Financial Education exclusively for Northrop Grumman employees.
Planning for your child's college education is an important financial milestone for many parents. As tuition costs continue to rise, it becomes increasingly crucial to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure that your child's higher education goals can be met without incurring overwhelming debt. By implementing effective financial planning techniques early on, you can mitigate the financial burden and provide your child with the best opportunities for success. Here are five essential college planning tips to help you navigate this significant investment in your child's future.
- Start Saving Early: One of the most important financial college planning tips for parents is to start saving as early as possible. The earlier you begin setting aside money for your child's education, the more time you have to benefit from compound interest and investment growth. Consider opening a dedicated college savings account, which offers tax advantages and allows your savings to grow tax-free. By starting early, you can gradually build up a substantial college fund and alleviate the strain of funding your child's education when the time comes.
- Set Realistic Budget Goals: It's crucial to establish realistic budget goals based on your financial circumstances. Take into account your current income, expenses, and other financial obligations to determine how much you can comfortably contribute to your child's college education. Create a budget that balances your savings goals with your day-to-day expenses, and regularly review and adjust it as needed. Setting achievable budget targets will help you stay on track and avoid excessive financial strain.
- Explore Financial Aid and Scholarships: Don't overlook the numerous financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to students. Familiarize yourself with the different types of aid, such as grants, loans, work-study programs, and understand the eligibility criteria and application processes. Encourage your child to actively seek out scholarships and merit-based awards by researching and applying to relevant programs. These options can significantly reduce the overall cost of college and relieve some of the financial burden.
- Consider Alternative Education Paths: While traditional four-year universities are popular choices, they may not be the most cost-effective option for every student. Explore alternative education paths, such as community colleges or vocational schools, which often offer more affordable tuition rates and specialized training. Additionally, some employers may value hands-on experience and specific skills over a traditional degree. Assess your child's career aspirations and research alternative education options that align with their goals to potentially save on tuition expenses.
- Teach Financial Responsibility: As part of your college planning strategy, it is essential to teach your child about financial responsibility and money management. Help them understand the importance of budgeting, saving, and making informed financial decisions. Encourage them to work part-time or engage in internships to earn money and gain valuable experience. By equipping your child with strong financial skills, you empower them to navigate the financial challenges of college and develop lifelong money management habits.
Remember, college planning requires careful consideration and long-term financial planning. By following these tips and exploring other resources available to you, you can better prepare for the costs associated with your child's higher education and set them on a path to a successful future.
Looking to make the most of your holiday season without breaking the bank? The holidays are just around the corner and it’s never too early to start saving and preparing. Saving money during the holiday season is a smart approach to avoid unnecessary debt and financial stress. Here are five holiday savings tips to help you manage your expenses and still enjoy the wonderful holidays:
- Create a Budget: Start by making a comprehensive list of all the holiday-related expenses, including gifts, decorations, travel, food, and any other activities you plan to do. Allocate a specific amount to each category based on your financial situation. Stick to this budget and avoid overspending.
- Start Early: Don't wait until the last minute to start your holiday shopping. Begin shopping early in the year or at least a few months before the holiday season. This way, you can take advantage of sales, discounts, and special offers throughout the year. Starting early also allows you to spread out your expenses and prevents a large financial burden during the holidays.
- Consider Homemade and Thoughtful Gifts: Instead of buying expensive gifts, consider making some of your presents. Handmade gifts can be more meaningful and often cost less than store-bought items. Additionally, thoughtful gifts like personalized items or experiences can be cherished without breaking the bank.
- Take Advantage of Sales and Coupons: Keep an eye on sales events, promotions, and discounts offered by retailers during the holiday season. Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other holiday sales can help you save significantly on your purchases. Also, use coupons and cashback offers when possible to get more value for your money.
- Limit Unnecessary Expenses: Evaluate your holiday traditions and see if there are any areas where you can cut back. For instance, consider hosting a potluck dinner instead of preparing an elaborate meal by yourself. Limit the number of holiday decorations or find affordable alternatives. By being mindful of unnecessary expenses, you can save money without compromising on the festive spirit.
Remember, the holiday season is about spending quality time with loved ones and creating cherished memories, not about extravagant spending. By following these tips, you can enjoy a joyful and budget-friendly holiday season.
Maintaining a healthy work/life balance while managing your finances involves careful planning and prioritization. Here are some financial tips to help you achieve that balance:
- Budgeting: Create a budget that outlines your income, expenses, and savings goals. This will help you understand where your money is going and make informed decisions.
- Prioritize Spending: Differentiate between needs and wants. Allocate more of your resources toward things that genuinely enhance your well-being and happiness.
- Debt Management: Create a plan to manage and pay off any debts you might have. High-interest debts can create unnecessary financial strain and impact your overall well-being.
- Negotiate Benefits: If possible, negotiate for benefits like remote work, flexible hours, or additional paid time off. These benefits can contribute to a better work/life balance.
- Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Avoid checking emails or working during off-hours, and make sure your employer and colleagues respect those boundaries.
- Invest in Yourself: Allocate resources to personal development, hobbies, and activities that bring you joy. These investments can contribute to your overall well-being and reduce the temptation to overspend on material possessions.
- Regularly Review: Periodically review your financial goals and progress. Adjust your strategies as needed to ensure you're staying on track and maintaining a healthy balance.
Remember, achieving work/life balance is an ongoing process that requires consistency. By combining these helpful tips, you can create a more fulfilling and balanced life.
The holidays are here, and it’s the perfect time for you to focus on giving. Donating to various causes involves planning and managing your expenses, while ensuring your financial stability. Here's a step-by-step approach to budgeting for donations:
- Calculate a Sustainable Donation Amount: Review your financial situation and calculate a reasonable percentage of your income that you can allocate for donations. Common recommendations range from 1% to 10% of your income, depending on your individual situation and goals.
- Set a Donation Goal: Determine the total amount you want to donate within a specific time frame (e.g., monthly, annually). Divide this goal by the number of periods to establish a reasonable donation target.
- Create a Donations Category in Your Budget: Allocate the calculated donation amount to a separate category in your budget. Treat this allocation as a non-negotiable expense, just like any other essential bill.
- Track Your Donations: Keep a record of your donations to monitor your progress towards your donation goal. Use budgeting tools or a simple spreadsheet to track each donation.
- Adjust Your Budget as Needed: Regularly review your budget to ensure that your income, expenses, and donations align with your financial goals and circumstances.
- Find Opportunities to Save: Look for ways to increase your donation budget without compromising your financial stability. This could involve cutting back on non-essential expenses, shopping sale items, or refinancing debt to reduce payments.
Remember, your ability to donate is important, but it's equally essential to prioritize your financial stability and future financial goals. Balancing these aspects will ensure you can sustainably contribute to charitable causes over time.
Thoughtful budgeting for gifts and vacations is a smart way to ensure that you have a great time without overspending during the holiday season.
Here are some steps to effectively budget for your holiday:
- Set a Total Budget: Before you start purchasing for the holiday period, determine how much you can afford to spend without compromising your financial stability. This should be a realistic amount that you won't regret spending later.
- Research, Plan, and Compare Prices: Plan your holiday in detail. Start thinking about the specific gifts you want to purchase for each person. Research the cost of flights, accommodation, and other key expenses. This will give you a better understanding of how much money you need.
- Stick to Your Budget: It's crucial to stay disciplined and not exceed the budget you've set. Look for sales, discounts, and deals to make your budget go further.
- Plan for Unexpected Expenses: There might be unexpected expenses during the holiday season, such as holiday parties, or decorations. Make sure you leave wiggle room in your total budget to avoid overspending.
- Review and Adjust: Periodically review your budget during your holiday. You may realize that some gifts or activities are more expensive than anticipated. In such cases, you may need to adjust your budget allocations or consider alternative activities.
- Reflect: After the holiday season, take a moment to review your spending and reflect on what worked and what didn't. Use this information to refine your budgeting approach for the following year.
Remember that budgeting for a holiday doesn't mean you have to be overly strict or sacrifice your happiness. It's about being financially responsible while still having a great time. A well-planned budget can help you make the most of your holiday without added financial stress.
Planning a vacation is exciting, but it can also be daunting when it comes to budgeting. However, with some smart strategies and careful planning, you can enjoy a fantastic vacation without breaking the bank. One of the most effective ways to save money for travel is by creating a vacation account. Additionally, here are five budget travel tips that will help you make the most out of your vacation without overspending.
- Create a Vacation Account: Open a separate savings account specifically for your travel expenses. This will help you stay organized and motivated as you watch your savings grow. Set up automatic transfers each month to ensure you consistently contribute to your vacation fund.
- Travel During Off-Peak Season: One of the easiest ways to save money on your vacation is to travel during off-peak season. Flights and accommodations are often much cheaper during this time. Additionally, you'll avoid large crowds and have a more relaxed vacation.
- Use Rewards Credit Cards: Rewards credit cards can help you earn points that you can redeem for flights, hotels, rental cars, or other travel-related expenses. Research different credit cards to find one that aligns with your goals and spending habits.
- Be Flexible: Being flexible with your travel dates and destinations can save you a lot of money. Look for deals on flights and accommodations and consider visiting less popular destinations. You might be surprised by the hidden gems you find.
- Set a Realistic Budget: Set a realistic budget for your trip and stick to it. Research the average costs for flights, accommodations, food, and activities in your desired destination. Make a list of your must-do activities and prioritize your spending accordingly. Remember, the goal is to have a great vacation without breaking the bank.
Managing our finances is an important aspect of our daily lives that can significantly impact our mental well-being. The way we handle money, budget, and plan for our financial future can have a profound effect on our mental health. Financial stress and mental health are closely intertwined. Financial difficulties, such as too much debt, living paycheck to paycheck, can cause chronic stress, anxiety, and depression. Such stress can negatively affect our relationships, sleep patterns, and overall quality of life. Conversely, good financial health can reduce stress, increase confidence, and improve our mental well-being.
Here are some key tips for mindfully managing your financial well-being to support your mental health:
- Create a budget: Establishing a budget is a fundamental step in managing your finances mindfully. A budget helps you track your expenses, plan for savings, and make informed financial decisions. By creating a budget, you can gain control over your finances and avoid impulsive spending.
- Practice mindful spending: Mindful spending involves being intentional about your spending habits. Before making a purchase, ask yourself if it aligns with your financial goals. Avoid impulsive spending and take the time to evaluate your needs versus wants. Practicing mindful spending can help you make informed choices that improve your financial well-being.
- Save for emergencies and future goals: Building an emergency fund and saving for future goals, such as retirement or a down payment on a home, can provide you with financial security and peace of mind. Set specific savings goals, create a plan to achieve them, and regularly review your progress. Having a financial safety net can reduce anxiety and secure a brighter future.
- Seek professional financial advice: If you're uncertain about your financial situation or need help creating a budget, consider seeking help from a professional. Financial advisors can provide expert guidance and help you develop a comprehensive financial plan. Having a clear financial plan can reduce uncertainty and improve your mental well-being.
- Practice self-care: Taking care of your mental health is crucial for managing your financial well-being. Practice stress-relieving techniques, such as exercise, meditation, and spending time with loved ones. Make time for hobbies and activities that bring you joy and seek support from others, if needed.
- Practice gratitude: Thinking positively and having a grateful mindset can greatly impact your financial well-being and mental health. Focus on what you have rather than what you lack, and practice gratitude for any financial successes.
In conclusion, managing our financial well-being is crucial for our mental health. By creating a budget, practicing mindful spending, saving for emergencies and future goals, seeking professional financial advice, practicing self-care, and cultivating gratitude, we can promote positive financial wellness and support our mental health. Remember to prioritize your mental health and seek support when needed. Taking these small steps towards mindful financial management can lead to a happier, healthier, and more financially secure life.
Your credit score plays a crucial role in your financial life, from determining the interest rates you pay on loans and with credit cards, to influencing your ability to secure housing. However, many people do not fully understand how credit scores are calculated or how to improve them. Below are 5 tips for improving your credit score.
Check Your Credit Report Regularly:
One of the most important steps in managing your credit is to regularly check your credit report. Errors on your credit report can negatively impact your credit score. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus per year, so make sure to take advantage of federal law.
Pay Your Bills on Time:
Payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Late payments can have a negative impact on your credit score. Make sure to pay all your bills on time to avoid any negative effects on your credit.
Keep Your Credit Utilization Low:
Credit utilization is the amount of credit you use compared to your credit limit. A high credit utilization ratio can negatively impact your credit score. Try to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your credit limit.
Keep Old Credit Accounts Open:
The length of your credit history is also a factor in determining your credit score. Closing old credit accounts can shorten your credit history and potentially lower your credit score. Even if you don't use the account regularly, it's a good idea to keep it open.
Be Cautious When Applying for Credit:
Applying for new credit can also impact your credit score. Each time you apply for credit, it generates a hard inquiry on your credit report, which can lower your credit score. Try to limit the number of new credit applications you submit, especially if you are planning to apply for a major loan, like a mortgage.
Learn more about managing your credit and finances through NGFCU’s Financial Wellness partner, BALANCE.
This publication is only intended to be used for general informational purposes. Consult a tax professional for the most current data and/or personal advice.
Are you expecting a tax refund? Over 80% of Americans receive an average of $3,090 in money back for the end of the tax year. Some look at it as fun extra spending money. However, receiving a big refund is usually not as beneficial as it may seem. By getting money back you are not only lowering your take-home pay, but you are also “loaning” the government interest-free money for the entire year.
If you are getting a big tax refund, consider changing your withholding exemptions so less tax is withheld from each paycheck. You can then invest that cash throughout the year in a dividend-bearing account or use it to pay bills.
But… if you are like most Americans and receive a refund this year, make the most of that money with these 10 ways to use your tax refund.
10 Ways to Spend Your Tax Refund
- Pay down high interest loans and lines of credit. Almost all interest rates on loans and lines of credit are higher than returns from investments. So, paying off those loans before making other investments makes sense.
- Fund your retirement account. Even if you have set up direct deposits to your retirement account, it helps to make other contributions from time to time.
- Invest it. There are many options for investing. You can choose to invest in low or high-risk investments, but even investing in a safe term account can yield a return. (Of course, do your research first before making any investment decisions and talk to licensed investment professionals like an NGFCU wealth advisor)
- Open an emergency account. Many Americans do not have money set aside for emergencies. A tax refund can be a great start to an emergency fund. Experts recommend that it should eventually total between three to six months’ worth of essential living expenses.
- Pay for repairs. Maintain your assets so you save money in the long run. Keeping your car up to date on oil changes, new tires, or annual home maintenance can help prevent costly damage repairs down the road.
- Start a personal growth fund. Investing in your emotional or physical state, or even investing in continual education for career growth is always a wise way to spend your money. Whether it’s paying for a gym membership or a cooking class, you’ll feel the reward of this type of investment fast.
- Make an extra home mortgage payment. Though you won’t feel the benefit immediately, doubling up on a mortgage payment now can save you months of mortgage payments later. Especially if you have a higher rate.
- Donate to a charity. Giving back to the community is a wonderful way of supporting a cause that you are passionate about. In most cases a portion of your donation can be tax-deductible too.
- Open a college savings plan for your child. A four-year, out-of-state college education can cost on average over $100,000. For the most part, withdrawals are completely tax-free when used for higher education purposes.
- Plan a vacation. If you are comfortable in your financial status and can afford some luxury, take a trip you’ve been dreaming of. Reward your hard work with an experience versus material items. Experiences are fulfilling, and memories with loved ones last forever.
Receive a complimentary financial checkup from an NGFCU representative and start discussing your options.
Have you noticed your monthly expenses always seem to equal whatever salary you’re making, even after you get raises? This is called “lifestyle creep” and it can detour you from your financial goals.
When people get a raise, they typically think they now have extra money to spend versus having more money to put away and save.
One tip to avoid this is to divert any future raises directly into savings. While you wait for your raise here are 5 tips that can help you cut your monthly expenses.
- Make a Budget. Start with major categories, like rent or mortgage, utilities, transportation, meals, clothing, and entertainment. Try and break it down even more to find items that are easy to reduce. Some people are surprised how much they spend at their coffee shop of choice. Even making coffee at home one day a week is a good start to help save some extra cash.
- Lower Your Mortgage Payment. The biggest monthly expense for many people is their home mortgage. If you haven’t examined your loan since you bought your home, it’s quite possible that you could save a lot of money – both now and over the life the loan – if you refinance at a lower interest rate. You could also extend the loan term to pay the loan over a longer period, thus lowering your monthly payment (though this may increase the total interest that you pay over the life of the loan). It could be worth taking some time to crunch the numbers and see if you can save on your monthly payment.
- Get an Insurance Checkup. A lot of people just get car insurance and stick with it until they are in an accident and realize how much it costs them. You could save some money by looking at some other insurance companies or even changing your current plan. With more people working from home insurance companies are reducing monthly fees since the car is not on the road as often but you need to contact your insurance company to see how much they will reduce your monthly bill. Also, ask about insurance bundle discounts.
- Examine Your Auto-Payments. Putting your regular bills on auto-payment can help so you do not get any late fees on your bills. However, if autopay causes you to keep paying for items or services you don’t really need or use, it’s no bargain. A few common culprits include unused gym memberships, subscriptions to magazines that aren’t read, and cable or satellite TV plans that include loads of premium channels that are rarely watched.
- Cut the Cord. Let’s face it, not many people use landline phones anymore. Some people still have them though and they aren’t being used. This is an easy expense to cut out since you already have a cell phone bill. If you really need your landline, consider a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) plan that provides phone service over the Internet. It is a lot cheaper (free in some cases) than traditional land line service.
A New Year means a fresh start. Begin your year productively with new financial goals. Everyone can improve on their financial wellness, but we don’t always know how. What is financial wellness? Financial wellness refers to an individual’s overall financial health and your relationship with money.
Here are 8 ways to promote a healthier financial lifestyle:
- Set and commit to a budget. Write down all your monthly expenses and compare it to your income. This is an easy way to know exactly how much money you have left over each month for savings.
- Save money consistently. Most financial institutions allow you to easily set up automatic monthly withdrawals from a checking account to an account created strictly for savings. Try and put a set amount into an account that typically has a higher return rate such as a Money Market account.
- Setup an Emergency Fund. Ideally you want to have 3-6 months of expenses set aside for emergencies, but that is not realistic for many of us. To start, saving just one month of expenses is easier to do, yet still makes a big difference.
- Know the due dates of bills. Set up automatic payments so you never miss a bill or get penalized with a late payment fee. Get used to tracking your bills as well so you know how much you need each month to pay these off. Be confident with your finances and make sure you have enough funds to pay off your charges.
- Set up alerts in your accounts. No one likes to pay overdraft fees on their accounts. That’s why many financial institutions let you set account alerts to notify you when your balance is getting low. This alerts you to take steps and avoid unwanted charges.
- Set up Card Alerts. Most of us have a harder time managing money when it all goes to a piece of plastic. Many financial institutions have card controls to set spending limits or gives you notifications when you spend above a certain amount. Paying cash or never spending more than what you have saved in your account helps as well.
- Pay off debts in small bites. If you have a lot of debt, start with the smallest amounts first. Tackling smaller debt first will give you confidence for the larger balances. Typically, you can consolidate most debt into one bill as well which can reduce the amount you spend on your overall interest rates.
- Avoid paying only the interest on your bills. If you are paying only interest on your bills, the borrowed amount itself will never get smaller. Try and pay as much of your bill as you can, including paying down the balance.
The winter Holidays are here. Are you ready?
These plans may include a celebration, shared feasts, and gifts. Though the reason for celebrations varies, one thing that remains common is the cost. So here are a few planning tips that can help ensure the holidays don’t cause more debt than memories.
A Pew Research study showed that 69% of Americans enjoy time with friends and family more than gifts during the holidays. By implementing a few of these strategies, you can spend more time with your loved ones and less worries with buyer’s remorse.
- Start with a plan in mind. Saving small amounts monthly will minimize the need for debt later. Pro Tip: For future holiday seasons, open a holiday savings account now and set up a monthly auto payment to make saving easy. Some financial institutions even have special holiday savings club accounts, specifically for this purpose.
- Make lists and stick to them. Take a lesson from Santa and make a gift list for your loved ones. Pro Tip: If you have a budget in mind, communicate it to avoid over-budget requests.
- Make your gift a creative one. Handmade gifts come straight from the heart and should not be overlooked. Pro Tip: Look for sales at your local hobby shop to create something special.
- Compare in-person and online shopping prices before purchasing. Pro Tip: Many brick-and-mortar stores will price match online competitors.
- Manage expectations for the children in the house. This helps shift the focus back to the true meaning of the holiday and is also a teachable moment of the value of money. Pro Tip: Give your child a gift budget and ask them to find a fun gift within it.
- Get creative with wrapping gifts. Be unique and repurpose things around the house. Pro Tip: Colorful ads mailed to your home make fun bows, and newspapers can be a fun way to wrap a gift.
- Make the holiday meal a potluck. A costly part of hosting is food expenses. Make it fun and have everyone bring their favorite side dish. Pro Tip: A fun potluck tradition could be a bake-off challenge. Let the children be the judges.
- Be flexible and plan for travel in advance. Booking travel 60-90 days out can significantly cut costs. Pro Tip: Sign up for free apps that alert you when travels deals are happening.