Posts on Apr 2019

Save Money by Taking Your Spring Cleaning to the Next Level!

Now that March has gone out like a lamb (a waterlogged lamb in many parts of the country), Springtime is here, and that means it’s time for that beloved annual tradition—Spring Cleaning.

In surveys conducted by the American Cleaning Institute, responses indicate that as many as 91% of Americans and 96% of Millennials engage in spring cleaning, so it seems safe to say we’re all in this together.

As you open the windows and begin your routine of washing, sweeping, dusting, and decluttering, the goal is to spruce up your home’s interior while eliminating things you no longer need. When done correctly, spring cleaning can actually make you happier and healthier. So, it makes sense to be as thorough as possible. This year, while you’re busy cleaning your fixtures and furniture, it might be a good idea to update some common household items to more energy-efficient options. A more efficient home is an investment that can save you money all year long, and we’re pretty sure lower utility bills will boost your mood as well!

Simple Ways to Make Your Home More Energy Efficient This Spring

  • Energy-Saving Power Switch
    By completely cutting off all power when an electronic device isn’t in use, these plug-in adapters reduce the costly effects of “vampire energy.” While the term sounds scarier than it should, vampire energy refers to the power that still flows to a device even when it is turned off. These handy switches can be purchased online or in your local hardware store for $10 or less. And with prices that low, your return on investment can be quite substantial.
  • Low-Flow Showerhead
    According to a research project conducted by the Alliance for Water Efficiency, the average American shower lasts for just over 8 minutes and uses approximately 17 gallons of water. The average flow rate works out to be roughly 2.1 gallons per minute (gpm). By switching to a low-flow shower head that reduces usage to 1.25 gpm, you can save an average of $32 per year per person. For a couple, that means $64 in savings each year—especially impressive considering that most low-flow showerheads can be purchased for $10-15.
  • Smart Thermostat
    The Internet has revolutionized the way we communicate, shop, and even do our banking. Now, thanks to smart products like the Nest Thermostat, it appears that it has also changed the way we save on energy-related expenses. While the initial price of a Nest will set you back approximately $250, the average annual home energy savings of $150 per year means you’ll recoup your investment in less than two years. After that, the savings just continue to add up.
  • Energy Audits
    Not sure where to begin? An energy audit can help! Depending on your location, energy audits can cost anywhere from $250 to $600. And while that might seem like a lot to pay up front, the potential savings can make it worth the investment. During a professional energy audit, efficiency experts utilize specialized tools to identify areas where your home may be using excessive energy, which, in turn, can help you pinpoint which improvements will make the biggest difference. To find an energy auditor and prepare for an audit, check out these helpful tips.

 

Throughout this article, we’ve talked about a few relatively low-cost ways to improve your home’s energy efficiency. But maybe you’re thinking a little bigger this spring. If you need a little more incentive to make big-ticket improvements like installing new windows, updating your HVAC system, or adding solar panels, federal tax incentives may provide just the push you’re looking for. Usually available in the form of rebates, these incentives are designed to encourage homeowners to update their home systems to be more energy-efficient and sustainable. If you’ve been thinking about making some major energy-saving upgrades around your house, don’t forget to see if they qualify for valuable government incentives. When it comes to saving energy and saving money, every little bit helps!

Should You Keep Separate Checking Accounts When You Get Married?

You found “The One.” You popped the question, and they said “Yes.” You both said, “I do.” Your honeymoon was incredible. Now, you’re back to reality and settling into your new life together. Suddenly, you’re faced with a wave of everyday decisions you hadn’t previously thought about. Who sleeps on which side of the bed? Which toothpaste should you buy? Whose parents will you visit at Thanksgiving? What about Christmas? Some decisions are trivial, but other dilemmas feel far more important. But then, when that first monthly bill shows up and you have to decide who pays it, you come face-to-face with one more crucial decision: Should you combine your finances and get a joint checking account?

For years, financial advisors and relationship gurus have sparred over the potential dangers and benefits of joining two individual bank accounts into one. The most challenging part of this debate is that both sides appear to make valid points, which can leave you and your spouse wondering what to do. Before we go any further, it’s important to remember that just as each person in a marriage is a unique individual, every relationship is different. And while it’s wise to seek counsel and take advice, you’ll ultimately need to figure out what works best for you. In the points to follow, we’ll set out to share a few perspectives that can help you determine the best way for you to build a financial foundation that works for your family.

The Case for Separate Checking Accounts

In an interview with CNBC, David Back, co-founder of AE Wealth Management, advised, “You should have your own account, both of you. It’s absolutely critical, especially for women, that you keep money in an account that’s yours that you control.” Citing the fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce, Bach and other like-minded financial professionals point to the fact that not only do separate accounts allow each individual to maintain their own financial identity; they also make it easier to divide assets if the relationship dissolves. If both spouses agree, the practice of keeping separate accounts can also serve to reduce the number of disputes over spending decisions. By allowing each person to manage the finances they bring into the relationship, this approach depends on the mutual trust that each person is managing their money in a financially responsible manner. And in a marriage, that kind of trust is essential.

The Case for Joint Checking Accounts

While many agree with the practicality of married couples maintaining separate bank accounts, several studies at the University of California suggest a completely different approach. Though financial independence may be a key factor in maintaining a sense of autonomy, the UC study indicated that marital happiness might be easier to achieve if both partners agree to combine everything—including bank accounts. After reviewing the results of their studies, the school’s researchers shared the following observation, “It is important for couples to perceive their possessions and financial goals as shared, and our research identifies one practical way to facilitate this: merging bank accounts.” While happiness is a subject that extends beyond the bounds of traditional financial advice, it is worth noting that your financial practices as a couple can have a powerful impact on your relational success.

The Case for Compromise

As with most things in marriage, figuring out your finances will probably involve some give and take. While some couples can thrive with separate bank accounts, others will find far greater satisfaction by pooling their resources in a joint account. However, if you’re still not sold on either idea, there’s room for compromise. It’s entirely possible for couples to have separate personal spending accounts and maintain a joint account for shared expenses like rent, insurance, utilities, and such. While this strategy requires a little more leg work and the need for open, consistent communication, that’s not a bad thing. After all, whether it’s in relation to finances or just married life in general, fine-tuning your communication skills is always a great idea!

 

Check Your Finances Before Changing Jobs

Jobs are funny things. As soon as you get one, there’s a temptation to start thinking a different job could be better. Sometimes people find themselves stuck in a role that doesn’t fit their personality or skill set. Other times they love their job but believe a change would provide the opportunity to earn more money—and in turn, more peace of mind. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been part of the workforce for more than a few months, you’ve probably spent more than a few minutes wondering if a new job might be the secret to a better life. And if that’s the case, statistics indicate you’re not the only one.

According to the US Department of Labor, the average American changes jobs 12 times during their career. So, if you haven’t tested the job market yet, the law of averages seems to indicate you will eventually. And while job transitions are relatively common these days, it’s still important to approach each change with careful consideration. Not only will the new role involve learning new skills, working with new people, and establishing a new routine, it will also require significant financial planning—at least in the transition period. So, how can you set yourself up for success while transitioning to a new endeavor? By making sure your finances are in order; that’s how.

5 Financial Tips to Remember When Considering a Job Change

  1. Check your savings. If you already have another job lined up, your savings may only need to tie you over until your new paychecks start rolling in. This might sound like a minor concern, but depending on the payroll schedule for your former company and your new employer, it’s entirely possible you could go a month or more between paychecks. If you’re leaving your job without another already lined up, you’ll need enough savings to cover expenses until you accept your next job offer. If you have the luxury of transitioning on your own time frame, aim to have six months’ worth of expenses in a savings account.
  2. Trim your expenses. Admittedly, cutting expenses is never a fun topic of conversation. However, operating on a leaner budget (at least for a little while) can make your career transition far less stressful. So, before accepting a new job offer, take time to review your monthly budget and see if there are any belt-tightening adjustments you can make. Cut back on morning lattes, meal prep at home instead of buying lunch at a restaurant every day, or binge a Netflix series instead of going to a movie at the theater. You’ll be surprised how quickly little savings add up—and those savings can help you bridge the financial gap between jobs.
  3. Review the compensation package. It’s natural to look at a job’s salary when trying to determine whether it’s a better opportunity. This is a good place to start, but there’s more to it than that. Does the prospective employer pay an hourly wage, salary, or combination of base plus commission? Do they cover a portion of employee insurance costs or do they pay the entire premium? Is the new employer’s PTO plan equivalent to the one you’d be giving up? Be sure to compare the entire compensation package instead of just comparing the annual salary.
  4. Account for relocation costs. If your new job will require you to relocate, it’s always a smart idea to look at the cost of living in your new location. A $10,000 per year raise is nice, but if you’re going to spend an additional $15,000 in housing expenses each year, the new job could cause you to fall behind financially. If you need help comparing living expenses, cost of living calculators can be extremely helpful. State income tax rates can be another location-dependent variable worth considering. Fortunately, there are online tools to help with these calculations as well.
  5. Don’t leave money behind. If your current employer offers 401K or other retirement savings accounts, be sure to make arrangements to take those funds with you. This might seem like a no-brainer, but the fact that orphaned 401K accounts total an estimated $1 trillion indicates it’s easier to overlook than you might think. When it comes to these employer-sponsored retirement plans, employees have three options when changing jobs: 1) roll over funds to a 401K plan with the new employer, 2) roll over the funds into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA), or 3) withdraw the funds. It’s worth noting, however, that withdrawing the money usually incurs a steep penalty. To determine the best approach for your money, it’s always best to consult with a financial advisor at your credit union.

 

If you’re currently contemplating a job offer or just dreaming about what it would take for you to make a change, spend a little time crunching the numbers. To make your comparisons a little easier, the career planning experts at The Balance Careers offer a variety of helpful resources on their site. Once you’ve completed a thorough assessment of your potential job offer, contact one of the financial representatives at Great Meadow Federal Credit Union. We can help you analyze your current finances, identify the best retirement rollover plans, and find ways to maximize your money in order to make your job change as smooth as possible.