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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

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

When Is The Best Time To Negotiate Your Salary?

An employer ask you to take a seat and you start talking about the job as he looks over your resume. You are thinking really hard about all your qualifications that will get you this job. The employer then ask what sort of salary are you looking for. Is this the right time to tell him what you want to be paid? The answer is no, not just yet.

First, think of when you go to the store and you are looking at clothing.  Think about when you first see something you want! You are very interested and you have to buy it. What stops you? For most people, it is the price tag.  What happens when the retailer asks you to try it on before you see the price? Most people that see the merchandise on them before they see the price tag are more than likely to buy it. This is the same thing with employers: you want them to commit to liking you before you talk about how much you are worth. Don’t let them screen you out because you are over their budget.

The employer asked early on in the conversation how much you are wanting to get paid, so what do you say?  To postpone the salary talk until you have been offered the job reply, “I’m sure we can come to a good salary agreement if I am the right person for the job, so let’s first agree on whether I am.” Or: “Salary? Well, so far the job seems to have the right amount of responsibility for me, and I am sure you pay a fair salary, don’t you?” (What can they say here?) “So let’s hold off on the salary talk until you know you want me. What other areas should we discuss now?”

You may think this seems bad that you are trying to avoid the employer’s question, but think of it from the glass half full side instead of half empty. The employer may be impressed that you’re wanting to make sure you are a good fit before you talk about how much you want to be paid. The more qualifications the employer knows you have, the more he is willing to pay you. So by postponing the salary talk until you have been told you are the right person, you will not get screened out and their salary offer may go up.

Resource:  Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make $1000 a Minute

Tyler Larson
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

Avoid Santa’s Claws

Did you survive Open Early Thanksgiving?  How about Black Friday?  How much did you send to Amazon on Cyber Monday?  The family hasn’t even finished their turkey or watched the football marathon and yet Santa has his claws out…saying “buy….buy….buy!”  You might have survived the mobs – but how is your checking account, credit card, or spending plan doing?  Has Santa clawed his way through those yet?

The Thanksgiving break was a nice relief before term papers and finals week, but you might have already cratered your finances if you weren’t careful.  According to ABC News, most Americans have already spent about $450 this season, and will fork over $700 to Santa before we watch the Little Apple drop in Aggieville on New Years Eve.

If you don’t have a spending plan for the holiday season, you might ring in the New Year with a new friend:  the debt humbug.  To avoid the humbug, here are a few simple things you can do.  First, have a written spending plan.  Some people call them budgets, but a plan seems like a more friendly way to put it.  The best thing is to earmark a little money each month for the holiday season.  That’s the best way to handle an irregular expense, spread it out over the entire year.  And don’t just plan for gifts – those trips home for the holidays can get expensive depending on how far you have to go.

Another thing you can do is give gifts that don’t cost a lot of cash.  A gift of your time will be really appreciated, and will be remembered long after that trinket has been put in the closet or the basement (or the re-gifting pile!). Offer to clean out a closet, rake the yard, housesit the dog while your friends are away, or help someone take down the holiday decorations.  Or make a homemade gift.  Homemade gifts and gifts of service are unique, and are only limited by your imagination.

The last thing you can do is talk with your family about focusing more on fun time with family and less time on spending.  In my family we got to the point where we didn’t know what to get someone, so we spent time running around getting gift cards.  Then we’d get together and exchange gift cards with each other.  How lame is that?  We decided to just give one gift to each child, and the adults (college age or older) got a nice Christmas card and a homemade gift or gift of time.

If you need help with your holiday spending plan, or want some help dealing with the debt you already have, check out the Powercat Financial Counseling website at www.k-state.edu/pfc/  for some ideas with spending plans.  You can also sign up for a free counseling session on the website, or give us a call at 785-532-2889.  Trained peer counselors are ready to help deal with Santa’s claws and avoid the debt humbug.

 

Rob Jones
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc
 

Joining Finances?

Are you a newlywed or thinking of joining your finances together with your significant other?  Instead of jumping in head first, you should do your research.  Here are some tips to consider when deciding how to join your accounts.  Remember both parties need to communicate, decide on a joint or individual account, or both, and ask about online banking.

Talk openly and honestly about finances with your spouse so you can begin to understand how they handle money.  Both parties involved need to decide how they will share the task of managing their money and expenses.  Take into consideration each other’s strengths and weaknesses; maybe one of you is more organized with money and should be in charge of paying the bills.  Agree on a budget to plan for everyday expenses and reach long-term goals together.  Set some ground rules, such as which types of expenses you need to decide on together, and how much either of you can spend without consulting the other party.

Then, you must decide if a joint account or individual accounts works best for you.  If you are having troubles deciding if joint, individual, or both is best you are not alone.  Many couples open joint accounts and pay all their expenses jointly.  Other couples choose to have one joint account for shared expenses such as housing payments, and separate individual accounts for personal items such as clothing.  Still others prefer to keep individual accounts, and share the bill paying duties.  If you do choose joint accounts this means shared responsibilities.  Either of you can withdraw or transfer funds, and make payments.  If one of you overdraws the account or bounces a check, both of you are liable.  Each person will need the appropriate information and identification with him or her when applying for a joint account.  This includes Social Security numbers, driver’s license or other ID numbers, and employment information.  If you apply in person, you will both need to sign the application.

For joint checking accounts, and savings accounts with check-writing privileges, you get one checkbook.  You can both access the account, and any other accounts you have, through online banking.  Banks will have each of you choose your own username and password, so you and your spouse will have access to your joint accounts, and you alone will have access to your individual accounts.  You can view account balances and history, receive your bank statements online, transfer money into your joint account, set up services, and more.

Remember, there is not a “correct” way to join finances with another person, but it is important to make the best decision for you.  This decision will come with communicating and compromising on the best option to manage your money together now and in the future.

For more tips and ideas see http://news.yahoo.com/tips-combining-finances-getting-married-213600423.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/learnvest/love-and-money_b_1870705.html.

 

Ronika Ledesma
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling
www.k-state.edu/pfc

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