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Plan Well, Retire Well

Saving and investing your money
Kathy Sweedler
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Help Your Child Understand Spending Money

The last few summers I have spent time compiling and creating educational money-related activities for young children. In other words, I get to read creative, insightful picture books and experiment with fun hands-on materials! Then, during the school year, University of Illinois Extension staff and volunteers present these lessons to youth. I am very impressed with how curious children 4-11 years...

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Are You Credit Invisible?

Do you have a credit history? If you're not planning to borrow money, perhaps you think it's not important. Well, your credit history can affect your finances even when you're not borrowing money! Insurance companies, perspective employers (for some types of jobs), and utility companies may be looking at your credit report or credit score to determine what to charge you or whether to offer you...

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5 Awesome Ideas to Stretch Your Dollars!

Do you want to get the most bang for your buck?  Of course you do! We all know there are only so many dollars in our paycheck and an endless number of opportunities to spend those dollars.  Being creative and very conscious of your spending goes a long way to stretching your dollars. Check Your Bills Carefully When was the last time you looked carefully at each...

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Celebrate April: Taxes, Money Smart Week, Financial Literacy Month!

With the hint of spring in our gardens, I feel like we're moving out of the slow-moving pace of winter into the season of festivals, events and outdoor activities. On top of all these activities, April is National Financial Literacy Month, taxes are due, and Money Smart Week returns to our communities during the last week! As you can imagine, my calendar is filling up – maybe you'd like to add...

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If Only I was 25 Years Old Again!

Too often when I talk to people in their 50s about money, I hear "If only I had known or done ____ when I was 25!" There's no doubt that it's hard to change spending and saving behaviors after decades of practicing those not-so-helpful behaviors. So, what is the most important thing for someone in their 20s or 30s to know about money? That's a challenging question! I like to talk to peo...

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Be Proactive with Your Money

During times of uncertainty it can be difficult to know what financial steps to take. How can we make financial plans if we don't have all the information we need? Well, sometimes we just have to move forward with what we do know. First, evaluate your savings. Do you have enough money set-aside for emergencies or unexpected expenses? While we don't know what will happen in the economy i...

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Season of Giving: Wise Charitable Decisions

I celebrate my friendships and family at this time of year! I love to choose gifts that I think will make them happy, and I'm thankful that I can afford to shop without worrying about each dollar. While I'm celebrating, however, I'm very aware that for many times are tough. Part of my giving each year is to organizations that help others; sharing is part of money management, in my opinion....

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Health Insurance Helps Protect Our Financial Security

Sometimes we spend money on fun things and sometimes we spend money on things we need or to protect our future financial security. Paying for health insurance falls under the category of needed, but not fun. We buy health insurance to protect ourselves from unknown financial risk. While we can't predict our future health needs, we can use insurance to protect our finances in case we hav...

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ANNOUNCING: Our New Curriculum

As University of Illinois Extension educators, we do financial education outreach in a variety of ways. Obviously we blog, and we also teach people in person. In our "free" time we also create new educational materials and curriculum. For the past three years, we've been working to create, revise and update All My Money: Change for the Better curriculum and we're happy to announce, it'...

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FAFSA Update - What You Need to Know

Are you planning to attend college between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, or do you know someone who is? The FAFSA is available earlier this year! The FAFSA online form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) went live on October 1st. Completing the FAFSA is necessary to apply for federal student a...

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Save Money on Your Car Loan!

Did you buy a car or truck in the past year? Twenty-four percent of adults surveyed did, according to the latest Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households. We tend to buy a lot of cars over our lifetimes. How we go about purchasing these vehicles matter. Car loans are the third largest category of household debts for American consumers, behind mortgages and student loans, and are oft...

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#FirstSevenJobs: Major Changes for Teens and Young Adults

What started out as a fun hashtag, #FirstSevenJobs, has led to a discussion about our country's major shift in employment trends for teens and young adults. While many of us list jobs starting in our teens (babysitting, lawn mowing, cooking hamburgers, etc.), in 2014 only one in four teens had a job . What will the other 75% of teens #FirstSevenJobs list look like in 20 years? I...

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Encouraging Young Entrepreneurs: Summer Reading

Do you have a fledgling entrepreneur in the house? Talking about money with kids is important as is giving them opportunities to practice with finances. Families tend to find different ways for their kids to practice money: some give allowances, some provide opportunities to earn money around the household, and in some families entrepreneurship is encouraged. Earning money can hel...

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Chatting about Financial Wellness

Do you hear the buzz? The conversation is getting louder. What started a few years ago as a murmur among a few is turning into excited dialogue and debate! I'm at the National Summit on Collegiate Financial Wellness and its energizing. Today's conversations centered on financial literacy...

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What's the Payback Time for Home Energy Improvements?

After months of cold winter days, and paying to heat my home, I'm ready in the spring for new ways to make my home more energy efficient! This time of the year is also when many homeowners like myself scramble to put home improvement plans into action, especially those plans that require hiring expertise to do the work. This year we're finally replacing the siding on our home! When we m...

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How Much are You Willing to Spend for Time, Convenience, Taste, Etc.

In your daily life, what questions are you asked? I suppose philosophers ponder questions like, ""If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" As a financial educator, I've been asked questions lately like: Does a Subscription Box save people money? Should I pay someone to mow my lawn or clean my house? Can you actually s...

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Not Your Grandfather's Tax Filing System

In the old days, I use to run around town looking for the right tax forms, go through several erasers completing the forms, and then madly race to the post office to mail my tax return by the due date. When I lived in Tucson, one post office stayed open until midnight for procrastinating filers; they even gave you a cookie when they stamped that all-so-important postmark that said you made the...

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Make Saving Money FUN!

Spending money is fun. When you buy something – like a new outfit, or furniture for your house, or a new car – you get to show it to your friends, wear it or use it for a special event. The fun goes on and on! Saving money is not typically this much fun. Well, people and organizations concerned about the small amount that many people have saved are taking new approaches to making saving...

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Share Your Savings Goal and Win the #imsavingfor Contest

Put a little fun into your savings! To celebrate the America Saves Week, America Saves launched the #imsavingfor contest. It's easy to enter. Just share a picture of you and what you are saving for and then enter to win $500 at AmericaSavesWeek.org/imsavingfor . Get creative with your pictures!...

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Do You Have a Savings Account?

Do you remember when you started your first savings account? I know I must have been pretty young when I first deposited money because I didn't quite understand how a savings account worked, and I was disappointed when I couldn't "withdraw" my Buffalo Nickel that I had deposited. That disappointment notwithstanding, I was a lucky child to have a savings account early in my life. Researc...

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Reflecting on 2015 ... Moving Forward in 2016

During the holidays I had an amazing opportunity to travel to Maui. As I walked along the beach, listening to the surf and marveling at the full rainbow over the ocean, I thought about where I am in my life and what I'd like to do in 2016. I believe in the value of reflecting on what we've done as well as setting goals for the future. In this mood, let's take a quick look at the Pla...

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What’s the Total Cost of that Loan?

Interest rates on loans vary tremendously. For example, the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loan rate is 4.01%, according to Bankrate's recent survey of large lenders. In contrast, a vehicle title loan's annual percentage rate is often over 200%! What is a title loan? Auto title loans are high-cost, relatively small dollar loans. A person's vehicle serves as collater...

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A Timely Conversation: Revisiting College Budgets

It seems like only yesterday that we were saying goodbye as our students left for college, and now the semester is quickly winding up. As the students return home for the holidays, now is a good time to revisit financial plans. Spending plans (budgets) are working documents. After using a plan for awhile, it's important to evaluate and adjust it. This is true for everyone but especially for ne...

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Cut the Cost of Student Loans

Recently a friend asked me, "Could she pay back her student loan more quickly and avoid some of the interest charges?" This is a great question! The answer is yes; most federal and private loans allow people to pre-pay their loans without penalty. Illinois students who borrow money for their undergraduate degrees average $28,984 in student loans upon graduation, according to the Project...

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Plan Well Retire Well Wins National Award

I'd like to take a minute to toot our own horn. The writing team behind the Plan Well Retire Well blog just won two awards for Internet Education Communications from the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (NEAFCS) at their annual conference held November 2-5, 2015 in White Sulfur Springs WV. We received first-place in the Central regi...

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