Counting calories isn’t the only way you can resolve to bring about positive change in your life during the new year. If you’re like many Americans, it may be a good time to start counting your way toward better financial health.
The past year brought financial setbacks to nearly two-thirds of United States households, according to a survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). In fact, more than a quarter of U.S. adults say the current quality of their financial lives are worse than they hoped. Topping the list of setbacks in 2017 were transportation issues (23 percent), housing repairs or maintenance (20 percent), and the inability to keep up with debt and falling behind on bill payments (16 percent).
In an effort to reverse that trend, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults will make financial New Year’s resolutions for 2018, according to the survey. Among those that plan to step up their financial game, top goals include setting and following a budget (40 percent), making a plan to get out of debt (39 percent), establishing savings (32 percent) and boosting retirement savings (31 percent).
“We continue to see a lot of anxiety about money,” said Ted Beck, president, and CEO of NEFE. “Three-quarters of Americans said something causes them financial stress, and it’s most often not saving enough and debt that are to blame.”
Reduce money stress and take control of your finances with these tips for financial success from the experts at NEFE:
Get debt under control. Take a hard look at what you owe. If there’s a clear warning sign of too much debt, take action. Set a goal to reduce your debt load next year by 5-10 percent. That might mean reducing impulse shopping. When you face temptation, delay the purchase and give yourself time to consider whether it’s a wise move that fits within your budget.
Save now and do so often. Preparing for unexpected events like medical emergencies can help reduce the financial impact of a life-changing event. Emergency savings can offset unexpected costs and help you get back on solid footing. A good rule of thumb is to have 6-9 months of income set aside. If that feels out of reach, start with a smaller goal, even as little as $500. When it comes to saving, it’s also a smart idea to think long term. Review your long-term savings and ensure they are on target for your retirement plans.
Shop for better services. You may be surprised by how much you can save when you periodically shop for the most competitive rates on your recurring bills. Make a game out of shopping providers to find the best value on your insurance policies, cell phone plan, internet, and utilities. Ask your providers about current rates and any promotions available to long-time, loyal customers. Then look at alternative providers to determine where you can trim some spending. Be sure to understand your current offering thoroughly so that you are comparing apples to apples.
Understand what’s behind your financial decisions. If you ever wonder why you feel good about spending money on vacations but avoid saving for retirement, the answer may lie in your unique values and how they influence your financial decision-making. Consider taking the LifeValues Quiz at smartaboutmoney.org, where you can also find help with setting goals and getting your finances in order.
To take control of your money and your financial life, it’s important to get organized. The most effective tool is a budget. Creating a budget can help you meet personal goals such as buying a house or car, or taking a vacation. It also can help you prepare for emergencies and manage debt.
Income: Start by listing all income sources, including wages, bonuses, and tips, as well as non-employer income such as child support, alimony or Social Security. Generally, you’ll want to look at your recurring income, but also include long-range, infrequent income that you anticipate, such as tax refunds.
Expenses: Next, take into account all of your recurring monthly bills. If you have major periodic expenses, such as a six-month auto insurance premium, account for it in monthly increments so you can save up and have the money ready when the payment comes due. Remember to account for the bills you pay (mortgage or rent, utilities, etc.), as well as unspecified items like lawn maintenance and personal hygiene purchases.
Categorize Spending: Some people find it helpful to break expenses into categories, such as housing, transportation, health, personal, entertainment and so on. The key is to capture every point where money is going out so you can get a thorough picture of your ongoing expenditures. It can take a couple months to get a true understanding of what your typical spending looks like.
Savings: An effective budget doesn’t just capture what’s going out; it also reflects what you’re able to keep. If you haven’t already, outline a savings plan that allows for an emergency fund, regular savings, retirement, and investments.
Debt: Consistently paying down the accounts you owe with the maximum amount you can afford is the surest way to reduce your debt load. Account for each debt you owe in your budget and establish a payment plan that shows how much you can allocate to each account each month.
Source: National Endowment for Financial Education
Freedom Is A Choice! “I am grabbing God’s coattail and letting Him lead”
Freedom has a deeper meaning for those like Omar Howard. Just a little over a decade ago he was released, seemingly free from the restraints of prison. Yet, walking out of the doors he had no clue he would be entering into the harsh prison of life that follows those like him who have a record. That record makes it hard for them to have the basic level of freedom that most of us who have never been down that road take for granted. Howard is like multiple men and women who are released from jail with a plan to change but have to fight the “system”. Howard describes his “beginning” as working endless opportunities just to make ends meet and being told “no” repeatedly. It would have been easy for Howard to just go back to the life of crime. Why wouldn’t he? Why didn’t he? His response, “You have to make a conscious decision to change every day. Life is about choices, every choice leads to a destination and you have to believe God is in control”. This thought process and his tenacity led him to his current place and receiving his pardon January 2018, just a month after celebrating his ten year release.
Howard was 15 when he dropped out of school and started down a path to destruction. Hard robbery was the crime that would ultimately change his life and leave him with no choice but to accept a plea deal that resulted in an 18 year sentence from a “hit” that left a man being killed. Howard maintains his innocence in the murder and has apologized to the family for the part that he played. Although he doesn’t blame his childhood for his choices, he does state that it’s important that parent’s play an essential part in the lives of the children that you bring into this world. “Parental intimacy is important, create structure for your kids and let them know how much you love them. Fathers, be a part of your children’s lives or they will embrace their counterparts for support. Be transparent and talk to your kids about real issues.”
When asked, What would you say to your younger self? Howard responds, “Establish a relationship with God. Embrace the process, strive harder and KNOW THAT YOU HAVE A PURPOSE.” The same thoughts he now shares with the youth that are involved with his foundation “Freedom is a Choice, Inc., a mentoring program for at-risk teens. It is evident that Howard is a changed man, as a Chaplain at the Atlanta Transitional Center in midtown, he speaks hope to those who are where he once was. He is a featured speaker in the documentary “Released” When Does the Sentence End?” and most recently shared his story on Iyanla Vanzat’s “Fix My Life” show. He is a man of action and on a mission to keep as many young men from walking in his shoes by exposing them to better. He is a sought after motivational speaker and hopes to extend his program to have one of the largest faith-based youth centers very soon. It is nothing short of amazing, but his ability to serve and give makes him a blessing.
Read more about The Omar Howard Story.
Is This Life?
Media headlines are displaying disaster all over the world with no resolve. From children being killed in innocent shootouts because of the flaws in gun laws to sexual abuse cases on the rise. Our government has gone haywire and currently dominating the spotlight while, deadly diseases and mental illnesses are being minimized. Is this life? Is this what life is becoming? Every morning we wake up to the sound of breaking news and headlines that make us cringe. Positive stories and encouraging words have become harder to find. When asking others, “How do you deal with the negative energy every day?” Some reply, “I don’t. I don’t watch the news, or I don’t listen to it.” My reply is usually this, “It isn’t just on the news. It’s walking or sitting right beside you and sometimes it’s even in your household. There are people suffering every day because of the things we don’t do, don’t want to see, or simply don’t want to get involved in.” We have been conditioned to not get in anyone else’s business unless it affects us personally. Look around you, open your eyes. It’s now affecting us all and we must do something. This is a call for action. It’s time we all unselfishly take part in rebuilding our communities. Make it your business to do something intentional every day in an effort to make a change in your community and begin to push everyone including yourself out of the comfort of just accepting what is. We are losing innocent lives every day to drug abuse, domestic violence, hunger, contaminated water and the list of disasters that are happening right under our nose increase, every second, every minute and every hour of every day.
You may be wondering what you can do to promote positive change in your community, here is a start:
- Volunteer at shelters-Everyone has something they can provide-share your expertise. Help by donating your goods and knowledge.
- Volunteer at schools-Teachers need more mentors and positive role models. We all have a story, share your experience and give a child a blueprint to a better life.
- Spend quality time with your kids and your family- We get so caught up in life that we forget to nourish what we have already been blessed with. Take time to water the seeds you planted.
- Contact your political partners and work with them on change for your community. What do you see in your area that would be an easy fix to reduce crime or poverty. Make a plan and Expose it!
There are so many things that we can do to change the direction of this world but WE must work together for the good and it doesn’t matter what religion, race or sex you are-we all have something in common. We want the best for our families.
Post and share your thoughts on what you can do to expose and improve your community. Hashtag#exposuremagazine #isthislife
Cubs Sign Pitcher Yu Darvish to $126 Million Deal in Preparation for Next Title Run
Making one of the biggest splashes this off-season, the Chicago Cubs have added pitcher Yu-Darvish, formerly of the Los Angeles to their talented, but imperfect roster.
The deal for Darvish standing at $126 million also comes with an opt out clause along with performance clauses to increase the value of the deal. The Cubs had been in talks with Darvish for a good portion of the last season, but now apparently was the best time for both parties.
Despite the unceremonious ending to last season in the NLCS, the Cubs have been in a better place these past several seasons than they have been in a long while. The signing of Darvish to say the least is a very good insurance policy to sustain this run.
With names like Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, Darvish will complete the rotation for one of the most talented group of pitchers in baseball. However this move seems to nudge Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta who is currently a free agent to the door. Arrieta had an up and down season with flashes of greatness, but ultimately didn’t make the best case to remain with the ball club.
Darvish brings a 2.4 ERA against National League Central opponents as well as his all-time MLB leading 11 strikeouts per nine innings ratio to the Cubs which makes this the pickup many other teams are coveting right now. The Cubs begin spring training in a week and can begin integrating Darvish then in preparation for the upcoming season.
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