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Money Management International Improving Lives Through Financial Education
SUCESS NewsletterFinancial Education Newsletter
 
Build wealth: America Saves Week

MMI Copywriter

By Kim McGrigg, MMI Community Manager

During unstable economic times, many American consumers find saving difficult. While the lackluster economy has caused more Americans to save more and spend less, the consumer savings rate is still relatively low. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that personal savings dropped from 6.2 percent in May 2009 to 4.7 percent in November 2009. In an effort to promote personal savings, America Saves Week was created as a national campaign to help individuals and families build wealth through saving. This year, America Saves Week is February 21 through 28.

According to America Saves, most Americans do not have adequate savings to meet major emergencies, let alone accumulate enough savings for retirement. The typical American household has less than $100,000 in net wealth, including home equity and 401k accumulations, and only about $10,000 in net financial assets. This picture is even worse for lower income families. According to a recent survey, the typical amount Americans spent last year on unexpected expenditures was $2,000. Lower-income households in the survey cited the same amount which represents a much larger percentage of their overall income.

Fortunately, saving money is a skill that anyone can learn. During America Saves Week, consumers have the opportunity to learn how to get out of debt, stop living paycheck-paycheck, and build a healthy savings cushion for future expenditures. In conjunction with the America Saves movement, the financial experts at Money Management International (MMI) offer the following advice to jumpstart your savings potential.

Get out of debt. Debt and lack of savings go hand in hand. You’ll be in much better position to save and build wealth once you eliminate existing debt.

Make it automatic. Having money automatically deducted from your checking account into a savings account helps to ensure that you meet your savings’ goal. Even better, if your employer has the capability to automatically deposit your paycheck, have some of the funds directed into a savings account.

Use gifts wisely. If you receive unexpected funds, do not be tempted to spend them frivolously. Instead, put all money received from tax refunds, inheritances and gifts into an interest-bearing savings account.

Enroll in employment retirement plans. Participate in your company’s retirement plan, particularly if they have a “matching funds” program. Not participating in this type of program is literally leaving money on the table and passing up significant tax advantages. If a company program is not available to you, consider establishing an Independent Retirement Account (IRA).

Through the efforts of America Saves, many Americans will find financial freedom in saving. Research shows the benefit of saving is priceless. Besides having more money in your pocket, having savings to rely on can decrease stress and increase peace of mind. Visit AmericaSavesWeek.org to get more information about America Saves Week. There, you’ll find saving strategies and can take the pledge to become an American Saver.

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MMI offers tips for understanding the CARD Act

 

While only 10 percent of respondents in a recent Money Management International (MMI) Back to School survey believe students should use credit cards to finance college costs, many students get their first credit card while they are in college. In fact, 84 percent of undergraduates have at least one credit card, according to a 2009 Sallie Mae study of how undergraduate students use credit cards. Beginning February 22, 2010, college students will find it much harder to get credit as the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act) goes into effect.

The CARD Act establishes new provisions for extending credit to underage consumers:

  • Consumers under the age of 21 must have a cosigner or an independent means of repaying the debt (such as a job). Before the cardholder reaches age 21, the cosigner is required to approve any increase in the credit limit in writing.
  • Unsolicited, prescreened credit card offers to consumers under age 21 are banned by the CARD Act.
  • Credit card companies are no longer allowed to give away promotional items on or near college campuses or at college sponsored events. With permission from universities, credit card companies may still set up tables on campus, but may no longer give away freebies (t-shirts, hats, blankets, etc.) to entice students to sign up for credit cards.

The CARD Act takes measures to protect underage consumers, especially the undergraduate crowd.

MMI recommends the following tips to college students and their parents on the responsible use of credit.

  • Think before you cosign. Cosigning carries many risks because the primary borrower’s mistakes will end up on both signers’ credit reports. If you want to help your child build credit, first set some ground rules and discuss the responsible use of credit before you sign.
  • Students should take a lesson in personal finance. Many colleges are now offering classes in personal finance. These classes can be applied in the real world when it comes to making smart decisions about retirement, savings, and credit.
  • Check your credit report. Whether your credit is well established or you are just starting out, regularly ensuring your credit report is accurate and error-free is smart. Request your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

 

 


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About Money Management International

Money Management International (MMI) is a nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency, providing confidential financial guidance, financial education, counseling and debt management assistance to consumers since 1958. MMI helps consumers trim their expenses, develop a spending plan and repay debts. Counseling is available by appointment in branch offices and 24/7 by telephone and Internet. Services are available in English or Spanish. To learn more, call
800-762-2271 or visit moneymanagement.org.


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