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What to Do With Your Extra $550…

March 2nd, 2015

save-moneyThe average U.S. household can expect to spend $550 less at the gasoline pump in 2015 thanks to both falling gasoline prices and more fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Question: What would be the smartest thing to do with those savings?

Possible Answers: MarketWatch offers four ideas:
1) Use the savings to pay down debt. 2) Put the $550 into your retirement fund. 3) Put the money into your Emergency Fund. 4) Catch up on routine maintenance.

If you’ve got debt — particularly high-interest credit card debt — paying it down is likely the most important thing to use that money for, explains Kathleen Campbell, the founder of Campbell Financial Partners in Fort Myers, Fla. “You won’t get any greater return than to not pay high interest rates on debt” explains Campbell.

Putting just $550 in your retirement fund could yield you $8,000 or more over the course of 30 years. Brimhall of Ameriprise uses the following example: If the $550 was put into a 401(k) and got a full dollar-for-dollar employer match, it would mean $1,100 being invested. Assuming average returns of 7% year, in 10 years that money would be worth $2,164, and in 30 years the value would be $8,375. Even without the employer match that is still nearly $4,200 in 30 years. And even if you assume a more modest return of, say, 4%, that investment (the $550 with a 100% employer match on it) would still yield you more than $3,500 over 30 years.

Experts recommend that Americans have six to 12 months or more of living expenses in savings that they can tap into in case of emergency, but most don’t: More than one in four Americans have no emergency savings, according to Bankrate.com, and roughly two-thirds have less than six months’ income. What’s more, nearly half (47%) of Americans experienced unforeseen expenses in the previous 12 months, according to a 2014 survey by American Express.

Sometimes we avoid routine maintenance on things like our cars or homes (or even ourselves) because we feel we don’t have the cash for it. But these kinds of expenses can “blossom into costly repairs if not taken care of,” Campbell says. This year, use that gas savings for things like car oil changes and tune-ups, regular doctor’s checkups and visits, filter replacements in furnaces and other appliances, and more.


How Much $$$ Should I Put Away?

February 23rd, 2015

squirrel One of the first steps in getting a handle on your finances is learning how to save money.

This is, of course, easier said than done.

Humans should take note of squirrels — who know how (and presumably why) to save some of their nuts for Winter.

Check out this short, easy to read article from the MintLife Blog:
What Gets Paid First? The Best Way to Prioritize Your Savings Plan

And this article from USNews.com
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/02/13/6-ways-to-prioritize-your-budget

For keeping track of your savings progress, there are some free (non-commercial) online tools like the FINRA Savings Calculator.

Freedom is low overhead.

Making it in Maine: Living the Good Life – a year-long, financial education program beginning in September

February 17th, 2015

SMARTINVEST-LOGO-COLORCurtis Memorial Library has been awarded a $92,140 grant from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation and the American Library Association as part of the nationwide Smart investing@your library™ program.

The Curtis Library is pleased to continue providing community access to better financial and investor information and educational programs thanks to receiving a second grant from the Smart investing@your library™ program.

With this funding, Curtis Memorial Library will develop a community-wide financial literacy program – focused on helping individuals and families who want to learn simple strategies and skills to achieve better financial health.

The year-long series will feature a variety of practical, easy-to-implement educational tools and opportunities for people to access at the library, online and at community partner sites.

“The libraries participating in this grant program make reliable financial information and education readily accessible in their communities,” said Gerri Walsh, President of the FINRA Foundation.

“Libraries are paying close attention to their communities’ needs and aspirations, and can respond in creative, sustainable ways to help residents achieve financial goals for themselves and their families.”

About Smart Investing@Your Library

Smart investing@your library™ is a partnership between the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA), a division of the American Library Association, and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

The program supports public libraries across the country in their efforts to meet financial education needs at the local level.

ala_long_color-1

Established in 1876, the American Library Association is the oldest and largest library association in the world.

It strives to provide leadership for the development, promotion and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.

For more information, visit www.ala.org.

finrafdn_logoFINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States.

FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services.

FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business—from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing rules, enforcing those rules and the federal securities laws, informing and educating the investing public, providing trade reporting and other industry utilities, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and firms.

For more information, visit www.finra.org.

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation supports innovative research and educational projects that give underserved Americans the knowledge, skills and tools necessary for financial success throughout life.

For details about grant programs and other FINRA Foundation initiatives, visit www.finrafoundation.org.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck?

February 9th, 2015

paydayMany middle-class Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

If you’re one of these Americans, losing your job can be a very scary thought.

If you do lose your job, here are some suggestions to help make sure you don’t wind up in serious financial trouble.

1. Start putting together an Emergency Fund – bit by bit, dollar by dollar, until you have at least 6 months of living expenses put away.

You may want to consider selling things you own, but don’t really need, on eBay to help build your emergency fund.

eBay Web article: Another man’s Treasure! Sell your trash & clutter

TIP: You can use the Library’s public PCs to create auction listings on eBay.

2. Create or update your resume so that you can begin searching for a new job quickly.

TIP: Visit the “Jobs” Neighborhood on the 2nd floor of the Library near the Reference Desk for books on resumes, how to write a cover letter, how to prepare for a job interview, how to choose a new career, and more.

Be sure to ask a friendly Curtis Librarian for assistance!

3. Start your own side business – New books on entrepreneurship / home businesses are being added to the Curtis Money collection every month.

TIP: “The Simple Dollar” website has a list of 50 Side Businesses You Can Start On Your Own.

NOTE: The Curtis Library has resources to support many types of small businesses.

I made a commitment to completely cut out drinking and anything that might hamper me from getting my mind and body together. And the floodgates of goodness have opened upon me – spiritually and financially.
— Denzel Washington

Tax Form/Instructions Duplication Binder at Reference Desk

February 4th, 2015

IMG_1753Librarian Kate Wing has created a tax form and instruction book duplication binder.

It is at the second floor Ref desk – you can make photocopies from this book or use it for reference.

It is not available for checkout.

In it are:

  • Instructions for 1040EZ
  • Instructions for 1040
  • 1040 Schedule A form
  • 1040 Schedule 8812 (Child Tax Credit) form
  • Instructions for 8812
  • 1040 Schedule B form
  • 1040 Schedule C form
  • 1040 Schedule D form
  • Schedule EIC (Earned Income Credit)

Any other requests can be pulled up on the IRS website and printed for .10 a page.

For example, the 1040 EZ is 43 pages ($4.30 to copy/print the whole thing) and the 1040 is 110 pages ($11.00).