With summertime upon us, first look around your community! There are many things that your family can take participate in.
Your local opportunities might include:
- Visit the park or local community festivals
- Go for hikes or bike rides
- Have a family picnic at the park.
- Go swimming at the local pool
- Take advantage of free programs offered at the local library, museums, community bands or other free community events.
- Check out books, music and videos for free from the library.
Fun entertainment can also be found at home:
- Have a family game night
- Rent or borrow movies, pop some popcorn and have a family movie night at home
- Bake or cook together as a family
- Read stories to one another
- Take an evening walk together
Show your children new skills and ideas:
- Have a family garden
- Teach a craft skill to your children and enjoy spending time doing these things
- Let your child learn about the environment, news, politics, helping others and be a part of the community opportunities
Saving, Spending plans
Dramatic changes in the health insurance market have occurred as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Change continues with the creation of the Health Benefit Exchange (referred to as “Exchanges”), open for enrollment October 1, 2013. Exchanges are a new mechanism for purchasing health insurance coverage. Think of the Exchange as a travel website, such as Travelocity, essentially a web portal created so you can shop and compare insurance plans. The Exchange is one stop shopping with “apples to apples” comparisons. Exchanges will create a more organized and competitive market and will primarily serve smaller employers in Iowa and Iowans who will be purchasing insurance on their own.
Iowa is currently setting up its Exchange, and public input is wanted! You can have a voice in creating and planning by participating in a consumer survey from the Iowa Department of Public Health, which is part of the interagency work group responsible for planning and implementing the Affordable Care Act in Iowa. Developed with the University of Iowa Public Policy Center and College of Public Health, the intent of the survey is to gather consumer preferences for purchasing health insurance, receiving information, and desirable features and content on the Exchange.
The information gathered will be valuable in designing the Exchange and targeting the education and outreach in Iowa. You can access the survey at http://iowahealthinsurancesurvey.com/. A factsheet that gives more detail on what the health benefit exchange is can be accessed here: http://marketplace.cms.gov/GetOfficialResources/Publications-and-articles/about-the-marketplace-english.pdf
Suzanne Bartholomae, Ph.D.
ISU Extension State Specialist, Family Finance
Thanks to Suzanne for this guest post! We encourage everyone to improve the process by taking the survey!
Insurance, Smart shopping
Helping people distinguish wants from needs is a basic lesson found in many financial education programs. Unfortunately finding foolproof examples is a challenge. The human mind has the ability to reason any obvious want into a need if given enough time and the right sales pitch. Technology is a new villain in this story. My new camera includes two DVD’s that require a minimum of a computer with a Window’s XP operating system. It’s the oldest operating system on the list, which tells me an upgrade is likely to be “needed” in the near future. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the first time I connect the two devices they’ll be instant friends and communicate with each other.
A curriculum I was reviewing had a nice trick for keeping the brain focused on truthful needs. It challenged you to ask, “How did I get along without this item in the past?” It’s a good exercise to remind yourself of the resources you already have available. Another strategy that helps when shopping is to have a list and stick to it. Businesses usually place the “needed” items in the back of the store, forcing you to spend the maximum time walking past attractive displays and tempting merchandise. Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for the changes in replacement items like my camera that come with unexpected requirements.
What strategies do you use to keep your purchases limited to “needs”? Joyce
Once teens hit college, they will be the target of every card company and their persuasive ads. It is for this reason that parents should include a lesson on wise use of credit before they leave home. The best way for parents to teach their teens about credit is by providing an opportunity for them to learn through their own personal experience.
One of the easiest ways for a young person to establish good credit is to use a credit card wisely. There are a couple of ways that parents can make this happen. A joint account, shared with a parent enables the parent to strictly monitor what the child purchases and destroy the card after the first time the bill is not paid in full. Another option would be to try a secured card where the teen would have access to a set amount of money ($500 – $1000) that is already deposited in the bank. A debit card would work the same way, which would get them used to using plastic and spending on a budget.
Be sure to look at credit card options and include the teen in the process, so they learn how to compare offers. Look for one with no annual fee, a low interest rate and a 20- to 30-day grace period. Stay away from cards that charge a processing fee or have low introductory rates that shoot up after a few months.
There is no easy way to teach a teenager about credit cards, but it is crucial they learn when they are young. Parents must monitor closely how their teen uses the credit card and above all stress paying the bill on time. Once they leave home, it becomes more difficult to monitor, teach and instill your values about the use of credit. ~Brenda
I read an interesting article about a parent that used PayPal to pay their kids for doing jobs around the house. They started this system when the kids turned 13 and were old enough to have a PayPal account.
There were certain chores which the kids were simply expected to do as members of the family…dishes, take out the trash, clean their rooms…; but other jobs like cleaning the garage or painting the fence were up for bid.
When the chores were posted on Saturday morning, the kids had to act fast. A $20 job today would be worth only $10 tomorrow. When the job was completed, the money was texted or emailed to the kid’s account using a PayPal app on their smart phone. The money showed up in the kid’s account instantly.
The money was held in an account attached to a debit card. If they wanted to buy junk food, they had to swipe the card at an ATM; that extra impediment was often enough to keep them from blowing all their money on Snickers and Chips.
As the kids got older, they became more motivated to work…for gas money. I see this system as a good way to teach money management in a plastic world and possibly a way for kids to pay for books and entertainment in college without fear of over spending with a credit card. What are your thoughts? ~Brenda
Earlier this year I replaced a dishwasher. That went well, but then three days later, I found I had water on the basement floor. In this case, Murphy’s Law meant there was need of a plumber to repair a leaky pipe. Just when you think everything is under control, something will happen.
Emergency saving is a constant work in progress.
One way to be ready for Murphy’s Law is to have an emergency savings fund. I had a friend that called it the “inevitable fund” – you don’t know exactly how the money will be used when you start saving, but you know it is inevitable that some need will arise.
One easy way to save is to collect your change weekly for the fund.
Another way is to Pay Yourself First – just like the bills you are paying, make an automatic “bill” to pay to a savings account from your checking account. You may want to have the savings account in a different bank – and watch it grow.
Things will happen, and your emergency saving will take a hit, so don’t stop saving! There will be another Murphy’s Law in your future.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a study that looked at 1001 consumers and their credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies (CRAs) – Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. FTC hired researchers to help consumers identify errors in their reports. One in four consumers in the study found an error in a credit report. Consumers were denied loans due to errors.
The study also found that 5 percent of the consumers identified errors in their reports that could lead to them paying more for mortgages, auto loans or other financial products.
The way to protect yourself is to review your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228 or visiting this website www.annualcreditreport.com This free site gives consumers access once in every 12 months to their credit reports from each of the credit reporting agencies. You will be asked to share your social security number and birth date and will need to answer a few questions regarding previous loans.
If you find an error, submit your dispute online to the appropriate credit reporting agency. The CRA has 30 days to respond to your dispute. The CRA will contact the lender under dispute. If a fix is made, the lender must alert all three CRAs of the error.
Another option: you can contact the lender directly regarding the error and ask the lender to provide the CRAs with correct information.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is authorized to write and enforce rules for the credit reporting industry and to monitor the compliance of the three agencies. To file a complaint: www.consumerfinance.gov/Complants.
Tax season is over for most folks. If you filed early, your refund may be gone by now. But before you close the book (or file cabinet) on tax season, take a moment to think things over.
If you received a big tax refund, ask yourself:
- Was I struggling to make ends meet each month during the year?
- Did I pay late fees or interest because money was tight?
- Would I be better off with an extra $50, $100, or $200/month in my paychecks?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you might want to consider having less tax withheld from each paycheck. That would increase your weekly or monthly take-home pay, making more money available for routine expenses and reducing financial stress throughout the year.
Yes, it would also mean that next year’s tax refund would be smaller. But that trade-off might be worthwhile if it helped you stay ahead throughout the year. And consider this — if you used a good portion of your refund to pay off bills you got behind on during the year, then having more money in your paychecks might prevent that. You’d actually come out ahead (avoiding interest or late fees) by changing your withholding.
Before taking this step, make sure you can expect next year’s tax situation to be similar to this year. Will your income, marital status and dependents be about the same? Will you be eligible for the same deductions and credits? If the answer is yes, then it should be safe to have less income tax taken out of your paychecks. Ask your tax adviser if you’re not sure.
A final note: many Iowans get large federal refunds, but not state. If you are one of those households, you might consider changing your federal tax withholdings, but leaving your state situation the same. Your employer’s payroll department can help you with this.
Since this is Money Smart Week, there’s no better time to do a personal financial check-up! Extension specialists at Rutgers University (New Jersey) have developed a “Financial Fitness Quiz” to help you do exactly that. www.njaes.rutgers.edu/money/ffquiz/
It’s called a “quiz” but it’s not about how much you know. Instead it is a check-up of your financial status – your habits and the protections you have in place. It takes less than 10 minutes, and gives you a score in when you are finished. I encourage you to check it out!
Assessing where your finances are already strong, and what areas need improvement is the first step to improving your financial well-being!
P.S. At www.njaes.rutgers.edu/money/ Rutgers has posted a few other financial assessment tools, as well, if you want to look deeper into a certain aspect of your finances.
Credit, Goals, Insurance, Retirement, Saving, Spending plans
We’ve lived in our house for 30+ years and have learned we have to be vigilant during heavy rains to check the basement for water. I’ve decided that in Iowa no basement is safe from this threat, no matter how carefully planned and designed.
Our homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover this kind of damage. Typically a policy might have language that covers a water line break, water damage from fires, or windstorm damage to the roof that results in water damage to the interior. I’m not in a high risk flood zone so we aren’t required to carry flood insurance. A low risk area means we could purchase the Federal Flood policy as an addition to our homeowner’s coverage for a modest price. Deciding if that would be a good choice is made easier with resources available from FEMA on their webpage: http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/ Check out the community resources page for a tool that will help you estimate costs for different levels of water in a 1000-2000 sq. ft. area. Flood insurance requires a 30 day wait period before the policy will cover damage, if the risk is great enough visit with your current homeowners insurance provider to learn limitations in your current policy and how to add this coverage.