, clothing, shelter, etc. it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t consider all their options and make careful decisions. Being able to know the difference and understand that even with needs people have choices will go a long way in helping your kids become financially successful in the future.

4. Remember that it is never too early to talk with your kids about money management. Most parents wait until their kids are in high school or college to have these discussions, if ever. The earlier you talk with them the better as it will help shape their habits as they get older. It is better to learn about financial management while there is still a margin for error that to figure it out after making mistakes that could affect the rest of your life. By talking about money often you send the message that money management and finances are something that they should keep on top of and handle with care.

5. Give them a set amount to cover their own expenses, for example back to school clothes and supplies or entertainment costs, but explain it is the only money they will get for those items for a set amount of time and stick to it. For example, give them $200 to cover all their back to school clothes and supplies and let them know that whatever they buy will have to last them the year. It is amazing how creative kids can be with ways to stretch their money when they know they have limited resources.

6. Give kids a chance to get a glimpse into the inner workings of your family’s household budget. This doesn’t mean you have to disclose all the details (like how much you make) but it will let them see that there are many expenses to keep a roof over their heads, food on the table, and the heat and lights on. Seeing those numbers will help them see that life is expensive and making sure everything is covered takes careful planning.

7. Look for opportunities in your community that offer the chance for you and your child to learn about money management topics. I mentioned the “Real World Camp” above which is a financial literacy event for middle school aged kids put on in Fargo and Bismarck to teach kids about financial topics. You may be able to find other events or resources through your local newspaper or on our Village Financial Resource Center website at www.helpwithmoney.org. Our website also offers tools and resources that can help you and your kids learn more about money management and finances. If you are interested in coming in to discuss your finances with a professional you can set up an appointment by calling us at 1-800-450-4019.

The prairie economist: Make hay while the economic sun shines



It’s an exciting time in North Dakota. The state’s economic growth (not to mention population growth) has made headlines. This growth and the associated jobs provide higher wages and more disposal income. Along with that extra money come opportunities to make some significant financial progress … and the temptation to overspend.

Down on the farm, there is a saying that applies to this time: “Make hay when the sun is shining.” When the conditions are great like they are now, resist the urge to spend more or take on more debt. Now is the time to pay off debt and create a position of financial strength. Remember once a dollar is spent, it is gone forever. So each dollar must be spent wisely. Income can change, and if one has overspent, it strains the budget and can make it impossible to keep one’s payments current.

Duane Emmel
Village Financial Professional

Now is a great time to pay off debt, save money, and invest for your future. If you are struggling to keep current on the bills or just want to go over the budget to determine how you can improve your financial situation, don’t hesitate to contact the Village Financial Resource Center and speak with a certified financial professional.

9 tips for single parents heading to college



Making it through college can be a challenge for any of us—add to that the responsibility of being a single parent and college can be especially demanding. Dr. Bill Burns, director of the North Dakota State University Counseling Center, and Maggie Pearl, admissions manager at Rasmussen College—Fargo campus, share some of their tips for helping single parents be successful students and parents.

1. Identify your support network. The first thing Pearl tells students is to think about who supports them in going back to school. “Who is your biggest cheerleader?” she says. Tell that person you’ll be counting on them for encouragement when times get tough. There will be days when you feel like graduating from college is an impossible goal and you’ll need someone to both listen and cheer you on.

Also check out the support services available at the college you have chosen. Burns says, “If you’ve been out of school for a while, knowing how to work through the systems of the university can be daunting. Make sure you have a good connection with an academic advisor to help you through the process.” ‘

2. Secure consistent child care. Burns said not having consistent child care is one of the biggest barriers parents face in going back to school. “You need someone to watch the kids so you can go to class and do your work outside of class.” Some schools have child care centers on campus. If they don’t, the student affairs office will probably be able to give you references for local providers.

3. Make a schedule. Time management is a must when single parents go back to school. “Block off your class and work schedule. Block out time for homework,” she says. “Put it on your fridge so your kids will know where you are, what you are doing and when you’ll be available.” Pearl also suggests that having a consistent bedtime for your children is very important so you have time after they go to bed to do chores or homework.

Burns said the ratio of class time to homework and reading vary depending on the class and/or the professor, but a good rule of thumb is that to do well you’ll need to spend 2-3 hours outside of class for every hour you spend in class. “I tell students to think of school as their full time job—if you are in class 15 hours a week that leaves you about 25 hours a week to study. You can still have a life outside of school. People who work 40 hours a week and have children do it all the time.”

4. Communicate. We are all human and things come up. This is especially true for single parents. You can never predict when your kids will get sick or hurt and need you to be home with them. Burns says to introduce yourself to your professors at the beginning of the semester and tell them your situation. “Be someone the professor knows. Even in a big lecture class, that can go a long way.” Then, if something comes up, let them know right away.

5. Don’t overload yourself with work and class. Burns suggests limiting your work hours as much as possible. “Anything more than 17 hours a week starts to interfere with a student’s academic success,” he says. If you have to work more than 17 hours a week to make ends meet, consider taking fewer credits. It may take you longer to complete your education, but you’ll be less likely to burn out and quit along the way.

6. Do your homework with your children. Depending on the age of your children, you may be able to do homework with them. If they aren’t in school, have them sit at the table with you coloring or practicing their ABCs. “Your kids will feel like you are doing something together but you are also getting studying done,” says Pearl

7. Let go of parental guilt. Pearl says, “The time that you’ll be in college is a very short period of time in your child’s life.” Explain to your children why you are going back to school—tell them it’s to give them a better life and that you need their support as much as possible. They might complain because that’s what kids do—but in the long run most children not only understand why their parent went back to school, but respect them for doing so.

8. Take care of yourself. Eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and build a social support network. Burns says, “Taking care of yourself will make it all more manageable.”

9. And we would add a ninth tip to the list: Have a financial road map. Stop by for a quick visit with a financial professional (like those at The Village Financial Resource Center) and have a plan for controlling your finances while your in school and make sure that you’ll be able to deal with debt you may incur while in school.

Going back to school as a single parent won’t be easy, but when you are standing on stage at graduation receiving your diploma, with your children watching you with pride, you’ll know it was worth it.

Village offers ‘Kids and Money’ course


The Village will host “Kids and Money” class at 6 p.m., April 23, at Dakota Medical Foundation, 4141 28th Ave. S. in Fargo.

Have a positive impact on your children’s values regarding money and watch them step confidently into adulthood—financially capable, independent, and prepared.

You can register online. For more info, call 800-450-4019 or email moneyhelp@thevillagefamily.org.

 

Morning coffee and keeping an eye out for credit fraud


By Carol Harrison, Financial Counselor with The Village

Most mornings upon waking I hear, “Coffee, coffee. I need coffee.” Next I hear the sound of the coffee grinder followed by the coffee brewing, the wafting aroma, and finally comes the utterance “Ah coffee!”

But recently we awoke to a different coffee calling. The phone was ringing and on the other end was a representative from a credit card company. He alerted us that there appeared to be fraudulent activity on our account. In the wee hours of the morning while we slept, our coffee gift card had been loaded several times via this credit card. When we checked the account, sure enough, someone was adding money to it in small amounts and then issuing gift cards.

The credit card company had noticed this unusual activity and put a hold on these charges. They notified us, closed the account, and re-issued a new one. In the meantime we contacted the coffee card company, and they confirmed that this was not a system glitch and indicated that the activity was fraudulent. We are awaiting the results of the coffee company’s investigation.

Fortunately, our credit card company was diligently looking out for our best interests. It is not unusual for your credit card company to give you a call to question transactions to your account when they appear suspicious to them and they take quick action. We were not held accountable for the charges as they were all put on hold until confirmation from us.

It’s important to remember that credit card companies don’t always catch fraudulent activity. So be vigilant by reviewing your statements every month. If your creditor doesn’t catch the fraud, it is up to you to identify it and report it.

Got money questions? The Village offers financial coaching


Do you have financial goals, but can’t seem to reach them?

A Village financial coach will help you identify and follow through on the steps necessary for reaching your financial goals. Coaching works because you build a relationship with someone who keeps you accountable through frequent mini-contacts.
A Village financial coach will:

  • Do an initial financial assessment of your situation.
  • Visit with you to determine your financial goals.
  • Create “to-do” lists directly tied to your goals.
  • Determine check-in times.
  • Follow up frequently by phone, email, or in person to document your progress and keep you accountable

More info about Financial Coaching from The Village.

Money Sense: Quick tips for tax season


Before You Prepare Your Taxes…
You’ll need to determine the following:
1. What status will I be filing (single, married filing jointly, married filing separately,
etc.)?
2. What is my adjusted income?
3. Will I itemize or not?
4. What are my correct exemptions?

After You Prepare Your Taxes…
Double check each of the following so you don’t underpay or overpay your taxes:
1. Are your Social Security numbers …

Read the full article here in the “Money Sense” newsletter from The Village.

Why it’s Important to Save Money


Think back to a time when having an extra $1,000 would have made a major difference in the circumstance you were facing. How would the situation have played out differently if you had $1,000 to draw upon? Could you have avoided using a credit card and paying interest, taking out a payday loan, or having to borrow from family or friends? Whatever the situation, when you need to borrow money for unplanned expenses, it usually costs you in more ways than one.

The standard recommendation is to have a liquid savings account containing three to six months of your monthly expenses. Determine this amount by tracking what you spend. Don’t forget about your periodic expenses-the expenses that occur throughout the year, but not necessarily on a monthly basis. Periodic expenses include auto/home maintenance, gift buying, traveling, propane, medical deductibles, etc.

Three to six months of expenses in savings can feel like a very lofty goal for most families. However, having this amount in savings will protect your household from a tailspin if faced with periods of unexpected unemployment, seasonal income shortages, medical expenses, and major repairs.

Adequate savings provides you with a stable financial foundation. Just as a house is only as stable as the foundation it is built on, so are your finances.

Electronic Couponing and Deals

You can save money using the Internet through a variety of websites and mobile apps. Here are some of our favorites.

Websites

All of the websites listed here are also available as apps.

• Freebies2deals.com – Created by a mom from Utah with established connections to the best freebies and deals each day. She gives great advice and also matches up store coupons with manufacturers for you. This is a great time-saver for people who want to get the deals of a crazy couponer without spending the time.

• Zulily.com – Deals on clothing for babies and kids

• 1saleaday.com – Various products on sale

• Woot.com – Daily deals

• Retailmenot.com – Coupon codes and deals

• eBates.com – Just about every online retailer is on this site. Once you have an account, you can search by product or retailer, find discount codes, and receive cash back on all your purchases. You get a free $10 gift card to the place of your choice just for signing up!

Mobile Apps

• GeoQpon – Coupons you can scan at the register

• Shopkick – Find coupons and earn points toward gift cards

• Smartphonemate – Earn credit at Amazon.com just by having the app open on your phone ($3/month) or tablet ($5/month)

• Gasbuddy – Lists all gas stations in the area, along with prices. You can update the prices as well and earn entries for a free gift card

 

More than One in Five Americans Consider Credit Essential

According to the September poll hosted on the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) website, 22 percent of more than 1,900 respondents indicated they could not make ends meet without access to credit.

“There are hundreds of millions of credit cards in circulation, making the plastic temptation very real,” said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Nonetheless, credit was intended to be a convenience, not a piggy bank to supplement income.”

An additional 24 percent of poll respondents said they would have to make significant lifestyle changes if they did not have access to credit. Taken together, 46 percent of Americans would experience major interruptions to their financial lives if denied the use of credit.

The inability to responsibly manage credit is one of the first financial danger signals. Consider the following data from the NFCC’s 2012 Financial Literacy Survey:

• Thirty-three percent of consumers do not pay all of their bills on time, the highest percentage since the question was first posed in 2008, up five percent over 2011;

• Thirty-nine percent of respondents indicated they carry debt over from month-to-month, a sure sign that a person is living beyond what his or her income can support; and

• Sixteen percent have experienced an overdraft related to a checking account.

No one ever intends to dig a deep financial hole. Life’s unexpected events often throw a curve to even the most stable financial plans, making credit the choice of last resort to meet monthly obligations. Many well-meaning people think living off of credit will be a short-term solution; the new job is just around the corner; the medical event won’t be serious; the divorce decree will read differently. Others have not experienced a financially back-breaking life event, but have built a lifestyle that their income simply will not support.

The solution for either group is a three-step process: stop charging, increase income, decrease expenses. Facing the financial facts can be hard. Changing ingrained habits is never easy, but it is not only worth the effort, it is essential to a person’s current and future financial stability.

“Although the 22 percent of people indicating they could not make ends meet without credit is a minority among those polled, it is a significant minority,” continued Cunningham. “People are masters at deceiving themselves and justifying spending. Don’t be one of them.”

To determine if your finances are on the brink of disaster, try living without credit for one month. If successful, it is likely that credit is being managed responsibly.  If you are not successful, consider getting some advice from the experts at The Village Financial Resource Center at 800-450-4019.