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Love Your Money

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People are willing to do a lot for someone they love such as try new things, change their style, and even relocate.  However, what are they willing to do for their money?  Sometimes it can be misplaced, torn up, abandoned, left unprotected, and even thrown away on insignificant things.  What if you treated your money as special as you would treat someone you love?  Things you may do are…

Make Time For It

When you love someone, you may hang out more and more and structure your day around him or her.  How much time do you take for your finances though?  Try carving out some time in your day or week to:

Just like relationships, your money can flourish if you put in the time to get to know it and make a point to include it in your everyday living.

Show It What It’s Worth

You may buy flowers or gifts, go out to a nice dinner, and even spoil each other to outwardly show your love and communicate your significant others’ worth to you.  However, the cumulative cost of junk food, drinks at the bar, bank fees, and other spending that will seem insignificant further down the road when you’re going to purchase a new car, have a child, or retire.  Instead, show money its worth through:

  • Smart shopping (i.e. sales, coupons, and discounts)
  • Memorable spending (i.e. experiences in place of material goods)2
  • Mindful prioritization (i.e. saving for a coffee maker later instead of a cup of coffee now)

Prioritize It

As relationships progress, your significant other becomes a bigger and more important part of your life.  This may lead to changes in how you structure your day, the traditions you create, and the sacrifices you make for the betterment of the relationship.  Likewise, your financial priorities change throughout life and become more and more necessary in order for you to accomplish your financial goals.  Some current wants may need to be cut back in to make room for saving up for more special wants (i.e. vacation) and future needs (i.e. house payment).  Steps to prioritizing your spending to enhance your financial relationship:

  1. Brainstorm financial goals
  2. Make your goals SMART3
    1. Specific (what why and how)
    2. Measurable (set dollar amounts)
    3. Attainable (realistic)
    4. Relevant (fits with bigger picture and your other goals)
    5. Timely (set dates)
  3. Calculate how to achieve your goals
  4. Tweak current budget and spending accordingly
  5. Find an accountability partner

Protect It

We want to do everything to protect the one we love both physically as well as emotionally from any pain.  Sometimes, life happens and we do the best we can to build back up and heal.  There are many ways to protect your money such as having an emergency savings to cover unexpected expenses and prevent debt or outrageous interest costs as well as consistently monitoring for identity theft and bank fraud.  Emergency savings should have 3-6 months’ worth of money in a relatively easily-accessible account to cover such things as medical bills, car repairs, or a loss of job.  You can monitor your credit through pulling a credit report at least every 4 months (https://www.annualcreditreport.com) and can protect from bank fraud by review your bank statements and utilizing credit card EMV technology when you can4.

Be Patient With It

Rushing into things can sometimes end up bad and sometimes the best things in life take time and hard work.  Your money probably won’t grow overnight (barring lottery winnings and surprise inheritance), so you’ll need to be patient with it and continue to nurture it.  Interest rates are most beneficial over time and frequent changes in investments may not pay off.  The market changes every minute, but despite dips and turns, a lot of investments pay off if you are patient and wait out the lows.

Commit

So you’ve spent some time together, you’ve gotten to know him or her more, and you’ve decided that he or she is worth prioritizing.  The next natural step is to decide whether you want to stay together in the future and beyond.  Rather than staying focused on the present, you may make a commitment for the long-haul.  Similarly, this may be something beneficial to do with your finances.  Picture your life with it in the future and what you want that to look like.  You’ve mastered saving for emergencies and upcoming trips, now what about for retirement or future children’s educational expenses?  These decisions come with more of a commitment due to the limitations on their spending, but can be truly beneficial in the future should you follow through on the commitment.  Time is your greatest ally in the realm of saving and investing.

Resources

  1. http://www.k-state.edu/pfc/planning/Financial%20Goals%20Worksheet%20-%20Specific.pdf
  2. http://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2013/08/05/want-to-buy-happiness-purchase-an-experience/#34522db1704d
  3. http://freefrombroke.com/guide-setting-smart-goals-finances/
  4. http://blogs.k-state.edu/pfc/2015/10/05/credit-cards-are-changing-are-you-ready/

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Counselor III
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

10 Tips for Job Seekers

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“January and February are always big months for hiring, regardless of what’s happening with the economy. Companies have new budgets, new positions, and a need for workers”. – SaltMoney.org. With this in mind, you may find yourself gearing up for your last semester and preparing for spring graduation.  How do you stand out from other applicants? What is proper interviewing etiquette?  Below are 10 quick tips for you to keep in mind during interviewing season:

  1. Clean up your social media – Performing a social media cleanup is an important step in the job search process. Employers can, and will, check social media outlets prior to interviewing candidates. Remember, what you post online is a part of your personal brand and proper online etiquette is a must.  Review your personal accounts before you begin sending out resumes and filling out job applications. Taking down those Aggieville and spring break pictures may not be such a bad idea…
  1. Build your network – Your network is already bigger than you think! Reach out to professors, family members, or those you have met within your industry. Do not hesitate to ask for a hand; at some point, we have all had to ask for assistance. In fact, most people are happy to help.
  1. Start applying now – Many students make the mistake of starting the job search process too late. It is important to allow yourself time to send out resumes, attend initial and follow-up interviews, and potentially finalize salary offers and prepare for relocation.
  1. Target your resume and cover letter – Do not make the mistake of generalizing your cover letter and resume. Customization is key in standing out from other applicants.  Prepare these documents to reflect the skills and knowledge required for each and every position you apply to.
  1. Be confident – Be confident in your skills, experience, and education. Be ready to answer questions honestly about your strengths and weaknesses, and be able to cite examples of when your skills were put to the test. Remember, millennials (anyone born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) have been dubbed an entitled generation, so be sure to remain self-aware.
  1. Know the company – Job seekers often only glance at the company website before their interview. Take time to review the company website in depth.  Know what the company stands for, who they are, and have a firm understanding of what the company does.
  1. Show appreciation to the interviewer –Young applicants also often fail to conclude an interview with an expression of gratitude for the interviewer’s time. Always thank the interviewer in person, make it clear you would consider it a privilege to work at the company, and ask about the next step in the process. Then, follow up with a handwritten thank-you note or email that references specifics discussed in the interview. – According to Forbes.
  1. Don’t give up – The job search process can be timely and frustrating. Continue searching and applying until you find the job that is right for you!
  1. Take advantage of campus opportunities – Kansas State University campus hosts a variety of job fairs, interview and resume workshops, and many other opportunities to sharpen your skills, and facilitate job searches. Be mindful of these great opportunities and check out upcoming ones through Career & Employment Services.
  1. Visit Powercat Financial Counseling – PFC offers peer-to-peer financial counseling for students transitioning from school to work. A trained counselor can review your job offer packet and answer questions regarding your finances and benefits offered as you prepare to enter in to the workforce.

Good luck as you begin the journey towards your future and congratulations for getting this far!

Emily Koochel
Graduate Assistant
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.ksu.edu./pfc

Healthy Finances for Healthy Eating

Money is already tight as a student, which makes eating healthy a difficult thing to do.  So many other things compete for our money that living on Ramen can seem like the smart thing to do.  However, it’s important to consider your health and your body when deciding what choices to make in diet.  There are many ways to save money and not compromise health as a result:

Meal Planning

Meal planning is one of the most effective ways to save money at the grocery store.  The phrase “don’t shop when you’re hungry” is highly used because it’s highly relevant.  Even when you’re not hungry, shopping without a plan can result in a cart full of items that may go bad before their used or may remain in your pantry for months along with other items that you may end up throwing away when you move out.

Instead, have a plan on what you want to eat throughout the week.  Make a list of what you need for each meal that week, excluding what you already have at home.  Find a way that is most convenient to make such a list, adding in regular or irregular grocery items such as milk, snacks, cereal, etc…

Meal planning can lighten the stress on your bank account as well as on the grocery store trip itself because you’ll be more prepared to avoid items you don’t need and know where to go to find the items you do need.

Buy In Bulk

Another great way to save money is to buy items in bulk.  Sometimes, it can cost less per unit price to buy a lot at once, especially when it comes to items such as meat or cheese.  Make sure to avoid the trap of buying in bulk when it isn’t necessary, however.  Many items may look like a deal to buy the larger containers, but that’s not necessarily true.  Check the unit price numbers to compare different sizes and prices to ensure you’re getting the best value.  Also be careful not to become wasteful when buying in bulk.  If it can’t be reasonably used or frozen before it spoils, it’s a waste of money to buy in bulk.

Freezer Meals

Now that you have bulk items, what do you do with them?  One useful and time-saving tip is to create freezer meals.  This entails putting all the ingredients for a meal in one or multiple resealable freezer bag (i.e. Ziplock), writing instructions on how to cook the meal (i.e. thaw, oven temperature, time to cook, etc…) and sticking it in the freezer to be pulled out the day of or night before to cook.  If you’re cooking for 1 or 2, it may be helpful to divide up the recipes accordingly or plan on eating the leftovers.  You can search for many recipes of this variety online.

Crock Pot Meals

Crock Pots are the perfect tool for students leading busy schedules.  Crock pots allow you to throw everything into the pot and let it sit for hours while you’re in class, at work, in a meeting, or even while you sleep at night.  When you’re done for the day, the meal is ready for you to eat.  Another perk of Crock Pot meals is that you can make multiple meals for the week at once, saving you time and money.  If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like eating the same meal twice, feel free to get creative and spice things up to the leftovers to make it unique.  Having a meal already prepared will help you resist the urge to eat out for convenience sake after a long, tiring day.

Make Your Own Servings

Generally speaking, single-serve items such as snacks, freezer meals, and individually packaged items are significantly more expensive than if you were to individually portion them yourself.  Taking the time to sort out your snacks into reusable or even ziplock bags can save you lots of money at the store while still providing you with the convenience of grabbing and going in the morning.  Not only will it help with cost and convenience, prepackaging your own portions can help you also with limiting your snacking to the appropriate and healthy serving size.

Buy in Season

One of the biggest expenses at the grocery store can come from the produce section.  It can be difficult to eat produce before it goes bad, especially when you’re only buying for yourself or for two.  On top of this, many produce items vary in their expenses month to month.  It’s important to know which produce items are in season when you’re shopping because that’s when you’ll get the best deal on them.  The following chart can help you decide which items to plan for your meals depending on what season it is.  Try to avoid getting off-season produce because it can be a burden on the bank.  Instead, experiment with new fruits and vegetables that are in season.

Brands

A simple way to save money without changing much of your habits or taking extra time in the week can be by switching to generic label items.  Brand names are more advertised and well-known, but aren’t necessarily much different than the same items made by the grocery store company itself.  Switching to Safeway, Kroger, Great Value, or Hyvee brand items will add up over time and over products without you having to change your lifestyle or even take the time it may take when planning meals, doing freezer or crock pot meals, creating your own servings, or buying in season.

Coupons

And lastly, using coupons can be very helpful, if used properly.  At times, using coupons can actually hurt your finances more than help when you find yourself buying items you didn’t need or won’t use in time.  However, if coupons are available for items that you were going to buy regardless or even if you specifically  meal plan around coupons, it can be a very financially smart thing to do.  Many grocery stores have apps with coupons on them.  You can also find coupons on the back of receipts and from simple searches online.

There are hundreds of other ways you can save money at the grocery store while avoiding compromising your health.  You can learn even more by attending the workshop Eating Healthy on a Budget on Monday, October 26th at 6:00 PM in the Union Flint Hills room.  Resources, recipes, and tips will be provided as well as free food to the first 30 attendees.

Christyne Stephenson
Peer Counselor III
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Setting Financial Goals

April is Financial Literacy Month, and Powercat Financial Counseling is taking this opportunity to write a series of articles related to basic financial management.  To kick the month off, we’re starting with setting financial goals.

Planning Ahead

Setting goals, especially financial ones, can be a challenging, and sometimes daunting, task.  Having goals is important, though, in that they give you something to aim for and work towards.  To quote Zig Ziglar, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” A good place to start is to think about your life in the future.  How do you want to live?  What do you want your life to look like?  Do you want to be debt free, buy a car and a house, start a family, or travel?  How will you accomplish these tasks and get to the life you really want?  Thinking about these things now is important.  When you graduate and enter the workforce, it is easy to get caught up in your daily routine and not give much thought to your future.  You will probably be inclined to think a few weeks or months ahead, but it might be hard to think a few years ahead.

Short-term vs. Long-term:

A short-term goal is one that is set for two years or less, and a long-term goal is one that is set for five or more years.  Some examples of short-term goals are planning for spring break and summer trips and building an emergency fund, while long-term goals might be buying a car, buying a house, or paying off student loans.  Even if you have trouble coming up with specific savings goals, you should still try to save whatever you can.  A good first goal for everyone, which should be a priority, is an emergency fund.  An emergency fund is a separate store of money which you access only in emergencies (ordering a pizza in the middle of the night because you don’t have food around is not an emergency).  If your car suddenly got a flat tire, how would you pay for it?  If you lost your job all of a sudden, where would the money come from to get you by until you get another job?  These are the types of situations in which an emergency fund would be useful.  It is recommended that you work up to having three to six months’ of living expenses saved up in the event you lose your job or are unable to work due to an injury.  This may seem like a lot of money, and depending on your situation, you as a college student could probably afford to wait a little while to get to the point of having this much saved.  Your parents may be willing to bail you out if something comes up.  But it is still a good idea to have at least $500 to $1,000 on hand in case of emergencies.  Life happens: will you be prepared when it does?

SMART Goals

When setting goals, it is important to define them well.  Your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, or “SMART.”  If your goal doesn’t have these characteristics, you will likely give up on it.  This is why it is important to write out your goals with these specifications and keep it somewhere where you will see it on a regular basis.  You will also want to prioritize them.  It is important to note that your goals may change over time and to review them periodically to make adjustments as necessary.  Set a reminder for yourself every few months to review your goals and see if you need to adjust them.  Maybe something came up since you set and prioritized your goals, or perhaps your goals will drastically change once you graduate; if so, you will want to make the necessary adjustments and re-prioritize.

Motivation to Save

Some people find saving to be difficult for them, whether it is because they feel like they are depriving themselves or they have loans to repay that they don’t think that they can save.  One way to save without “missing” your money is to ask your employer or your bank to direct deposit a portion of your paycheck to a separate savings account.  The general recommendation is that you save 10% of each paycheck; however, be careful not to set aside so much that you aren’t able to pay for your immediate expenses.  Every little bit adds up, so save as much as is within your means even if it is only $10 or $20 a month.  If you are able to save more than 10%, that is great too.

“If you are failing to plan, you are planning to fail,” said Benjamin Franklin.  Planning really can be a challenge, especially if you don’t know how to start.  One website that might be helpful is Sorted.org: https://www.sorted.org.nz/a-z-guides/setting-goals#s6.  It helps you to organize your goals with its “goals worksheet” and walks you through the planning and implementation process, offering tips along the way.  It even talks about goal-setting in relationships, which can be even more of a challenge than setting goals on your own.

In closing, it is important to set goals in order to achieve the life you want.  Start thinking about it now and begin developing a plan to get you there.  You will want to evaluate the short term and the long term, but allow for some flexibility in case your desires or values change.  Saving as much as you can now and building up an emergency fund will pay off in the long-run.  Be on the lookout in the next few weeks for more helpful tips about personal financial management during Financial Literacy Month.  If you have any questions about setting goals or financial management and would like help with any of those, please make an appointment on our website: www.k-state.edu/pfc/services.  We provide free and confidential counseling to all K-State students.

Rachel Vogler
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Importance of Estate Planning

This may be hard to believe, but everyone needs an estate plan. Your estate includes your car, home, real estate, checking and savings accounts, investments, life insurance, furniture and personal possessions owned individually. It does not matter how well off you are, everyone has items or money that they would like to protect or pass along to their family.

Do not wait until you have hit retirement age to start your estate plan: the earlier you begin this process the better. We cannot predict how long we will live or if, at some point in our lives, we will be unable to communicate our wishes. An estate plan assists in making sure that your wishes and property are distributed and taken care of as you desired.

The most common reasons that people have for not creating an estate plan include: they do not see a need to, they do not plan on dying soon, they do not want to pay for professional estate planning services, they do not want to spend the time developing an inventory of their possessions, they do not want to discuss such issues with their family, they do not want to talk about their money, they do not want to scare their kids, and they do not trust their kids.

The fact is too many people put off creating an estate plan until it is too late and their families end up lost, confused, and having to pick up the pieces. Most states do have a plan for your estate if you die intestate (that is, without an appropriate estate plan) and you will might not like their plan as much as your own.

Do not wait. Start your estate plan now and change it as your life changes. Nothing has to be set in stone, just get started. Creating your estate plan will bring you peace of mind and protect your family. According to the American Bar Association, below are the top 10 things that estate planning can assist you with.

10 Things an Estate Plan Can Help With

  1. Provide for your immediate family.
  2. Get your property to beneficiaries quickly.
  3. Plan for incapacitation.
  4. Minimize expenses.
  5. Choose executors/trustees for your estate.
  6. Ease the strain on your family.
  7. Help your favorite charitable cause.
  8. Reduce taxes on your estate.
  9. Provide for people who need help and guidance.
  10. Make sure your business continues smoothly.

To learn more about each item go to the American Bar Association website at http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers/estatebenefits.html and find an attorney or Certified Financial Planner near you at http://www.cfp.net/.

References:

https://www.estateplanning.com/What-is-Estate-Planning/
http://www.seniorcitizensguide.com/articles/services/estates.htm

 

Camila Haselwood
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Money and Relationships

Research shows that money is the number one argued point in all relationships, and therefore we all need to spend more time talking about our finances with our partners. Sometime throughout life we have all probably experienced the profound effect money can have on our relationships. Money is a hard issue to talk about because it is usually a subject we are not necessarily overjoyed to sit down and figure out. Whatever relationship you may be in, when money is involved, you need to be taking time to talk with your partner and figure out your financial situation.

One major issue with money in relationships is where and how each person spends money. It is essential that a spending plan is made, with each person contributing to it, that each person will stick with. When there is a concrete spending plan in place that each person is willing to adhere to, the relationship can progress, and you can work towards accomplishing your financial goals. Listed below are some tips on what to keep in mind while you are making your spending plan.

1. Make money rules together
• Both you and the other person in the relationship need to agree on how you are going to spend your money. If one person comes up with a spending plan alone, the other person may not agree to it and therefore will not follow through with the plan. To be able to stay motivated to stick to a spending plan, each person needs to be involved in the planning process.

2. Be willing to compromise
• Both of you need to be willing to make compromises. For example, one person may not like the idea of spending money on eating out, but the other person may spend more money eating out than getting groceries. When sitting down together, you can figure out the perfect mix of eating out and buying groceries that works for both of you.

3. Express each of your perspectives about money
• Each person in the relationship needs to be honest in how they spend money and the reasoning behind their spending habits. Putting it out on the table for the other person to understand will make it easier to find a compromise in your spending plan and help the process.

4. Save for emergencies
• Each person should be putting money aside for emergencies. If you don’t save for emergencies, such as an unexpected car repair, it may cramp your other finances. By putting an emergency fund into your spending plan, you can be more prepared for unexpected expenses that may arise. The rule of thumb is to have 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund.

5. Seek outside help
• If you are struggling on how you should make a spending plan and are unsure if it will work, seek outside help. At Powercat Financial Counseling, we offer free, confidential counseling sessions for K-State students. Go to our website at www.ksu.edu/pfc and make an appointment if you want help in making a spending plan.

**For a spending plan worksheet, go to www.ksu.edu/pfc/budgeting/. On that page, click on spending plan worksheet and begin the process of creating your spending plan. **

Brooklyn Hnizdil
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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