7 ways to improve your finances during Financial Literacy Month

April is tax season, so a lot of people are thinking about their finances these days. But if you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking in the short term: What’s my refund going to be—or how much do I owe? And what is that going to do to my monthly budget?

It’s good to be thinking about those things. It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Financial Literacy Month, which is also in April, gives you the perfect chance to do just that. Surveys have showed that an alarming number of Americans lack even basic financial knowledge; in an era when we collectively have trillions of dollars in consumer debt, and many people live paycheck to paycheck, that can be a recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be that way! This Financial Literacy Month website, created by nonprofit credit-counseling firm Money Management International, features tools and resources to help you understand your finances better and build a bright financial future. In that spirit, we’ve come up with seven tips that can help you become more savvy with your money. Some are easy things you can do today. Others might take a little more work. But all are worth the effort!

1. Make your saving automatic. It’s important to have money set aside for emergencies—and to save for retirement. But once your paycheck hits your account, it can be a lot easier to just spend it all. The solution? Schedule automatic transfers to a separate account for your emergency fund, your retirement plan, or both. Start with something like 10%. You might even find that you don’t miss it.

2. Pay your credit cards off every month. If you can’t do this now, pay them down until you can. One popular way is the “snowball” method, which in a nutshell, works like this: Make only the minimum payment on all of your debts—except the smallest one. Put as much money as you can toward that. When the smallest debt is paid off, repeat the process and continue until everything is paid!

3. Check your tax withholding. People love getting big tax refunds, but that really means you’ve loaned the government your money over the course of the year—interest-free. For example, instead of a $2,500 refund in April or May, you could have more than $200 extra in your paycheck every single month. Wouldn’t that be nice?

4. Don’t throw away free money. Who would do that? Well, you—if your employer offers a match on your retirement savings and you don’t contribute enough to get the full amount. Say your company matches the first 3% of salary you contribute to a 401(k); you should save as much as you can, but at the very least, you’d want to save that 3%.

5. Pay less for services. Are you paying more than you should for cable, internet or your mobile service? Maybe not—but you won’t know unless you ask. Often, companies have discounts or special packages available, especially if you’re a loyal customer and you haven’t been on a promotional deal for a while.

6. Consider a credit card that rewards you. This can be a great way to earn points toward free travel or other rewards, just for buying the things you would buy anyway. Don’t spend more than you normally would just to get rewards, though. And remember, if you regularly carry a balance, the rewards probably won’t outweigh the interest you’re paying. (Go back to item #2 in our list.)

7. Track your spending for a while—and then review it. You probably spend money on a lot of little things without realizing how much it adds up. Maybe you get takeout for lunch a couple of times a week, or stop for coffee every day on your way to work. Try tracking everything you spend for a month or two. Then, take a look at your habits.

You’ll find areas where you can save, likely without even feeling like you’re making a sacrifice. Insurance is an important tool for your financial well-being, too. Even though it’s easy to think of insuring your car or home as protecting your “stuff,” insurance really protects your finances. After all, insurance can’t prevent your car from being hit by another driver—but it can pay for the repairs, so that money doesn’t come from your pocket.

Take a little time to think about your finances this month, and try one or more of the tips above. As with many things in life, when it comes to money, small steps can have a big impact!

©Safeco
Source: https://www.safeco.com/blog/financial-literacy

WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE IN AN ACCIDENT

We spend a lot of time in our cars, with the average American driver covering over a 1,000 miles a month. That is a lot of driving! With all those miles traveled you may find yourself in the unwanted situation of a car accident at some point in your life.
Read the tips below to learn what you should do if you’re involved in a car accident:
• Stay calm
– Keeping a normal demeanor helps you stay in control of the situation.
• Make sure you and your passengers are OK
– Move as far off the roadway as possible, but stay at the scene of the accident. Warn oncoming traffic by activating your hazard warning lights and/or setting flares.
• Call the police
– Call 911 or the appropriate emergency number to report the accident.
• Contact your insurance company and report the claim
– The sooner your insurance company knows about the accident, the sooner they can start working to resolve your claim.
• Do not admit fault
– Do not discuss the car accident with anyone other than the police and your claims representative.
• Exchange vital information with the other driver involved in the car accident
– Write down the name, address, phone number and license numbers for all drivers and witnesses, particularly those who were not riding in a vehicle involved in the accident. Ask for the insurance companies and policy numbers for drivers involved in the car accident.

source: Progressive

When – and Why – You May Need Umbrella Insurance ⛱

Here are a few cases when an umbrella policy is essential:

• Passenger Injuries
Driving around with friends, it can be easy to get distracted and go a little too fast. If an accident occurs and passengers are seriously injured, medical expenses can add up quickly – potentially totaling more than what an auto policy would cover. Without an umbrella policy, any liability expenses beyond the auto policy limits may be the driver’s responsibility.

• Dog Bites the Neighbor
Responsible dog owners take the time to train and socialize their pets. However, even breeds that aren’t typically associated with aggressive behavior can suddenly act out, despite our best efforts. If a pet badly injures a neighbor, the cost can go into the millions between medical bills and future disability.

• Faulty Furnace
Being a landlord is tricky business. Even with the most responsible management, rental properties can be a minefield of possible claims. If a furnace starts malfunctioning, a tenant may sue for brain damage caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. While all landlords should maintain their property and make repairs as needed, having a safety net in case of a major liability claim is equally important.

source: SafecoInsurance

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