6 Smart Financial Choices You Should be Making

Smart Financial Choices is the Making
Make Financial Choices that Matter

The world is a revolving door of bills, savings, spending and decisions. When we talk about financial wellness, we don’t usually talk about millions. We talk about living within your means. This means you have to make financial choices that will benefit you. For example:

 

  1. Create an emergency fund

Every single one of you, regardless of how much you make should have an emergency fund. Unfortunately, more than 50 million Americans forget about this very important financial choice.

This very important aspect of savings will help you take care of unexpected life events that will require you to spend money. The last thing you want when an emergency arises is stress about money. This fund will help you get to your next step easier.

 

  1. Embrace minimalism

Do not spend money on things you don’t need. Yes, you may treat yourself once in a while but if you are going out every weekend or changing your house décor every 2 months; STOP!

Take a step back, breathe and ask yourself “Can you live without this?” If the answer is yes, then put your credit card/cash back. We cannot stress this enough; you must live within your means. Once you start doing this, you can actually start achieving other goals like traveling, saving for a home and go on a shopping spree without having a huge financial strain.

 

  1. Make your money accrue interest

Growing up I heard everyone older than me say that financial stability came along when you figured out a way to make your money make own its money. CD’s and Money Market Accounts are the perfect way to make your money accrue interest by just letting it sit. It is also the perfect way to get disciplined with your savings. CD’s and Money market accounts are also a guaranteed way to make money because they do not rely on the stock market to grow. You just need patience.

 

  1. Change your insurance

We briefly mentioned changing your insurance on our “How to Make a proper Budget” blog. The internet has made research easy. Changing your insurance is research you should be making. See how you can take advantage of discounts, promos and benefits that can help you reduce the cost of your insurance.

 

  1. Save money on gas

Gas is one of those little things that makes a difference. If you live anywhere in Florida, you are spending money on gas. A way you can start saving on gas is buying or switching into a smaller car. This may not be possible if you are a parent or have a big family, but if this is not something you need…CHANGE IT!

 

  1. Find ways to make extra money
    Making a little extra money is smart- especially when you want to treat yourself a bit more. You can use APPs and websites like eBay, Offer Up and Facebook to sell gently used items. You can open a separate Savings Account to add the little extra money you are making. The extra dollars can help you pay for a plane ticket and help you pay for a vacation. It can also make it easier to grow your Emergency Fund.

 

Try to follow these tips to help you make better financial choices. It is the little changes that make a difference in your financial well-being.


Create a proper budget

How to create a proper budget

Create a proper budget
Start Budgeting today

Budgeting is the little plan in 2019 that will keep you financially organized and stress-free. However, to make an accurate budget you must have a clear picture of what your goals are.

For example, aside from paying bills this year, you will also like to travel and buy a home. Both are achievable but will take some discipline in your part.

Before you start, go through find ways to reduce your bills.

Reduce Your Bills 

We can thank the internet for making research and price comparison a lot easier. Basically, your first job is to review how to lower your main bills. You should try to reduce your car insurance, phone bill and internet payment. Take around 2 to 3 days to make accurate research and try not to fall for hidden fees.

 

Second, make a list of any additional expenses you have. These expenses are your wants. They will probably include coffee trips, friend dinners, splurge shopping and any expense you simply do not need to do. Minimalism is key when it comes to sticking your budget. After you have written these out find a way to cut them by 80%. Start making coffee at home and have a home-made breakfast with your friends instead.

Prioritize your Bills

Your budget will be divided in 3 parts. Your goals, emergency fund and everyday living.

Set aside 5% of your income after taxes and make this number your emergency fund goal. You will not touch this money unless you absolutely need too.

Then write down every expense you have. Starting with your groceries and ending with your favorite leisure expense.

If your end result shows more income than expenses, you are off to a good start. This means you can prioritize this excess to areas of your budget such as traveling and retiring. If you are showing a higher expense column than income, it means some changes will have to be made.

Make adjustments to expenses.

 If you have accurately identified and listed all of your expenses, the ultimate goal would be to have your income and expense columns to be equal. This means all of your income is accounted for and budgeted for a specific expense or savings goal.

If you’re in a situation where expenses are higher than income, you should look at your  “wants” to find areas to cut. Since these expenses are typically non-essential, it should be easy to shave a few dollars in a few areas to bring you closer to your income.

Review Your Budget Monthly

It’s important to review your budget on a regular basis to make sure you’re staying on track. After the first month take a minute to sit down and compare the actual expenses versus what you had created in the budget. This will show you where you did well and where you may need to improve.

Most importantly, keep yourself organize. A budget only works if you are willing to follow it and put in the work.


Safely file business Taxes

How to ensure that your business taxes are filed safely

How to ensure that your business taxes are filed safely

Safely file business Taxes
Safely file business Taxes

As a business owner, your number one priority is safeguarding the interests of your enterprise, which is why you should take extra precaution to ensure that your information is protected when filing your business taxes. These tips will ensure that your returns are filed safely, and your information remains uncompromised.

Practical protection

Tax returns require sensitive information pertaining to your business as well as personal details which make them attractive to hackers and identity thieves.

Since the Internal Revenue Service requires you to keep your tax filings and supporting documents for a minimum of three years and a maximum of seven years. The agency advises that you keep all paper documents locked safely away.

A locked drawer or cabinet are good options, but your best bet may very well be a hidden, fireproof safe.

When working with a tax professional, take the time to vet their credentials before you hand over any sensitive documents. If you choose to file on your own via tax software, make sure that your computer is equipped with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software and that you are protected by a firewall.

If you store your documents on your computer for record-keeping purposes or for electronic filing, the IRS recommends installing software designed to encrypt your files and backup drives to prevent important information from being stolen.

Once you’re ready to cycle out older tax documents, the IRS advises that you shred any paper documents thoroughly to prevent identity theft. For electronically stored documents, you will need to wipe your drives before selling or disposing of an old computer or external drive.

Delivery methods

Before you send off or hand over physical tax paperwork, The Balance’s William Perez and Beverly Bird advise that you make a detailed list of everything you’re sending and make copies of every document. You can scan and save the documents as PDFs on your computer. To get an extra layer of protection get add secondary copies to a flash drive or an external hard drive.

Having readily available backup copies will reduce the stress that occurs if something should go missing en route to your accountant or to the government.

If possible, Perez and Bird suggest hand-delivering your documents to your accountant or professional tax preparer, as this serves as the best option to ensure the safe filing of your documents.

If your accountant is too far to reach in person, it’s suggested that you spring for delivery or signature confirmation and that you maintain your tracking information to monitor your documents’ progress. Additionally, Try not to use email.

Never send sensitive details within the body of an email and ensure that all documents are encrypted and password-protected.

Your tax paperwork is too important to the health of your business. By taking the proper precautions, you can better ensure its success and stability without having to worry as much.


5 Saving Money Tricks for this Holiday Season

The Holiday season is upon us and this could either mean you are overly excited about the celebrations or you’re overly stressed out about money. Granted, you can also be both, excited and stressed out. This is normal during this time and we are here to offer you some guidance.

How can you save your money and spend wisely this holiday season?

Make a Budget

It should be no surprise to you that a budget is the smartest way to keep track of your money. You should keep one year-round but you should also have a separate one during the holiday season.

When you create your holiday budget, be smart and avoid setting yourself up for failure. Do not set a budget that is unrealistically low or one that is way too high. Also, think about cutting back in other areas. Can you avoid brunch Sundays with your friends for a month? Or even little things like buying coffee every morning?

Make a list of gifts that you absolutely need to get and another list of gifts you can make yourself. Getting a beautiful printed picture in a cute affordable frame can be just as nice as a $50 bottle of wine. After all, it is the thought that counts.

Make a Potluck

Getting your friends and family together to celebrate is always a beautiful tradition. However, if you are the host, it can be a very expensive one too. Deviate from the all-or-nothing thinking and ask your friends to help you with side dishes and dessert for your celebration. Not only will a potluck save you money, it will also save you precious needed time.

Get Flying Deals and Discounts

If you’re planning on taking a nice trip out of town, search for discounts. Gone are the days where travel agents had the only good flight packages. Now you have a million ways to get discounted fly tickets, car rentals and hotels. In fact, you can even get some travel benefits with your BSCU credit card.

Here is a trick: When you search for flights online, make sure to check at different times of the day. Believe it or not, some flights can get very cheap when you purchase them at odd hours like 2:00am.

Have Will-Power and Know When You Need to Stop

When your list is finished and you’ve checked it twice, it’s time to stop shopping. Know when you’re finished, and avoid stopping by the mall “just to see what they have” – this can lead to making poorly planned purchases and blowing your budget.

Most people get the itch to shop a few days before Christmas, if this is you, then leave some shopping you NEED for the last days. This way, you will still feel like you are getting something but you are not just “checking things out.”

Time to Use Coupons.

If this isn’t typically you, that is okay but during this time you’ll be wise to utilize coupons. You can get coupons online, via email, through a newspaper and you can even buy a cheap coupon book at the mall. The point is you have choices. Do not buy that $25 dress when you can get it for $15. Be smart because every dollar adds up.

Finally, remember to enjoy this time with your family and if you have to spend, spend wisely. We hope this helps.

 


How to make your savings grow with a Money Market account?

Money market accounts can provide a safe, productive way to store your money

A money market account is an account that typically comes with a higher interest rate than other savings accounts. If investing in stocks and bonds is not something that appeals to you, but you would still like to make your money grow safely, opening a money market account could be the right move. There are still some factors that you should consider before committing to your decision.

Higher interest

The main appeal of money market accounts is that they typically offer higher interest rates than savings accounts, though this is not always true on a case-by-case basis. Investing deposits for money market accounts are held in government securities, commercial paper and certificates of deposit, returning higher yields than you would normally get from a savings account.

MMAs also provided the added bonus of security comparable to that of a traditional savings account. According to NerdWallet’s Margarette Burnette, these accounts are backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and National Credit Union Administration for up to $250,000.

Minimum balance

Compared to a regular savings account, which may have a minimum balance requirement, a money market account is likely to require an even greater minimum daily balance as well as a higher minimum deposit requirement when you want to put money into the account. The minimum requirement may also be based on a tiered system. With more money in the account, you can benefit from higher interest rates. If you are under your minimum requirements, you could be hit with expensive maintenance fees. Because of this, it is best to open an MMA if you are sure that you will be able to maintain its conditions and reap the full benefits of using it for saving.

Should you open a money market account?

Money market accounts are a great alternative to the traditional savings account that provide benefits similar to that of a checking account should you need to make the occasional withdrawal. Check out our Money Market options. It’s possible they offer even more fruitful ways to store your money, or equally fruitful options that have fewer limitations.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]


4 Essentials Every Young Entrepreneur Should Know

No matter how old you are, the entrepreneurship bug can bite you and give you the itch to start a business. If you have been working for some time, you probably have some experience in the industry you’re launching into and have spent time in the business world. However, if you’re younger, there is more for you to learn. Here are some financial tips that will help you start off on the right foot.

  1. Keep it separate

Almost every resource about business finance declares loudly and often that you need to keep business and personal funds separate. It’s easy to think that you’ll make sure to track things and know what money belongs to whom, but when everything mixes together it can be tempting to dip into business funds for personal use. At BSCU we have a low cost Business Checking product that may help you keep things on budget and organized.

Besides that possibility, Dmitriy Fomichenko of NerdWallet points out that if the IRS comes calling for an audit, you’ll need proof of business expenses and income. That is much easier when the money isn’t in the same place. If your business is a corporation, you’re actually required by law to maintain a separate account for your business.

2. File your taxes

Speaking of the IRS, it’s imperative that you remember to pay your taxes. This might seem like an obvious tip, but your taxes get more complicated when you own a company. Project Eve points out that you might be so wrapped up in day-to-day operations that you forget about taxes, or you might not have the right information to file correctly and meet quarterly deadlines. If you don’t have an accountant for your business already, it’s important that you seek the advice of a tax professional now to avoid penalties (or jail time) later.

3. Start a retirement plan

When you first start your business, more money will be going out than in. But when funds do start to come back and you have enough to cut yourself a paycheck, Yoav Vilner of Entrepreneur says it’s important to also start a retirement fund. If another company employed you, retirement plans would probably be part of your intake paperwork and someone else would take care of it. When you’re working on your own, that task falls to you. No matter how much you think you’ll love your business, you will thank yourself in the future for saving now so you can ride off into the sunset later.

4. Get ready for emergencies

You probably insured your business when you opened up, but don’t forget about yourself. NerdWallet points out that, as an entrepreneur, any serious illness of injury can put that source of income in jeopardy. Make sure that you purchase disability insurance to cover you in case the worst should happen. While you’re at it, consider buying business overhead expense insurance.   If you have to take an extensive leave of absence and that temporarily closes your business, this policy will cover certain business costs like rent, employee salaries or taxes until you’re back on your feet.

If you’re young, driven and ready to start a business, we wish you the best of luck. Just make sure to look both ways before you make a major decision, and consider consulting a financial adviser.


How to Start a Small Business with Little Capital

Becoming a business owner doesn’t have to require huge capital investment

If you’ve ever dreamt of owning your own business, you probably stopped dreaming the second you considered how much money it would take to make your dream come true. You can dream big and start small, however, by starting up a business that doesn’t require an exorbitant amount of capital up front.  The following are just some of the avenues you can take to make your dream of being a business owner a reality.

Get creative
If you count painting or handicrafts among your biggest passions, you have the potential to turn your hobby into a successful business. According to Jayson DeMers, Founder and CEO of AudienceBoom and VIP Contributor for Entrepreneur, selling your paintings, artwork and crafts on eBay, Amazon and Etsy allows you to reach a wider customer base without having to invest capital in a website. If you want to market your products without having to pay for placement, you can start up dedicated accounts on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to show off your goods and offer exclusive discounts.

Cook up some cash
Cooking can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It allows you not only to control what you put into your body, but it also provides a creative outlet and rewards experimentation with new things. If you find that your kitchen creations are consistent crowd-pleasers, you might be able to parlay that skill into a small enterprise. Susan Ward, owner of information technology consulting firm Cypress Technologies, writes for The Balance Small Business that gluten-free and artisanal foods are two of the top small-business ventures you can start without a lot of capital up front.
If you can’t afford a retail space stocked with high-end equipment and appliances, you can simply utilize your home kitchen to create your product. Apart from selling your product via social media, you can start by selling your goods at a local farmers market. Once you begin to build a bit of buzz, you can reach out to local grocery stores and restaurants to see if they’ll begin selling your products and incorporating them into dishes.

Selling yourself
If you are in possession of a certain skillset or talent that you think can drive a small-business endeavor, you might be able to put it to use without having to pay the typical small-business startup cost. Jackie Zimmerman, writing for NerdWallet, says that your expertise can be the seed from which a thriving business can grow.
If you consider yourself an expert in some academic field or another, Zimmerman recommends plying your skills as a consultant or private tutor. If you hit upon a formula or approach that works, you can use the positive results seen by students as a proof of concept and begin marketing yourself with testimonials to back up what you’re selling.
Ward suggests that taking care of seniors is a small-business opportunity that can both help keep you financially solvent and provide a meaningful service to people in need. Ward cites the affluence of the baby-boom generation and an American Association of Retired Persons survey that found 90 percent of seniors wanting to live independently as evidence of in-home care being both profitable and important. Ward notes that there are low-cost franchise opportunities available for those interested in providing senior care.
These are just some of the small-business options that can be brought to fruition without a ton of money up front. If you have a particular skill or field that you would like to turn into a business of your own, consider all of your options and be creative wherever possible


4 Reasons to Open a Savings Account for Your Business

 

 

When you were a child, your parents opened your first savings account. As you grew and came into bills of your own, you opened a checking account to have better access to your money. Now, as the owner of a business, you’ve probably opened a business checking account so that you can pay your suppliers and separate enterprise money from your personal accounts. If you really want your business to be as sound as possible, consider going one step further and opening a business savings account.

 

1. Prepare for tax time

If you have spent time as an employee of an established business, you know that the usual automatic withholding of taxes can be extremely helpful every time that tax season rolls around. As a small-business owner, you are the one responsible for knowing how much money you owe in taxes and paying that amount to the federal, state and local governments on time. A business savings account can be a great place to store or hold the money you know you will need for tax payments. Not only will you yield some interest from setting the money aside, but you will ensure that you or your partners don’t spend it on a business investment instead.

2. Save for a rainy day

When you’re managing your personal funds, your savings account more than likely holds the money you are keeping in case of an emergency, such as a loss of job or a medical crisis. A business can use a savings account for the same thing. Amanda Cameron of Patriot Software advises that a savings account is a great buffer to cover unexpected costs that might otherwise severely hinder or even cripple your business. As liquid assets, you can access funds quickly to fix any problems, such as broken  equipment or an accident, to make sure that any work stoppage lasts the shortest time possible.

3. Earn interest

Interest rates are finally going up in the United States, which means that savings accounts might once again start earning meaningful interest. Regardless of how much interest your money accrues, the team at the Money Supermarket Financial Group points out that you will almost certainly earn a more competitive rate of interest with a savings account than in a checking account. Whether you intend to use the money in the account for a rainy day or just have it there for safe keeping, keeping it in a savings account ensures that your money is working for you.

4. Stay organized

Just like an individual can have more than one savings account, a business can also have multiple accounts. While it might seem confusing to maintain separate accounts, it is a very basic way to make sure that all of your money will be used for its intended purpose. Keeping your equipment funds in an account apart from the emergency money will help ensure that you don’t accidentally overspend in an emergency and not be able to pay for upgrades your tools need to stay competitive. This ensures more stability, even if it comes at the cost of added account maintenance.

Consider talking to an associate at your bank or your financial advisor for the best advice for taking your business savings to the next level. A business savings account is by and large a sound decision, but there may be options available to you that work better for your business’s needs.

Check out our Business Banking Options!

How to use your CD’s for Savings

The advantages and drawbacks of putting your money in a certificate of deposit

From savings accounts and money market accounts to stuffing cash into a jar in the cabinet or beneath the mattress, there are a wide variety of ways to save your money. These options offer varying advantages and drawbacks, but what they all have in common is the idea that you can withdraw your money as soon as you wish. If you have funds that you want to squirrel away without the temptation to dip into them, consider putting the money into a certificate of deposit.

 

What is a certificate of deposit?

According to NerdWallet’s Tony Armstrong, a CD is a kind of savings account that typically offers a fixed interest rate and fixed maturity date. Insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. for up to $250,000, CDs are considered extremely low-risk savings alternatives. The advantage to leaving the money in your CD for a full term, which Armstrong says typically ranges from three months to five years, is that it will accrue interest over that period, offering a significant return on your investment.

 

Saundra Latham, contributor at The Simple Dollar, writes various different types of CDs are worth considering. A traditional CD is the most common variety and offers fixed interest rates, but if you prefer a bit more risk you can also opt for a variable-rate CD which will adjust to the market rate. There is also a bump-up CD, which allows you to opt into a higher interest rate if one becomes available during your term. If you have a larger amount of money to put away — think six figures or more — a jumbo CD pays out a higher interest rate than the traditional option.

 

When a CD won’t work

A CD requires the full term to pass before you can withdraw funds (without paying an exorbitant fee), so it might not be a sound option if it is your only means of savings. CDs are attractive because they tend to offer higher interest rates than savings and money market accounts, but they don’t offer the same flexibility when it comes to making sporadic withdraws for emergency situations. Margarette Burnette of NerdWallet suggests a high-yield savings account might be a preferable alternative if you aren’t positive you could go for a fixed term without the money.

 

A CD also might not be your investment of choice if you want a higher risk-reward proposition. CDs are generally safe additions to your portfolio if you want something reliable to fall back on, but if you prefer more aggressive investments with potentially bigger payouts, CDs likely aren’t going to be the focal point of your financial strategy.

 

How to maximize your CDs

The “laddering” technique is a common approach to getting the most out of a CD. The Wall Street Journal’s how-to guide on CDs puts it as such: “Let’s say you want to invest $15,000. By laddering, you would invest $5,000 in a one-year CD, $5,000 in a two-year CD and $5,000 in a three-year CD. Then, each time one of the three CDs matures, you would either take the cash or re-invest it in another three-year CD to keep your ladder in place.”

 

This strategy enables you to continually collect interest and opt into higher interest rates if they are available at the close of a term. If you keep this method going continuously, you will allow yourself the option of having a chunk of your CD savings at your disposal every year. This way, you can decide whether you need the money for an emergency or investment opportunity while the other CDs in your portfolio continue to accrue interest.

Investing in CDs is a safe, solid financial decision if you have the patience to bear it out. To determine whether a CD is right for you, talk to your financial advisor to learn more about the risks and rewards.


How to Adjust Your Savings When Your Income Changes

Have you ever heard the phrase “The more you make, the more you spend” If you have and live by this mantra then you are doing it wrong!

An increase in your income does not mean you need to up your shopping list, it means you need to increase your savings.

Basically, if you have been making living on $45,000-a-year and you have been paying rent/or mortgage and paying your bills on time, there is no need to increase your spending. We are not saying you cannot treat yourself once in a while. However, you do have to make smart decisions and be conscious of the fact that a big emergency fund matters and can help you when you need it most.

Keep the following tips in mind if you are getting a raise soon:

  1. Do not spend more

If you earn a raise or bonus, congratulations you deserve it!
Just be careful, most people become trapped in a spending circle with no money saved up for the future. Take a look at the goals you are trying to reach, be ready for unexpected expenses that may come up and be comfortable without exceeding your means.

  1. Grow or Create an emergency fund.

Your emergency fund should cover a minimum of 3-months expenses. A good emergency fund covers 6 months of expenses easily. Make this one of your goals! Do not use these funds for a vacation, a wedding or leisure time. An emergency fund, as the name suggests, it’s only for emergencies. For example, an emergency fund can be used for an unexpected hospital bill, car issues or job loss.

  1. Create a separate savings account and make the funds transfer automatically

If you don’t see it, then you don’t need to spend it. Additionally, if your income shirks, the savings you have should help you carry you thru. A BrightStar Savings Account is completely FREE and it does not require a minimum when it’s coupled with a FREE Checking Account. What better way than to save money in a reliable credit union?

Do not forget the essentials of saving, living in moderate means, and to plan accordingly.