Here’s How to Prepare your Finances

finances

With the additional $600 per week unemployment benefits coming to an end this week, it is important to think about the ways in which you can prepare your finances for the months ahead. Many Americans are currently jobless and have been relying on these additional COVID-19 related unemployment benefits. There is much uncertainty as we navigate through the pandemic the best we can, but there is great value in coming up with a plan to start saving and getting your finances in order as your benefits may decrease in the coming months. 

Here are some key ways to be prepared for your future and what you should expect as any additional unemployment relief comes to an end. 

Adjust your Budget 

A great place to start in uncertain times is with your budget. Sit down and attempt to cut out all unnecessary expenses along with looking into other options that may be cheaper. It’s important to think of all your essential monthly costs and see where you can save a buck or two. For example, take a look at your housing, food, utilities, and car payments to see if there are places you can cut down. Also make sure to take a look at bank and credit card statements to cut out those annoying hidden fees or unnecessary charges such as ATM fees. Also, think about selling items you may not use anymore for some extra cash. 

Contact your Creditors 

If you have not already called your creditors, you should consider reaching out to them and discussing your options moving forward. If you are only able to pay the minimum payment on your credit card bill, make sure to let your creditors know so they can figure out a plan and help you out. Many creditors may be able to offer you “financial hardship assistance” so that you can keep your credit in good standing even if you can’t pay more than a certain amount each month.

Build an Emergency Fund Even if You Don’t Think You Can 

We all know it’s important to have a cash cushion, especially in times of economic crisis. However, it can be difficult to think about how to build one when you are already strapped on cash. But, it’s never too late to start saving. The first step is to start reducing any debt. You should also try to put yourself into a “saving mindset” by incrementally setting aside a small stash of cash every month. You can contact your bank to set up auto payments to your savings account each month, which will help you get consistent with your saving habits. 

Expect a Drop in Your Credit Score 

While it’s important to maintain a strong credit score, in times of financial crisis it is okay to expect a drop in your score. As mentioned above, make sure to give your creditors a call to keep them in the loop about your situation. Also, if you are unable to pay your credit card balance in full, at least pay the minimum amount to keep your credit stable. 

Understand Your Costs

When you are strapped for cash, it is important to know which bills you should be prioritizing, for example, housing payments. While the additional unemployment relief is ending, so are the eviction moratoriums. Make sure to do some research and have a conversation with your creditors, landlords, and banks to fully understand the regulations and rules associated with your payments. 

Get Creative and Seek out Resources

Our current environment is a new adjustment for everyone, so don’t be afraid to seek out help even if you never have before. Your local city and state government offer information and resources ready to help you. When the additional coronavirus unemployment relief runs out, you may be able to qualify for government programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and HEAP, according to CNBC. There are also many charities and organizations that are doing their best to help out those in need. 

Ask your friends and family for advice and we encourage you to seek out a financial advisor for guidance and clarify on your financial situation. If you have any questions or are uncertain about the future of your financial life, we are happy to help you in any way and help you figure out your financial future. Please contact us to schedule a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Recently Graduated? How to Establish A Good Credit Score

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Are you a recent college graduate? Are you starting your first job? While it’s extremely important to save money when you are first starting out, it’s also quite important to know how to spend money and understand the concepts behind your credit score and establishing good credit. 

Many consumers, especially those just joining the workforce, oftentimes don’t understand basic credit score concepts. Here are some tips on understanding credit and ways to establish a good credit score. 

As your first paycheck starts rolling in, make sure you are opening multiple lines of credit, including opening credit cards, putting your name on your school apartment lease, and signing your name on the comcast bill. However, when you open these lines of credit and sign your name, make sure you are paying your bills in full each month. If your roommate hasn’t paid your cable bill, make sure to stay on top of them so it doesn’t impact you down the road. However, if you have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and can’t pay the full bill, make sure you understand to pay the minimum and reach to your creditor to figure out a reasonable solution or game plan. 

Here are five important credit concepts that you should be aware of:

  1. Low credit scores can cost car buyers thousands more

According to the CFA and VantageScore Solutions survey, only 22% of consumers reported knowing that a low credit score borrower, when compared to a high credit score borrower, would likely pay over $5,000 in interest on a $20,000, 60-month car loan. With a low credit score, you are likely to only qualify for subprime auto loans whose annual interest rates often exceed 20%, the study says. 

Having a good credit score matters since not only will your interest on credit cards be less than those with worse-off credit, but so will the interest you pay on loans. Having healthy credit can earn you a lower interest rate on new loans and make it easier to qualify for financial milestones in life, like a first apartment or a new car.

  1. Your credit score actually measures your risk of not paying

Only 33% of those surveyed said that they know a credit score measures the borrower’s risk of not repaying a loan, while 14% thought it measures the borrower’s knowledge or attitude toward consumer credit.

You could have a good attitude about credit, but still have a bad credit score. The point is that your score illustrates to lenders how you would use the credit they extend to you. If you’re just beginning your credit journey, know that you need credit to build credit. Once you start using your credit card, lenders and card issuers like to see that you can use credit responsibly, which means using less than 30% of your available credit and paying your monthly bills on time and in full.

  1. Credit repair companies charge for services you can sometimes do yourself

Before you sign up for a credit repair service advertised to you, know what it will cost. While over two-fifths (42%) of consumers surveyed may be right that credit repair companies are usually helpful in correcting any credit report errors or helping to improve one’s credit score, these companies tend to charge relatively high fees to do what you could do on your own for free.

  1. Your age has nothing to do with your credit score, except for how long you’ve been borrowing credit

Nearly half (48%) of the survey respondents reported thinking that age is a factor used to calculate a credit score. The truth is that your age doesn’t matter in calculating your credit score, only your use of credit matters. In fact, the five components that make up your credit score include your payment history, utilization rate, length of credit history, new credit, and credit mix.

  1. Utility companies can check your credit score

Your credit score is a good picture of how likely you are to pay your bills on time, but the survey found that only 50% of consumers know that an electric company can use credit scores to determine the amount of deposit you make.

Unless you have a perfect credit score, there is always room for improvement. The bottom line is that when you are just starting out, it’s easy to overlook the small steps needed in establishing a good score. However, having a good credit score is something that should be maintained and will impact many financial decisions you are able to make in your lifetime. If you have any questions about your credit score, how to obtain credit or how to fix a bad credit score, please contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.

 

Are Your Employees Stressed At Work?

funancial wellnes

Implementing a Financial Wellness Program for Your Employees: A Guide

Over the past few months as we have all been living through the pandemic, anxieties are at an all time high, especially those relating to finances. There have also been notable impacts on employee productivity and engagement. As an employee, your career should be a source of financial relief and security, not of worry and additional stress. 

Given these unprecedented circumstances and the uncertainty that comes with COVID-19, ensuring that your employees feel a sense of financial stability is more important than ever. Implementing a financial wellness program within your company is a great way to ease anxieties and improve workplace satisfaction amongst your employees.  

What Is a Financial Wellness Program? 

Financial wellness programs are designed to alleviate the financial worries of your employees. They go beyond mere financial understanding; they promote a healthy relationship with money by offering the appropriate tools and guidance. These programs combine employee-centric education and application to yield better results. 

How to Implement a Program 

There’s no perfect financial wellness program; the best program for you depends on the nature of your business and the needs of your employees. There are many ways you can go about it: do you want to use a platform specially designed for financial wellness programs, or do you want it to be more of a program customized in-house? What do you want the focus to be? What would best benefit your employees?

Here at Sherman Wealth, we offer financial wellness services for employees and work with many local small businesses in establishing and implementing the right financial wellness program for their firm. We strive to develop a well-being strategy that will empower employees to learn, plan and make real changes to reach their goal of financial stability and success. If your company is in need of a financial wellness program, reach out to us and we will be happy to help you implement a unique program that is right for your team. Please let us know if you have any questions and contact us to get started!

 

Fees & Your Investments: What You Need To Know

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Whether your investment portfolio consists of a 401k or multiple brokerage and retirement accounts, it is important to understand the fees associated with your investments which can dramatically lower returns over the years. Here are some fees you should look out for. 

Account Fees:

For 401k accounts, there are typically fees charged by the plan provider to administer the plan. Brokerage accounts may also have various account service fees, so check the fine print for more details. Sometimes these are waived if you opt-in to electronic delivery and or meet certain account minimums.

Fund Fees:

When it comes to fund fees, ETFs tend to be lower cost than mutual fund fees. Most ETFs are passively managed index funds, while most mutual funds are actively managed funds although the reverse also exists. Actively managed funds will have higher fees, but fees will also vary depending on the underlying assets.

Expense Ratio

The expense ratio is the annual fee that ETFs and mutual funds charge their shareholders. It is expressed as the percentage of assets deducted for fund expenses such as management fees, administrative fees, operating costs, and all other asset-based costs incurred by the fund. Mutual funds also include 12b-1 fees in the expense ratio, which ETFs do not have. What is not included in the expense ratio of a fund is the cost to trade the fund itself.

Mutual Fund Specific Fees:

12B-1 Fees

These mutual fund fees are charged annually and are considered to be an operational expense associated with a fund’s “marketing and distribution.” This could be anything from paying brokers to sell the funds or providing sales incentives. These fees are included in a fund’s expense ratio meaning the higher the 12B-1 fee, the higher the expense ratio. Investors can locate more information about these particular fees in a fund’s prospectus.

Front-End Load Fees

Front-end load fees are paid out to a broker in the form of commission when he or she sells a mutual fund. When an investor purchases a front-end load mutual fund, a percentage of their investment, usually 2% to 5%, goes to the broker. 

Back-End Load Fees

Also known as a deferred sales charge or DSC, back-end load mutual funds charge a penalty fee if you sell your shares within five to ten years. Fees are highest within the first year of purchase, and decrease each year until the end of the agreed-upon holding period. 

Trading Costs:

Transaction Fees

Despite a trend of more brokerages offering free transactions, transaction fees still exist when buying and selling investments. The price range of transaction fees varies, and it should be an expense to keep track of if you make lots of transactions over time. 

Bid-Ask Spread

The bid-ask spread is a truly hidden cost to trading and is referred to as an implicit cost. This is the difference between the price to buy a security and to sell a security, which are not the same. Highly liquid securities will have very tight spreads, making this cost minimal, but it is important to pay attention to the liquidity of the fund. 

Advisor Fees:

Looking for someone to manage your finances? 

While some advisors are commission based and make money through the commissions associated with each investment transaction, here at Sherman Wealth, we are a fee-only (RIA) financial planning advisor, and can help you manage your finances and encourage you to think differently about your money.

As a fee-only registered investment advisor (RIA), we charge a flat rate for our services. RIAs have a fiduciary responsibility to act in their clients’ best interests. Unlike investment brokers who can end up costing the client a lot of money depending on the frequency and volume of trades, we provide advice and make transactions without taking commission-based compensation. RIA’s  tend to use low-fee investments, including low-cost no-load mutual funds, individual stocks and bonds and investments that do not have 12B-1 fees.

If you have any questions or think we could be of service to you, please sign up for a free 30-minute consultation here. We would be happy to help you and answer any questions you may have. 

 

Systemic Racism, Financial Inequality & Supporting Black Businesses

We want to talk a bit about the idea of systemic racism and the economic inequality that most minorities face as a result.  We also want to encourage our listeners to do what they can to support black/minority owned businesses, especially during these even more challenging times.