Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically.

In continuation of our theme of Saves Week, here is another blog from America Saves.

The theme for America Saves Week 2012 is more than just a theme; it’s a simple set of instructions to help you save successfully. Set a Goal. Make a Plan. Save Automatically. Knowing what you want to save for, how to achieve it, and then making the savings process automatic will allow you to reach your savings goal.

Set a Goal
You can save more by having a goal in mind. Visualizing what you want to save for gives your savings a purpose. You may be tempted to withdraw from your savings if it has no purpose. But once you have a goal in place, you know that taking money out of your savings is taking away from that ultimate goal. So what are you saving for? An emergency fund, a home, retirement, a car?

Make a Plan 
Once you have your goal in place, make a plan of how you are going to save. To start, cut down on your spending and reduce high-cost debt. Next, keep track of what you spend and make a budget. Once you know where your money is going each month, you can cut down on unneeded spending and save the difference.

Don’t forget to keep your savings safe, secure, and growing. Banks, credit unions, and even the
government offer a variety of financial products that can help you save.

Save Automatically 
It can be hard to put aside money for savings. But there is an easy way to save money without ever missing it. Once you know how much you can save, make saving automatic. Many employers allow you to divide your paycheck into different accounts through direct deposit. Take advantage by putting part of your pay into a savings account. If you get paid in cash, take a small amount to the bank to deposit into a savings account each week.

Join America Saves to get tips and advice year round and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, February 20, 2012

America Saves Week February 19-26

In the spirit of North Carolina Saves Week, we are sharing the following blog from America Saves.

Most Americans today are not saving adequately for retirement, and most lower-income households do not have adequate emergency savings for unexpected expenditures. To help encourage people to save, America Saves, along with the America Savings Education Council, created America Saves Week. Started in 2007, around 2,000 organizations participate and millions of people are encouraged to better their finances. 

This year, America Saves Week is encouraging everyone to ‘Set a Goal, Make a Plan, Save Automatically.’ America Saves provides helpful tips for successful saving, because not everything is always easy done alone. Take a look at our 5 strategies for saving and see how they can help you. 

This year, America Saves Week is February 19-26 and when you join America Saves you will 
• Free subscription to our quarterly American Saver Newsletter 
• Free monthly email newsletters with savings advice 
• 100 bonus credits with SaveUp
• Free access to our members-only Savers Tracking Tool to help you reach your goals 

You can also get tips by receiving updates from Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Welcome, Wave 31!

New Century IDA is excited to welcome its 31st wave of participants into the program. Wave 31 met as a group for the first time this week at Experiment in Self- Reliance. This session was for orientation. Goals and expectations were discussed in preparation for the financial literacy classes that they will begin next month. Everyone left feeling excited about beginning their journey to home ownership and financial stability.

Barbara Johnson, New Century IDA program director, laid out expectations for the class and gave them some advice. A key theme of the night was to “stay in your lane.” At New Century IDA, we know that everyone has different hurdles they need to overcome and different challenges they will face. While everyone is working towards the same goal of home ownership, each person will take a different path. The important thing is to focus on your own action plan and what you need to do to achieve your goal.

New Century IDA participants have to want to achieve the goal of homeownership and be willing to work for it. Ms. Johnson said, “we’ll run when you run, we’ll walk when you walk, and we’ll stop when you stop.” New Century IDA will keep up with  you, but ultimately you have to want to become a homeowner and be willing to make the necessary sacrifices to make this dream become reality.

Ms. Johnson emphasized the fact that by participating in New Century IDA, clients are equipped with all of the tools they need to succeed. It is up to each client to put those tools to use. Staying in touch with your success coach is one of the most important parts of being successful in New Century IDA. Your coach can help guide you when you have questions and help you stay on track.

It was a fun evening. By signing up for New Century IDA, Wave 31 participants have taken the first step in their journey to home ownership. We look forward to working with you along this journey! Good luck!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What Does It Mean To Be Poor?

What do you think of when you think of being “poor”? In his article “Working Poor,” Alexander Eichler talks about what it means to be poor.  If being poor is defined as living at or below the poverty line, then 15% of Americans- or about 46 million people- are poor. But if being poor is defined as living off a decent income but hardly any savings, then it is  nearly half the country. These are people that do not live below the poverty line, but they don’t have enough money saved to weather an emergency.

Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, said, “The resources that people have- they are using up those resources. They’re living off their savings. They’re at the end of their rope.”

The Corporation for Enterprise Development released a report this week regarding liquid asset poverty households. According to the report, 43% of American households are liquid- asset poor. This means that if one of these households experiences a sudden loss of income, it would fall below the poverty line within three months.

The amount of people living asset poor underscores the effects of a struggling economy. Even though the Great Recession officially ended over 2 years ago, unemployment remains high and wages have remained stagnant.  However, you can receive a monthly paycheck and still be liquid asset poor.

David Rothstein of the nonprofit Policy Matters Ohio says that many people don’t realize how close they can be to one interruption to income or one interruption to health benefits. “They’re one paycheck away from being in debt.” Many Americans are not prepared for financial emergencies.

CFED suggests that while more intensive financial literacy is important in addressing this problem, it is also important to look at asset limits in public benefit programs. Some states restrict services like food assistance to households with few or no assets. Critics say that these policies deny help to many people in need. In a state with restrictive asset tests, a middle class family that faced a job loss would have to liquidate all of their assets and savings in order to qualify for benefits.

CFED suggests other measures that could help alleviate liquid asset poverty, such as strengthening consumer protections against payday lenders and making greater assistance available to first time homebuyers.

New Century IDA is proud to be involved in asset building by offering financial education and down payment assistance to first time home buyers in Forsyth County. What ideas do you have for eliminating asset poverty in our area?