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January 2020 E-Newsletter

Budgeting 101: How to Create a Budget


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If I have take-home pay of, say, $2,000 a month, how can I pay for housing, food, insurance, health care, debt repayment and fun without running out of money?

That’s a lot to cover with a limited amount, and this is a zero-sum game. The answer is to make a budget. Here’s how to set one up.

How to make a budget in 5 steps

• 
Figure out your after-tax income. If you get a regular paycheck, the amount you receive is probably it, but if you have automatic deductions for a 401(k), savings, and health and life insurance, add those back in to give yourself a true picture of your savings and expenditures. If you have other types of income — perhaps you make money from side gigs — subtract anything that reduces it, such as taxes and business expenses.

• Choose a budgeting plan. Any budget must cover all of your needs, some of your wants and — this is key — savings for emergencies and the future. 

• Track your progress. Record your spending or use online budgeting and savings tools.

• Automate your savings. Automate as much as possible so the money you’ve allocated for a specific purpose gets there with minimal effort on your part. An accountability partner or online support group can help, so that you’re held accountable for choices that blow the budget.

• Revisit your budget as needed. Your income, expenses and priorities will change over time. Adjust your budget accordingly, but always have one. A budget is a plan for every dollar you have. It’s not magic, but it represents more financial freedom and a life with much less stress.

• Try a simple budgeting plan
We recommend the popular 50/30/20 budget. In it, you spend roughly 50% of your after-tax dollars on necessities, no more than 30% on wants, and at least 20% on savings and debt repayment.

We like the simplicity of this plan. Over the long term, someone who follows these guidelines will have manageable debt, room to indulge occasionally, and savings to pay irregular or unexpected expenses and retire comfortably.

Allow up to 50% of your income for needs
Your needs — about 50% of your after-tax income — should include:
  • Groceries.
  • Housing.
  • Basic utilities.
  • Transportation.
  • Insurance.
  • Minimum loan payments. Anything beyond the minimum goes into the savings and debt repayment category.
  • Child care or other expenses you need so you can work.
If your absolute essentials overshoot the 50% mark, you may need to dip into the “wants” portion of your budget for a while. It’s not the end of the world, but you’ll have to adjust your spending.

Even if your necessities fall under the 50% cap, revisiting these fixed expenses occasionally is smart. You may find a better cell phone plan, an opportunity to refinance your mortgage or less expensive car insurance. That leaves you more to work with elsewhere.

Leave 30% of your income for wants
Separating wants from needs can be difficult. In general, though, needs are essential for you to live and work. Typical wants include dinners out, gifts, travel and entertainment.

It’s not always easy to decide. Is a gym membership a want or a need? How about organic groceries? Decisions vary from person to person.

If you’re eager to get out of debt as fast as you can, you may decide your wants can wait until you have some savings or your debts are under control. But your budget shouldn’t be so austere that you can never buy anything just for fun.

Every budget needs both wiggle room — maybe you forgot about an expense or one was bigger than you anticipated — and some money you’re entitled to spend as you wish.

Your budget is a tool to help you, not a straitjacket to keep you from enjoying life, ever. If there’s no money for fun, you’ll be less likely to stick with your budget — and a good budget is one you’ll stick with.

Commit 20% of your income to savings and debt repayment
Use 20% of your after-tax income to put something away for the unexpected, save for the future and pay off debt. Make sure you think of the bigger financial picture; that may mean two-stepping between savings and debt repayment to accomplish your most pressing goals.

The article, Budgeting 101: How to Create a Budgetoriginally appeared on NerdWallet.

Keeping Your New Year's Money Resolution

New Years ResolutionFollow the SMART acronymfor goal-setting. Your financial goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

Break your goals into smaller, achievable steps. It can be overwhelming to have a huge goal. When you break it into smaller chunks, it doesn’t feel insurmountable.

If you’re working on paying off debt, you first want to get organized by seeing all your payments in one place. Then, you can choose the debt snowball method, where you pay off your smallest debts first, or the debt avalanche method, where you pay off your highest interest rate debts first.

Check in with yourself. Consider putting quarterly reminders on your calendar to check in with yourself or with a partner to see if you’re on track and make adjustments as needed. Consider using a budget worksheet to keep track of your spending and see how it fits into your goals

Reward yourself for your progress to stay encouraged. Reaching goals should feel good, so make sure to give yourself some treats along the way. 

The article, How to Keep Your New Year's Money Resolutionoriginally appeared on NerdWallet.

Ditch the Monthly Gym Fees-Get Fit With These 5 YouTube Channels

It’s Monday night, and the siren song of your comfy couch and that “Game of Thrones” you recorded has you skipping the gym. Again. What’s it been now — three months since you stepped on a treadmill?

Take the shame out of your game and save a little cash, too — an average of $54 a month, according to the International Health, Racquetball and Sportsclub Association — by pulling the plug on that unused gym membership. Instead, tune into these five free YouTube workout channels.
Working out at home1.Fitness Blender
What you’ll find: This no-frills channel offers more than 500 workouts developed and demonstrated by husband and wife team Daniel and Kelli Segars. Shot in their Seattle garage against a white backdrop, the cardio, strength and toning workouts, along with exercise challenges and no-nonsense advice, have earned the channel more than 4 million subscribers. That’s more than most celebrity channels.

2.Yoga with Adriene
What you’ll find: Adriene Mishler’s yoga channel has a variety of 10- to 45-minute yoga practices sorted by interest — everything from weight loss to easing anxiety. The channel includes specific practices for runners and other athletes looking to loosen tight muscles, as well as instructions on how to properly do certain poses.

Who it’s for: Everyone from absolute beginners to experienced yogis will find something to like here. Mishler, a laid-back Texan, keeps yoga casual, instructing people to ease into poses as their skill levels allow. Her motto is “find what feels good.”

3. The Body Coach TV
What you’ll find: Trainer Joe Wicks serves up HIIT videos — that’s “high-intensity interval training” — of different lengths that appeal to different skill levels. You’ll also find extra helpings of core strengtheners and a smattering of healthy cooking videos.

Who it’s for: Wicks, a social media star and best-selling author in the United Kingdom, is inspiringly fit. Plus, his sense of humor and “this ain’t easy” attitude make the heart-pounding HIIT workouts bearable. Bonus: His body-weight exercises let you combine strength and cardio in one time-saving workout.

4. Tone It Up
What you’ll find:  Personal trainers Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott have become fitness superstars and healthy lifestyle gurus, with huge followings on Facebook, Instagram and Toneitup.com. They post one challenging cardio/strength workout to their YouTube channel each week. The two also share healthy, “Insta-ready” recipes and meal prep tips and host lifestyle chats on “Wine Not Wednesdays.”

Who it’s for: Women adore the pair’s camaraderie and sense of humor, as well as their tough workouts and recipes for healthy treats. Men … maybe not so much.

5. BeFit
BeFit has been around for quite some time. Its workouts run the gamut from dance fitness, barre and yoga to total body strength and HIIT. The channel is updated weekly with routines from different instructors, along with classic video clips. Think: Jane Fonda, Denise Austin and several other OGs of the fitness world.

Who it’s for: There’s a little something for everyone. But if you like working out with new videos from the same instructor each week, this might not be your groove.

After ditching the gym membership and subscribing to these YouTube channels, you — and your bank account — are ready to get back in shape.

This article, Ditch the Monthly Gym Fees-Get Fit With These 5 YouTube Channels, originally appeared on NerdWallet.com

Coulee Security Tip: The Top Security Mistake People Make Online-and It's Something You Probably Do Every Day

You may be great at coming up with complex passwords that are hard to guess, keeping your smartphone or computer's software up to date, and avoiding phishing schemes.

But there's another critical security mistake people often make online: oversharing on social media. It's not just sensitive personal data like phone numbers, credit card numbers, and addresses that you should avoid sharing online, but also seemingly harmless information like mother's maiden name or your pet's name.

Such details are often used as answers to two-step verification questions or passwords, and they can easily be found just by scanning someone's Facebook page if that person frequently shares photos of their pets.

"Today, people are writing about everything," said Maor, who studies cyber criminal tactics on the dark web to help clients better protect themselves by understanding how hackers work. "They're putting everything online, and then they get mad at you if you don't read it."

In addition to being careful about what you share on social media, it's also a good idea to do some critical thinking when it comes to the companies and organizations asking for your personal information.

He shared an example of one instance in which he filled out a new patient form at a doctor's office that asked for his social security number. He decided not to write it, and that decision had no impact on his visit to the doctor.

"So why did you ask me for that in the first place?" he said referring to the doctor's office. "If you get breached, and then the information is there, I'm going to have a whole other set of problems."

Being selective about the information you share online can be more important now than ever before as data breaches become increasingly common. Capital One was hit with a massive data breach that impacted 100 million customers and applicants in the United States and six million in Canada. Information that was compromised included names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, the social security numbers of 140,000 customers, and the bank account numbers of 80,000 customers.

That notion of scrutinizing why a company needs your information in the first place is especially critical when it comes to app permissions. Companies like Apple and Google are trying to make it easier to manage which apps have access to different parts of your phone in their latest mobile software releases. But it's up to the user to use such tools and keep track of what the apps installed on their phone are actually accessing.

"We don't look at it anymore, we just click next. "So we need to pay attention to these things."

Coulee Security Tips are provided by Coulee Bank's IT Network Risk Manager, Quentin Fisher. He is always on the lookout for ways to keep our customers' information safe, here at the bank, at work and home.

Coulee Investment Center: Managing Cash Flow in Retirement

Except for the fortunate few who don't have to worry about money, the ultimate goal for most retirees is making sure their assets last as long as they live. Once a person or household no longer can rely on earned income to pay the bills and save for the future, balancing income and expenses becomes the primary focus of financial planning. And because of increasing longevity, managing cash flow is more critical than ever. A typical American electing to retire in his or her mid-60s may expect to live 20 or more years after retirement.

While many variables come into play depending on each person's mix of income, lifestyle, and health, there are a number of planning moves that can help retirees live within their means and make appropriate adjustments in response to changes in income and expenses.

Tools for the Task
If you are retired, or about to retire, you will need to gather and organize key information before you can tackle the ongoing tasks of monitoring and managing your cash flow in retirement. The purpose is to give you a clear and complete picture of your current financial situation, as well as of any significant changes you expect. Two sources will provide this information:
  • An up-to-date net-worth statement, which provides a snapshot of your assets, debt, and cash reserves.
  • Your monthly or annual budget, with itemized breakdowns of your income and expenses. If you haven't retired yet, it's a good idea to prepare a projected budget of your retirement income and expenses.
Be sure to account for all expenses, including those that occur infrequently, such as insurance bills, college tuition, membership fees, and investment management fees. They should be reflected in your monthly budget on a prorated basis. If you need assistance creating your net-worth statement and budget, you may want to consult a financial advisor, a book on the subject, or resources that are available online.

Analyzing this information will reveal any major problems that you need to overcome, such as insufficient cash reserves for an emergency or an income shortfall compared with current or projected expenses. It may also point up areas for improvement. For example, you may be able to free up cash by reducing debt or eliminating nonessential expenses.

Regular Monitoring
Plans and projections are always subject to change. Even with reasonable assumptions about investment returns, inflation, and retirement living costs, it's likely you will encounter numerous changes to your cash flow over time. Frequent monitoring of your income and expenses will detect changes that you can address in a timely fashion to prevent significant problems down the road. Experts often recommend a monthly review of your budget, as well as a comprehensive annual review of your financial situation and goals. While you can keep track of your situation with paper and pen, specialized software may make the task easier, especially if your finances are relatively complex.

What to Look For
What should you look for as you monitor your finances? Following are potential developments that could affect your cash flow and require adjustments to your plan.

• Interest rate trends and market moves may result in an increase or decrease in income from your savings and investments. For example, if interest rates decline, you may have to reduce your expenses if you are periodically withdrawing a fixed percentage from your investment assets. Alternatively, you might consider altering your investment mix to pursue other sources of income, aside from traditional fixed-income investments -- equity dividend income investments, for instance.

​• You may also encounter changes in federal, state, and local tax rates and regulations. This factor may come into play if you relocate after retiring. The state you move to may impose higher income or property taxes, for example. Other factors that could have a bearing on your retirement cash flow include changes in Social Security and Medicare benefits or eligibility, as well as those affecting employer-provided retiree benefits and private insurance coverage.

​• Inflation and health care costs are two other variables that can have an impact on living costs and, hence, your retirement planning assumptions.

​• Life events -- such as marriage, the death of a spouse, and the addition or loss of a dependent -- may also affect your cash flow. Cash flow is also a matter of personal preferences and decisions, and here you will be in control of the many small and large choices likely to be made over the course of retirement. How much you spend on travel, entertainment and recreation and whether you live in a lower or higher cost locale are examples of factors that can have a significant effect on cash flow -- and how long your retirement assets are likely to last.

That's why it's worth paying close attention to cash flow, making sure you budget carefully, monitor income and expenses frequently, and take action whenever you see significant changes in income and expenses.

Have financial questions? Shari Hopkins, our Certified Financial Planner, will provide you with financial guidance through every stage of your financial journey
 
Required Attribution
Because of the possibility of human or mechanical error by DST Systems, Inc. or its sources, neither DST Systems, Inc. nor its sources guarantees the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or availability of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event shall DST Systems, Inc. be liable for any indirect, special or consequential damages in connection with subscriber's or others' use of the content. © 2019 DST Systems, Inc. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited, except by permission. All rights reserved. Not responsible for any errors or omissions.
 
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