Why Women Should Invest and How to Get Started

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Professional Woman

by Madison Blancaflor

Lately, women hear a lot about gaps: how to combat the gender pay gap, how to avoid a resumé gap when you take time off to raise children, whether or not a thigh gap matters (it doesn’t). One “gap” that isn’t discussed enough is the gender investing gap.

Women Are Less Likely to Invest Than Men, and That’s a Problem. According to Ellevest, an investment platform created by women for women, “of all the assets controlled by women, 71% is in cash – aka not invested.” Statistically, women are less likely to invest, and even those who do invest tend to wait until they are older to start.

Most women don’t think they know enough about investing to properly grow their savings; therefore, they wait to start investing until they feel they’re more financially stable and believe they can risk the possibility of losing money. A common misconception around investing is that you have to be an expert in the industry to succeed when the reality is that there are so many tools and resources that make easy to start investing with as little as your pocket change.

Why Should Every Woman Invest?

According to a study by Merrill Lynch, 41% of women wish they invested more of their money. But why is it such a necessary part of personal finance?

Financial Equality

First and foremost, it’s important for women to be able to achieve a sense of financial equality and independence. In the face of issues like the gender pay gap and the pink tax, investing is one of the best ways for women to ensure that they have the potential to accumulate the same amount of wealth as men.

“It’s important for women to be able to walk away from situations that are hurting or not serving them – whether that’s a bad job or a bad relationship,” comments Ellevest’s Susan Thompson. “You should be able to have your own financial power to make decisions that enable you to care for yourself.”

Reaching Financial Goals

Whether you are looking to go back to school, save up an emergency fund, send your kids to college, save up for a large spend like a house or wedding, or just grow your overall wealth, investing is arguably the best way to reach those goals.

Saving for Retirement

Women earn approximately 83 cents to every dollar a man earns, on average. That means that even if we’re saving the same percentage of our income as men, we’re not going to save the same amount. In addition, women also tend to live longer. Basically, less money has to last longer when women simply save their money without an investing strategy.

Many employers do a match on a 401(k) or similar retirement savings plan. If you’re unsure about whether or not investing is really a good option for you, enroll in your employer’s program and watch as your savings grow.

Why Is a Savings Account Alone Not Enough?

Cash that sits in a checking account, safety deposit box, or under the mattress is actually depreciating in value year-over-year because of inflation. That means you’re essentially losing money when you aren’t actively growing your savings.

Check out the chart below, and you can see that a solid investments strategy can help you grow your savings exponentially over the course of 10, 20, and 30 years.

Men are five times more likely to name investing as their number one financial goal, meaning that more men are achieving those exponential returns throughout their lifetime than women. Investing allows women to earn more money than a savings account alone, even with small monthly deposits.

How to “Invest Like A Woman”

Despite the stereotypical belief that we aren’t good investors, women actually tend to possess quite a few qualities that give us an edge in the market.

Kiplinger’s article on the secrets of women investors puts it perfectly: “Studies show that men are more inclined to behave like baseball sluggers, who swing for the fences, even if it means running the risk of striking out far more often. Women, by contrast, are more like contact hitters, who are satisfied with a string of singles.”

Because women approach risk differently, we’re less likely to see large swings in our portfolio values, meaning a steadier growth over time.

Studies have also found that women are:

  • Less likely to trade investments, which translates into almost a 1% higher increase in investment earnings per year than men (who trade 45% more frequently than women).
  • Long-term planners, meaning we focus on our specific growth goals rather than chasing risky returns that may end up costing us.
  • More likely to ask for financial help. Just because 60% of men think they are experts at investing does not mean they know everything there is to know about the market. Women being more willing to seek out trusted financial advice from experts in the industry give us more opportunities to grow our wealth.

So, how do you leverage these qualities in your investments strategy?

Choose a Strategy That Works for You

Not all investing strategies are created equal, and unfortunately, most of the “gender-neutral” investing tools available to the public ultimately hinder the potential earnings for women.

Ellevest released a side-by-side comparison of a retirement scenario where a man and a woman both started saving at 30 years old, earning $85,000, and investing 10% of their salaries over the course of 37 years.

The study found that because of the gender pay gap and the natural progression of women’s careers (our salaries tend to peak at 40 while men’s salaries tend to peak at 55, and women are much more likely to take long career breaks), the woman would have about $320,000 less by the time she retires based on average market returns. That means she’ll have less money to live off of even though she’s likely to live years longer than the man.

Take these differences into consideration when you’re defining your goals, retirement plan, and investment strategies.

Figure Out Budget Allocation

Experts suggest a 50/30/20 philosophy when allocating your budget. You should strive to keep your “needs” at 50 percent of your income – food, rent/mortgage, clothes, utilities, etc. Then, 30% should be dedicated to self-care. Have some fun, get a manicure, go out to eat with friends. Lastly, 20% should be saved or invested.

Figuring out how much you should invest vs. set aside in a short-term savings account comes down to how much risk you’re willing to undertake. Year over year, the market has been steadily rising, but that doesn’t mean that a return is guaranteed. The golden rule is to never invest more than you’re willing to lose, especially if you’re going after aggressive or volatile markets.

Once you decide, Susan Thompson suggests setting up automatic withdrawals each month, even if it’s only $20 a month.

“In our mind, investing should be a ritual like any other that we undertake,” said Thompson. “Make a habit of putting money back towards your future, even if it’s a small amount.”

Know the Basics

Even though you don’t have to be a stock market expert, knowing the basics can help you communicate your goals and understand what’s happening with your money.

Some of the different types of assets you can invest in:

Stocks. They represent a part ownership in a company or corporation, also known as business equity. Basically, when a company performs well, the stock tends to increase in value. Stocks tend to be more volatile investments, meaning they can give you a high return on your investment long-term but tend to have larger swings in value in the short-term.

Bonds. Also known as fixed-income investments, bonds are one of the most popular assets for conservative portfolios. While they tend to be more stable than stocks or other volatile investments, they also have a lower return potential.

Money Market Accounts. When investing in these types of accounts, you’re allowing the bank to make low-risk investments into certificates of deposit (CDs) or government securities. The best money market accounts are low-return, yet stable investment assets.

Real Estate. Property has a tendency to rise in value over time, and there is a subset of investors who specialize in transforming real estate investments into high returns.
Cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin and blockchain technologies are continuing to grow in popularity.

Conservative vs. Aggressive Investment Strategies

Investing and portfolio strategies are typically broken down into two main categories: aggressive and conservative. Aggressive strategies will put more money into stocks or other volatile markets such as cryptocurrencies. Conservative strategies will put more into bonds and money market accounts.

Aggressive investments typically get you a much higher return over time, but they’re also riskier. By contrast, conservative investments are more stable, but without the opportunity for the maximum return.

Your personal strategy can be a mix of both, and your strategy should ultimately be based on your financial goals, timeline, and risk tolerance.

If you’re looking at short-term financial goals such as saving up for a wedding or looking to pull together an emergency fund, a more conservative route will work best. This limits the risk of you losing money while still promising a good return.

However, if you’re looking to save for retirement over the course of 20 or 30 years, an aggressive strategy is going to get you the best return possible. While aggressive markets tend to fluctuate widely in the short term, the overall market trends upward an average of 10% each year. When you can afford to be patient in the market (something women are proven to be better at than men), an aggressive strategy can definitely pay off in your favor.

Also, remember that your investment strategy is not set in stone. As your financial goals change and as you get closer to when you plan on pulling money out of your investment accounts, it’s important to readjust your priorities and risk tolerance.

Choose the Right Investment Platform

If you don’t consider yourself an investment expert (and frankly, even if you do), getting professional help is a good idea. There are a lot of options out there for both the DIY-er and someone looking for one-on-one help. However, be careful about who you choose to trust with your money.

  1. Choose a fiduciary.

A fiduciary is a company or organization that is legally bound to do the right thing by their clients. Not all brokers or investment firms classify as a fiduciary, so make sure to ask before officially signing with anyone. If you find a great firm that isn’t a fiduciary, just make sure that they put client security and well-being above personal gain.

  1. Know their strategy.

Talk to any potential firms about their strategy for investments. Some firms craft personalized portfolios that you have a heavy hand in selecting. Others use a formula and automated system for choosing your investments. Every firm and platform is different, so make sure that the firm you choose uses a strategy that will work best for you.

For example, most robo-investment platforms use an investment algorithm that is based on a man’s salary projections and career lifetime, so they aren’t always the best choices for a personalized approach to fit a woman’s financial goals for the long-term.

  1. Consider your budget.

Take a serious look at the minimum balance requirements and fees for each platform or firm you’re considering. If you have a tighter budget, it will be worth it to find a platform or firm structured like Ellevest, where you can choose an account

  1. Trust your gut.

If you get an “off” feeling about a firm or platform that you’re considering, trust it. You are trusting a company with your financial future, and in order to do that, you have to trust that they are acting in your best interest. Take the time to find a platform or firm that serves you and your financial goals.

  1. Look for firms that support women.

While women investors are on the rise, there is still a gap between the number of men and women are in the investments market. Make sure you’re choosing a firm that will support your financial goals and understand the unique challenges that women face in the industry. Also take a look at the companies that these firms and platforms invest in. Are any of them led by women? Do they support women? While it may not immediately affect the return you get, choosing a firm or platform with a pro-women mindset will help us gain financial equality in the long-run.

Continue on to The Simple Dollar for the complete article

The iGen iEverything Train is Coming, but Are You Ready?

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Technology is being consumed at an ever increasing rate causing executives, managers, and process improvement experts on the factory floor to re-define the methods of training and dissemination that have become obsolete.

Critical skills and tribal knowledge are being lost as boomers retire and training plans for new employees fall short of preparing workers for the sophistication of the new manufacturing environment.

Move over millennials, here comes the IGen! Born between 1995 and 2005 this group of tech savvy natives is the next cohort and are just now entering the workforce. IGen, or Gen Z as they are often referred, have grown up in a world of social media where Youtube, Instagram, and Twitter reign supreme. These kids are a force to be reckoned with and require access to information in ways that are familiar, immediate, and actionable. Our success depends on them because as the IGen goes, so goes the manufacturing industry, the nation, and the world.

Alliance Resource Group, in partnership with Sify Technologies has pulled together experts from manufacturing, academia and automated methodologies to develop a solution that addresses the manufacturing challenge of this next generation and identifies the key components of a successful framework including content management, dissemination methodology, scalability, and integration with current learning management systems. These components constitute a micro-learning strategy that facilitates current and future state requirements.

Alliance Resource Group (ARG), is a service disabled veteran owned business located in Newport Beach California. With a foundation in resource management, recruiting, and consulting,  ARG provides services to small and medium size companies throughout the United States.

View the ARG White Paper here! Better be prepared for total process transformation if you want to remain competitive.

6 Apps That Save Your Money While You Barely Lift A Finger

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Apps do a lot of things, including help us spend money. To kick off the year right, we’ve rounded up some apps that help us save ― or at least help us spend less. Here are a few that could tune up your budget in 2018, with hardly any effort on your part at all.

1. Earny

What it does: Obtains refunds automatically when prices drop on items you’ve already purchased
What it costs: Free

It’s so frustrating when you see that something you just bought is now on sale for less than you paid. About the only thing worse is not realizing it, especially if you bought the item from a retailer that will price match.

Meet Earny, which automatically monitors when retailers reduce the prices on items you purchased. When that happens, Earny goes one step further: It contacts the company to get the difference back, without your so much as lifting a finger.

2. Raise

What it does: Offers gift cards for less; sells unwanted cards for cash
What it costs: Free

Gift cards have wormed their way into our spending life, despite our tendency to lose them a lot. In 2015, there was about $130 billion in gift cards sold, almost $1 billion of which then went unspent. Yet we keep buying more: Consumers dropped about $150 billion on gift cards last year, according WalletHub.

Sometimes we intend to use them for ourselves, especially if we can find them discounted. The Raise app is one place to look.

Before you shop online or in stores, search the Raise marketplace to find discounted gift cards by brand, category or value. Shipping is always free on the physical cards, and shoppers save an average of 12 percent on purchases, according to a Raise spokesman.

On the other hand, if you have gift cards you don’t want, sell them on Raise for cash.

3. Cardpool

What it does: Operates an exchange for discounted gift cards
What it costs: Free

Similar to Raise, Cardpool works as a platform for users to buy and sell gift cards. Buyers can get up to 92 percent of a gift card’s value. Sellers may have to wait a bit longer for their money because, unlike Raise, Cardpool doesn’t post the funds directly to the seller’s bank account. Instead, the payment comes in the form of an Amazon eGift Card or a bank check sent via snail mail.

Continue onto Huffington Post to read the complete article.

New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018

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By Eric Titner

A new year is often looked at as an opportunity for making positive changes, and we’re all familiar with the tradition of making New Year’s resolutions—as we end each year and look forward to the next, we take stock of the things we want to improve upon or change in our lives.

Those among us who are diligent enough to take things one step further set a plan for achieving our resolutions, and some among us actually follow through by putting in the time and effort to achieve our stated goals. And for the most dedicated and focused among us, sometimes a positive change and lasting result is achieved.

Our New Year’s resolutions can vary across an endless array of categories—from finding love, making new friends, and moving to a new city to acquiring a new hobby or skill set. Among the most popular resolutions that people make involve job- and career-related goals. However, while making a New Year’s resolution for career change and success can be the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in our lives, it’s really just the first step.

Positive intent can be a powerful motivating force for change and growth in our lives, but the truth is that it’s often not enough—this is the reason why the majority of us fail to completely commit and follow through on the resolutions we make each year. The truth is, most resolutions flounder in the starting gate without any real forward progress ever being made, and many others are met with a feeble, half-hearted effort that eventually goes nowhere. We need more than a positive attitude and hope—we need a plan.

According to a recent article on The Muse, “Those who took meaningful steps to achieve their resolutions—setting step-by-step goals or telling their friends and family, for example—were far more likely to achieve their desires than those who made no specific commitments… So if you really want to see results this year, it’s critical that you set your goals with sincerity, and set yourself up for success.”

What are your New Year’s resolutions for career success in 2018? More importantly, do you have a plan for achieving them? Let’s take a closer look at some of the most popular career-related resolutions, and some advice for taking them past the “good idea” stage and closer to the “goal achieved” category.

I want a promotion.

Who among us doesn’t want a loftier position with a more impressive sounding title and a higher salary, regardless of where we currently work? The truth is, this isn’t always an immediately attainable reality for everyone—maybe you’re just getting started at your current job and it’s too soon to start thinking about a promotion, or maybe the place you work at is small and there’s no clear upward trajectory. Whatever the reason, if you’re seeking a promotion and there’s no obvious path for growth for you in your current job, perhaps this means you should make a more drastic change as part of your New Year’s resolution planning.

However, if there are opportunities for growth on the horizon for you, then take a step back and a deep breath and think carefully before blindly charging into your boss’s office and demanding a promotion.

Take stock of your current situation—have you spent the last year working hard to convince your boss that you are ready, willing, and able to take the next step to a new job with greater responsibility? Has your boss been giving you positive feedback all year about how valuable you are to the company and how everyone is impressed with the job you’ve been doing? If so, then you’ve already been working hard to achieve your goal of getting a promotion—the next step is choosing the right time, place, and method for asking for one. This is highly subjective and based on your individual job situation. Do you have annual review meetings with your boss to discuss such issues? If so, then this would be the ideal time to broach this subject. Or perhaps your boss is open to feedback and discussions whenever they arise. If so, choose a day when your boss seems to be in a good mood and go for it!

Maybe you haven’t been getting great signals that your boss would be terribly receptive to the idea of you asking for a promotion. If this sounds more like your reality, then it may be wise to concoct a more long-term plan. Spend the next several months—maybe even the entire next year—anticipating your boss’s needs, doing your job to the absolute best of your ability, and sowing the seeds for popping the big “promotion question” next year. Like we said earlier, sometimes you need a plan, and there’s nothing quite as defeating or draining as asking for a promotion before you’re ready and meeting rejection.

I want a new job.

Okay so maybe you’ve reached as high and as far as you can possibly go in your current job, faced every challenge, conquered every obstacle, and mastered every skill that you could possible acquire. It’s time–you’re ready for a change. It happens, and it’s a perfectly natural and healthy part of any career path. In fact, job changes are often great opportunities to climb to the next rung on your career ladder. However you should consider some advance planning before you race out of your current job screaming, “I quit!”

Get a feel for the current job market in your field and area. Are there a wealth of opportunities available, or is it slim pickings? Take a subtle poll of the folks in your peer network who work at other companies. Does it sound like you may be able to go after an opportunity through your contacts?

If conditions out in the job market seem great, then plan for your next steps—polish up your resume and cover letter, make sure your interview clothes still fit, and get out there! However, if you’re seeing some warning signs that right now might not be the best time to jump ship, then bide your time and plan accordingly. Don’t forget, you can do some subtle and covert planning for your next job while you’re at your current one so when the iron is hot you’ll be prepared to strike!

I want to make a major job or career change.

Perhaps you’re just not feeling completely happy or fulfilled in your current industry, and something is telling you that perhaps now is the time to make a major change. This could be a good thing—the truth is, job unhappiness is often a major cause of mental and physical distress and could have a wide range of negative effects on our health and well-being.

According to a recent Huffington Post blog post by Alexander Kjerulf, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Woohoo inc, “Way too many people hate their jobs. Exactly how many is hard to say, but depending on which study you believe, somewhere between 20 percent and 40 percent of employees are miserable at work.” Kjerulf goes on to say that hating your job can weaken your immune system, make you gain weight, rob you of sleep, ruin your personal relationships, and even increase your risk of serious illness. Not a good way to ring in the New Year!

So, if you’re eager to make a major job or career change… you guessed it, make a plan. Consider making a list of pros and cons for taking the plunge. If everything in your life is pointing to making a major change, figure out what new goal makes the most sense for you. Take an inventory of your skills and experience, along with your interests and aspirations, and figure out which careers/industries you best align with. Do you have any friends or family who have jobs that sound potentially intriguing to you? If so, ask them more about it. Do your research—the Internet is a great source of information for researching new companies and careers.

Although making a big career change can be a wonderful moment in your life, acting impulsively could really backfire. There are countless stories of people who made quick decisions to leave their current working worlds for new ones, only to discover that they were ill-informed and really had no idea what they were getting into and wound up being just as unhappy—or even unhappier—as they were before. Don’t become just another unfortunate member of this group. Plan wisely and carefully, and you’ll be setting yourself up for a real shot at positive and lasting change.
I want to build new job skills.

This is a great goal for most of us and can really help put you in a better position to achieve the other resolutions on this list in the future—getting a promotion or a new job, or even changing industries. And even if none of these goals are in your immediate future, acquiring new skills can be a rewarding and fulfilling enterprise on its own and help us feel more empowered and effective in our current positions.

If you’re looking to acquire new job skills in the new year, consider the following. Do you want to acquire skills that will make you more effective at your current job or a new one? Your answer to this question will help you determine which skills you should look at. Also, are you looking to invest money towards acquiring new skills? If so, there are a wealth of career and adult education/skill-development programs available across the country; a great place to start is researching the offerings at colleges and universities in your area. You’ll likely come across a wealth of options, both in class and online—you just need to decide which are right for you.

If money is an issue and you’re looking for a more cost-effective approach, there are some great free and low-cost options online. One great resource is Skillshare, an online learning community created, maintained, and curated by veterans and experts in their respective fields who are dedicated to teaching others the skills they’ve acquired.

Here’s the bottom line—many folks who are unhappy with their work lives or who are just eager for a fresh start or new challenge take the new year as an opportunity to make a change, and it’s a great time to do so! Because so many people are focused on career changes at the beginning of a new year, many companies and industries ramp up their hiring during this time—and those among us who are serious and dedicated can take full advantage of this reality. If this sounds like you, perhaps now is a great time to move forward—but do so wisely and plan accordingly. Good luck and Happy New Year!

Continue on  to read more articles like this on The Muse

Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start

LinkedIn

College marks a significant transition period for many young adults — it’s a time of newfound freedom and the financial responsibilities that come with it.

Whether your funds come from family, student loans, scholarships or your own wallet, you’ll need to budget for expenses like textbooks, housing and, yes, a social life. Knowing who’s footing the bill, what costs to expect and which ones you can live without — ideally before school starts — can reduce stress and help you form healthy financial habits for the future.

Have the money talk

Before you build a budget, go over some important details with the people — parents, guardians or a partner — who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is in the loop and understands expectations.

“One of the biggest obstacles we have [with] teaching young people financial literacy and financial skills is not making money and expenses a taboo subject,” says Catie Hogan, founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC. “Open lines of communication are far and away the most important tool, just so everyone’s on the same page as far as what things are going to cost and how everybody can keep some money in their pocket.”

Here are some topics to start with:

  • Who is paying for college and how. Have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide if your family will pay for costs out-of-pocket or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, use funds from a 529 plan or combine these options.
  • What expenses to expect. In addition to tuition, you’ll have to budget for other college costs, like transportation and school supplies. Make a list of likely expenses, estimate the cost and agree who pays for what. (See more on expenses below.)
  • FAFSA and taxes. Whether a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent or you file taxes on your own determines whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions. Discuss your financial status before each school year and address any changes, like a raise or job loss.
  • Credit cards and bank accounts. If you’re considering opening a credit cardaccount for the first time, are younger than 21 and don’t work full time, you’ll need a co-signer: a parent or other adult. You’ll want to talk about ground rules, like only using a credit card for emergencies and defining what constitutes an emergency. Approach new financial products with caution and be careful not to take on debt. If you plan to directly deposit funds from a job or allowance, look for a checking account that offers low (or no) fees.

Anticipate your expenses

To determine what you’ll spend each term, keep these college-related expenses on your radar:

  • Textbooks and school supplies. Course materials could eat up a large chunk of your budget. The average estimated cost of books and supplies for in-state students living on campus at public four-year institutions in 2016-2017 was $1,250, according to the College Board. Also plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a printer and a backpack, and read the do’s and don’ts of back-to-school shopping for money-saving tips.
  • Room and board. When it comes to food and living arrangements, weigh your options. Compare the cost of living on campus and getting a meal plan versus renting an apartment and shopping for groceries.

Continue onto NerdWallet to read the complete article.

3 Things to Know Before You Pick a Health Insurance Plan

LinkedIn

Choosing a health insurance plan can be complicated. Knowing just a few things before you compare plans can make it simpler.

  1. The 4 “metal” categories: There are 4 categories of health insurance plans: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. These categories show how you and your plan share costs. Plan categories have nothing to do with quality of care.

Which metal category is right for you?

Bronze

  • Lowest monthly premium
  • Highest costs when you need care
  • Bronze plan deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your insurance plan starts to pay — can be thousands of dollars a year.
  • Good choice if: You want a low-cost way to protect yourself from worst-case medical scenarios, like serious sickness or injury. Your monthly premium will be low, but you’ll have to pay for most routine care yourself.

Silver

  • Moderate monthly premium
  • Moderate costs when you need care
  • Silver deductibles — the costs you pay yourself before your plan pays anything — are usually lower than those of Bronze plans.

Gold

  • High monthly premium
  • Low costs when you need care
  • Deductibles — the amount of medical costs you pay yourself before your plan pays — are usually low.
  • Good choice if: You’re willing to pay more each month to have more costs covered when you get medical treatment. If you use a lot of care, a Gold plan could be a good value.

Platinum

  • Highest monthly premium
  • Lowest costs when you get care
  • Deductibles are very low, meaning your plan starts paying its share earlier than for other categories of plans.
  1. Your total costs for health care: You pay a monthly bill to your insurance company (a “premium”), even if you don’t use medical services that month. You pay out-of-pocket costs, including a deductible, when you get care. It’s important to think about both kinds of costs when shopping for a plan.

When choosing a plan, it’s a good idea to think about your total health care costs, not just the bill (the “premium”) you pay to your insurance company every month.

Other amounts, sometimes called “out-of-pocket” costs, have a big impact on your total spending on health care – sometimes more than the premium itself.

Beyond your monthly premium: Deductible and out-of-pocket costs

  • Deductible: How much you have to spend for covered health services before your insurance company pays anything (except free preventive services)
  • Copayments and coinsurance: Payments you make each time you get a medical service after reaching your deductible
  • Out-of-pocket maximum: The most you have to spend for covered services in a year. After you reach this amount, the insurance company pays 100% for covered services.

So how do you find a category that works for you?

  • If you don’t expect to use regular medical services and don’t take regular prescriptions: You may want a Bronze plan. These plans can have very low monthly premiums, but have high deductibles and pay less of your costs when you need care.
  • If you qualify for extra savings on out-of-pocket costs OR want more of your costs covered: Silver plans probably offer the best value. If you qualify for extra savings (“cost-sharing reductions”) your deductible will be lower and you’ll pay less each time you get care. But you get these extra savings ONLY if you enroll in Silver plan. This can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year if you use a lot of care. Even if you don’t qualify for extra savings, Silver plans offer good value — moderate premiums and deductibles, and better coverage of your out-of-pocket costs than a Bronze or Catastrophic plan provide.

If you expect a lot of doctor visits or need regular prescriptions: You may want a Gold plan or Platinum plan. These plans generally have higher monthly premiums but pay more of your costs when you need care.

  1. Plan and network types — HMO, PPO, POS, and EPO: Some plan types allow you to use almost any doctor or health care facility. Others limit your choices or charge you more if you use providers outside their network.

Types of Marketplace plans

Depending on how many plans are offered in your area, you may find plans of all or any of these types at each metal level – Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Some examples of plan types you’ll find in the Marketplace:

  • Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO): A managed care plan where services are covered only if you use doctors, specialists, or hospitals in the plan’s network (except in an emergency).
  • Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): A type of health insurance plan that usually limits coverage to care from doctors who work for or contract with the HMO. It generally won’t cover out-of-network care except in an emergency. An HMO may require you to live or work in its service area to be eligible for coverage. HMOs often provide integrated care and focus on prevention and wellness.
  • Point of Service (POS): A type of plan where you pay less if you use doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers that belong to the plan’s network. POS plans require you to get a referral from your primary care doctor in order to see a specialist.
  • Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): A type of health plan where you pay less if you use providers in the plan’s network. You can use doctors, hospitals, and providers outside of the network without a referral for an additional cost.

Source: Healthcare.gov

Millennials Reshaping Path to Retirement

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Brand Messaging

“With continuing savings challenges and potential economic uncertainties ahead, non-retirees should have a plan in place and regularly revisit it to make sure it still aligns with what’s most important to them for their retirement years.”

Millennials’ perspective on their later years and how to get there hints at a possible redefining of retirement, according to the latest Merrill Edge® Report. Nearly half (41 percent) of the generation surveyed expects to retire when they hit a certain financial milestone or savings goal, whereas their older counterparts are focused on leaving the workforce when they hit a certain age or can no longer work due to health concerns.

The survey of more than 1,000 mass affluent Americans reveals that the largest generation in today’s workforce has a different view on retirement, alluding to a potential shift of the life milestone in the years to come. For millennials, retirement is more than a time for rest and relaxation—it’s a time full of possibilities.

The majority (53 percent) of millennials view retirement as the start of something exciting. In comparison to their elders, 21 percent of millennials are more likely to make pursuing a passion (10 percent), furthering their education (7 percent) or starting/growing their own business (4 percent) their priorities in retirement.

Also looking toward the future, 47 percent of millennials believe the outcome of the 2016 presidential election will have a positive impact on their long-term financial goals, higher than any other generation.

“It’s refreshing to see the mindset around retirement evolve, particularly a strong optimism and a goal-oriented approach from younger generations,” said Aron Levine, head of Merrill Edge at Bank of America. “This focus is a great start, but one of the keys to a successful retirement is to ensure savings are prioritized early and often. Year over year, we continue to see today’s non-retirees struggle with the impact short-term spending has on their long-term financial future.”

Savings shortcomings

While millennials are taking a goal-oriented approach toward their retirement, they align with Americans overall in thinking they could be more proactive. Nearly half (48 percent) of Americans say they are most insecure about some aspect of their finances (financial future, retirement savings or income), with retirement savings (21 percent) being one of their top insecurities, ahead of their personal relationships (10 percent), judgment of others (6 percent) and career path (4 percent).

Americans also cite that daily expenses in retirement will dominate their financial future (28 percent), more so than managing health care expenses (17 percent) and housing expenses (17 percent).

And, despite these strong sentiments, they still don’t seem to prioritize retirement savings. When asked how proactive they were about planning for retirement, nearly two in five (38 percent) award themselves a grade of “C” or lower and only 18 percent give themselves an “A.”

“It has become increasingly apparent that retirement planning is not only evolving, but also has become a moving target that Americans must continuously revisit to pursue their goals and priorities,” said Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Age Wave. “As we see in the latest Merrill Edge Report, retirement planning requires a new mentality—‘set it and forget it’ is a thing of the past. As millennials are envisioning living very long lives, this study reveals the new priorities they have for work, leisure, success and money as they are coming to realize that everything they do today, financially speaking, can impact the lives they’re hoping to live in retirement.”

Retiree realities

These savings shortfalls may be indicative of the retirement today’s retirees are living. When asked what they have done in retirement that they didn’t expect to, retirees’ top response was “spent more money than anticipated” (30 percent), followed by “moving to a new location” (19 percent) and “feeling a lack of purpose” (18 percent).

Top priorities of retirees also seem to differ from those of non-retirees. The retirees’ top priorities include maintaining their standard of living (29 percent), followed by spending time with loved ones (27 percent) and maintaining their health (23 percent). Despite that nearly one in five non-retirees hope to make traveling the world their top retirement priority, only 5 percent of retirees have prioritized traveling.

“Today’s retirees tell us they are experiencing a very different retirement than non-retirees are envisioning,” said Levine. “With continuing savings challenges and potential economic uncertainties ahead, non-retirees should have a plan in place and regularly revisit it to make sure it still aligns with what’s most important to them for their retirement years.”

For more in-depth information about the financial behaviors and priorities of mass affluent Americans, read the entire Spring 2016 Merrill Edge Report.

Source: bankofamerica.com

Minority Clients Want Culturally Diverse Advisory Firms

LinkedIn

By Diana Britton

While Hispanic and African American adults say it’s in the best interest of financial advisory firms to hire more minority advisors, they are less concerned that their own personal advisor be the same ethnicity or race, according to a new survey by Edward Jones.

The survey of 2,046 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Edward Jones, found that only 8 percent of Hispanic respondents and 12 percent of African American respondents said it was important for their advisor to be the same race/ethnicity in order to build trust. When asked if it was important that their advisor understand their culture, only about one-third (31 percent of Hispanics and 36 percent of African Americans) said it was.

Jesse Abercrombie, an Edward Jones financial advisor in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said his practice reflects the survey’s findings.

“I’m an African American FA, and I don’t have any African American clients at all,” Abercrombie said.

But Abercrombie believes that minority clients would like to know that there are people at the firm that come from a similar background.

“So it doesn’t mean that if I have a new client that’s Hispanic that I really need to know the Hispanic heritage, but I think a Hispanic client would be appreciative of knowing that Edward Jones does go out and make inclusive efforts on behalf of Hispanics.”

In the survey, 79 percent of Hispanic and African American respondents said it is in the best interest of the firms to focus on hiring minority advisors to better reflect their overall client base and the population at large. Seventy-three percent of Hispanics and 79 percent of African Americans believe it’s in the best interest of clients to have a more diverse advisor force.

“If you look at China and India, there’s a vast majority of people that are moving from one class to the next class, and that’s happening here in the United States as it relates to minorities as well,” Abercrombie said. “People are investing more; they’re wanting to save more, and they’re wanting to get more involved with financial planning outside of just a general savings account.

“Because of that, there should be more minority representation and diversity in financial services firms.”

Yet minorities make up only 8 percent of the industry, according to a 2007 SIFMA report, compared to 37 percent of the overall U.S. population.

“Every firm out there has growth as one of their number one objectives outside of helping the clients, but within that growth, they do all feel that inclusion—hiring minorities and females—is very important,” Abercrombie said.

“But I think the reason those numbers are still low is that’s where it ends. It ends on the recruiting, and after someone’s an FA with the firm, there may not be as much support and development going on to keep those people around.”

Source: http://wealthmanagement.com

Federal Reserve Bank’s First President

LinkedIn

Economist Raphael W. Bostic was elected president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. His term began in June.

“He is a seasoned and versatile leader, bringing with him a wealth of experience in public policy and academia,” said Thomas A. Fanning, chairman of the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Raphael also has significant experience leading complex organizations and managing interdisciplinary teams. He is a perfect bridge between people and policy.”

As president of the Atlanta Fed, Bostic leads one of the 12 regional Reserve Banks that, with the Board of Governors, make up the Federal Reserve System, the nation’s central bank. The Atlanta Fed is responsible for the Sixth Federal Reserve District, which encompasses Alabama, Florida, and Georgia and portions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. As its key functions, the Atlanta Fed participates in setting national monetary policy, supervises numerous banking organizations, and provides a variety of payment services to financial institutions and the U.S. government. Bostic has overall responsibility for these functions and represents the Sixth Federal Reserve District at meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee, the policymaking body within the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy for the nation.

Bostics’ work spans many fields, including home ownership, housing finance, neighborhood change, and the role of institutions in shaping policy effectiveness.

Among various positions, he has served as the Judith and John Bedrosian Chair in Governance and the Public Enterprise at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California (USC), a position he has held since 2012.

From 2009 to 2012, Bostic was assistant secretary for Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In that Senate-confirmed position, he was a principal adviser to the secretary on policy and research, with the goal of helping the secretary and other principal staff make informed decisions on HUD policies and programs, as well as on budget and legislative proposals.

“The Reserve Banks are vital contributors to our nation’s economic and financial success. I’m excited about the opportunity to work with the Bank’s well-respected staff in advancing the excellent reputation this organization has built over many years,” Bostic said. “In my role as president of the Atlanta Reserve Bank, I also look forward to confronting the challenges the Federal Reserve faces in today’s increasingly global and rapidly changing economy.”

Bostic also serves as a board member of Freddie Mac, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Abode Communities. He is a fellow of the National Association of Public Administration, vice president of the Association of Public Policy and Management, a member of the board of trustees of Enterprise Community Partners, and a research advisory board member of the Reinvestment Fund.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

TFS Scholarships Provides Free Access to 7 Million Scholarships Representing More Than $41 Billion in Aid

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SALT LAKE CITY, October, 2017 – TFS Scholarships (TFS), the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding, today announced its commitment to helping students and their families address the rising costs of school by providing free access to scholarship information.

Through its website, TFS connects students to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in aid. Continual increases in tuition fees and other college expenses are critical issues impacting students and families across the United States – particularly those who can’t afford to finance higher education on their own. According to the College Board’s 2016 Trends in College Planning, the average published tuition and fee price in the private nonprofit four-year sector is about 2.3 times higher than it was in 1986-87, after adjusting for inflation. It is 3.1 times higher in the public four-year sector and 2.4 times higher in the public two-year sector. As a result of these trends, an increasing number of students must rely on scholarships to attend college or graduate school.

“TFS Scholarships was inspired by my own father’s experience as an inner-city high school principal, and grew out of the realization that more could be done to support students searching for college scholarships,” said Richard Sorensen, president of TFS Scholarships. “For more than 30 years, TFS has helped students achieve their higher education aspirations by making it easier to find essential funding for college.”

The majority of the scholarship opportunities featured on the TFS Scholarships website come directly from colleges and universities, rather than solely from competitive national pools – thereby increasing the chances of finding scholarships that are the best fit for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate and professional students. Each month TFS adds more than 5,000 new scholarships to its database in an effort to stay current with national scholarship growth rates – maximizing the number of opportunities students have to earn funding for their education.

Since its debut in 1987, TFS has remained a free, online service that effectively connects students with college funding resources to fuel their academic future. The TFS website also provides financial aid information, resources about federal and private student loan programs, and a Career Aptitude Quiz that helps students identify the degrees and professions that best fit their skills. TFS Scholarships is a safe, trusted, and distraction-free platform to research scholarships and other funding resources. Thanks to exclusive financial support from Wells Fargo, the TFS website is completely ad-free, so nothing stands between students and finding ways to fund their future.

For more information about Tuition Funding Sources visit tuitionfundingsources.com.

About TFS Scholarships

TFS Scholarships (TFS) is an independent service that provides free access to scholarship opportunities for aspiring and current undergraduate, graduate, and professional students. Founded in 1987, TFS began as a passion project to help students and has grown into the most comprehensive online resource for higher education funding. Today, TFS is a trusted place where students and families enjoy free access to more than 7 million scholarships representing more than $41 billion in college funding. In addition to its vast database that’s refreshed with 5,000 new scholarships every month, TFS also offers information about career planning, financial aid, and federal and private student loan programs as part of its commitment to helping students fund their future. Learn more at .tuitionfundingsources.com.

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7 Apps to Help You With Your Budget

LinkedIn

Take your personal finance game to the next level with these 7 apps

If you want to find out what’s happening in the world, your friend’s lives or their birthdays, you go on Facebook. If you want to see the latest trends in fashion, inspirational posts or celebrity updates, you head to Instagram. For real-time news, sans algorithm, you go on Twitter.

What apps do you use when it comes to your finances?

Managing your checking account, saving up for vacation, paying your bills on time and making sure your credit score is on point can be stressful. As for choosing the best financial app that works for you, you want to make sure that it’s not only aesthetically pleasing and provides content to help you grow your financial literacy, but most importantly that it  assists you in setting and achieving those financial goals of yours.

Here, we’ve not only rounded up the best of the best financial apps that the tech world has to offer, but also saved you the hassle of breaking down their app costs and their best feature.

Mint

Powered by Intuit Inc., the company that provides business and financial services for small businesses, freelancers and accounting professionals, this critically acclaimed financial planning app is an all in one. Featuring the basic financial necessities like tracking your spending, creating practical monthly budgets and checking your budgets from previous months, you can check your spending habits as well under the ‘trends’ section. They also provide a desktop feature, so you can manage your account on your computer.

Best Feature: Users can pay their bills using the app, check their credit scores (thanks to its parent company, Intuit, Inc.) and also invest in stock and funds.

Cost: Free

Prosper Daily

Formally known as Billguard, this financial planning app not only helps you create a budget, but they have a swipe-left, swipe-right feature where users can verify which of their expenses are theirs and which aren’t. Their specialty? Protecting their users from identity theft (more on this later). Features also includes helping users track their credit score. They also have Credit Card Optimizer feature, where users can track all of their credit card info, and helps users make better financial decisions with their credit cards. They also have a blog to keep you informed on all Prosper Daily’s updates along with useful financial tips.

Best Feature: With their $1 million identity theft insurance, they will reimburse users’ unauthorized transactions. Prosper Daily also send users notifications if someone is attempting to open an account in their name.

Cost: Prosper Daily’s basic version is free. Prosper Daily ID Protect is $9.99 per month, which includes the $1 million identity theft insurance.

Wally

If you’re the big spender type, the Wally app is just for you. This app not only helps you plan, manage and categorize your finances, it also gives you insight into your spending and saving habits and how you can improve to achieve your financial goals through its algorithm. The downside? The app doesn’t have a desktop money management feature or a blog section to keep you intrigued about money.

Best Feature: Users can say ‘so long’ to excel spreadsheets. Wally has a scanning feature where users can take pictures of their receipts.

Cost: Free, but they also have certain features that are available for their premium version. Rates range from $0.49 to $4.99

LearnVest

Everyone’s relationship with money varies, but LearnVest is here to make sure it’s a good and healthy one. Their sole mission? To help you feel amazing about money. All users have access to a free and personalized money center, where they can create and prioritize their financial goals, link their accounts and also determine their net worth. They also have a must reads tab where users can get more content on all things finance, career and lifestyle.

Best Feature: They provide Certified Financial Planners (CFP) to all of their premium users which give users customized financial plans, as well as discussing their behavioral and spending habits and financial goals.

Continue onto Blavity to read up on the other money saving apps.

You’re Probably Using Your Checking Account Incorrectly — Here’s Why

LinkedIn

Learn the right and wrong ways you’ve been using your checking account

It’s payday and your direct deposit just hit your bank account.

When it comes to managing your finances and building wealth, first things first, you’ve got to know the basics. Having and knowing what’s a checking and savings account is generally the first order of business.

The Breakdown

A checking account is a bank account that one can use to deposit and withdraw money, make frequent expenses, and even use to automate bills. Investopedia says the difference between a savings and checking account is “a checking account allows for numerous withdrawals and unlimited deposits, whereas savings accounts sometimes limit both.”

Now that you know the difference, below we have a few scenarios of how you’ve probably been using your checking account and how you can replace with alternative solutions to improve those financial habits of yours.

What You’re Probably Doing: You’re Using it as a Savings Account

The point of a savings account is to save for a specific day, occasion, emergency fund or to just save for money for the future, which means that you shouldn’t have much access to withdraw money from it. Instead, you’re using your checking account as a savings and not distributing your money between accounts to save more.

As a result, all of your money is at your disposal. Before you know it, you’ll spend it all before you pay your first bill.

 What You Should Be Doing:  Open an Actual Savings Account

As an alternative, open a savings account with a high annual percentage yield (APY), which means you’ll earn interest based on how much you deposit into your savings account. According to Bankrate.com, a good APY is between 3 and 5 percent. Make sure when that your direct deposit hits, you’re automating your payments into your savings account that way you won’t forget. However, make sure it is not easily accessible to make withdrawals from your savings. If you feel you don’t have the self-control to not withdraw from your savings, here’s a few reasons why you should keep your checking and savings account at different banks, according to LearnVest.

Continue onto Blavity to get more tips!

African American families rely on resourcefulness to pay for college according to MassMutual’s College Planning and Saving Study

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Springfield, Mass., June 7th, 2017— The majority of African American parents (82 percent) agree that a college education is important and nearly the same amount (81 percent) agree that saving for college is a high priority. However, nearly 3 out of 5 (58 percent) are concerned about paying for college and half (49 percent) are concerned about the affordability in the future, according to new research from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual).

MassMutual’s College Planning and Saving Study examined the attitudes, behaviors and needs of families related to planning for and funding higher education. The study provides a deeper understanding of the importance placed on education and how ethnicity affects family decisions and financial behavior.

For African American parents college is seen as the path towards high-paying careers, financial security, and respect.

“Overwhelmingly, we heard parents emphasize the importance of an education, especially in today’s world, to help their children not only secure their financial futures but to help safeguard them against discrimination and other societal woes,” said Evan Taylor, a director of multicultural markets with MassMutual. “Many view an education as a critical tool for their children to move toward more equal footing in society as a college degree is something that can never be taken away. For this reason, most parents expect their children to go to college and are savvy in finding ways to pay for it.”

Top ways to pay for college cited by African American respondents to the survey included college-sponsored scholarships (48 percent), federal student aid (42 percent), own savings (37 percent) and work-study programs (35 percent). In fact, more African Americans cited having a child participate in a work-study program as a source of funding than any other group.

Based on the study’s insights, MassMutual offers three practical tips to help African American families plan and save for college:

1. Hope is not a plan. Begin with a clear picture of your family’s finances. Then identify priorities, budget for the unexpected, and start saving as early as you can. The birth of a child is a great time to begin saving for your child’s education. Time is on your side. The money will work for you as it earns interest, which compounds over the years. There are many tools and calculators to help you figure out how much you need to save. Visit the MassMutual savings calculator.

2. Continue to be resourceful. Get your child involved in exploring scholarships, grants and work-study programs.

3. Talk early and often. Sit down with your child and talk about their dreams and aspirations before choosing a college and major. Help your child balance being realistic with aspirational when choosing what colleges to apply to. Help them think about what schools and majors will help them land a job in their chosen career after graduation. Lastly, discuss how some careers may require further education, like graduate school.

The findings of this research study come on the heels of MassMutual’s launch of its newly refreshed brand, which was designed to better reflect and build on the legacy and the core values that have guided the company since its founding. The new brand recognizes that while the world celebrates independence, true happiness comes from interdependence and our reliance on one another.

“We’re here to help educate African American parents about options for their families, and then help them make their financial goals a reality,” concluded Taylor.

Methodology

MassMutual’s College Planning and Saving Study was conducted for MassMutual by New American Dimensions, LLC in December 2016 to examine the attitudes and needs of families related to education planning and funding. Qualitatively, 22 mini focus groups were conducted with five ethnic groups (Hispanic/Latino, African American/Black, Chinese American, Korean American, and Asian Indian American) in English and in-language. Quantitatively, a 20-minute online questionnaire, conducted in English, comprised 1,750 interviews; within the total number of surveys, 150 completes were obtained for each of the five ethnic groups. Both qualitative and quantitative research was conducted with men and women age 30 to 64 with children age 5 to 15 for whom they are financially responsible. Respondents also met a minimum household income requirement ($50,000+) and participate in financial decision-making for their household. Results for the total were weighted to the 2010 U.S. Census distributions for ethnicity to be representative of American families in this age and income bracket.

About MassMutual

MassMutual is a leading mutual life insurance company that that is run for the benefit of its members and participating policyowners. MassMutual offers a wide range of financial products and services, including life insurance, disability income insurance, long term care insurance, annuities, retirement plans and other employee benefits. For more information, visit www.massmutual.com.

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