Monthly Archives: September 2019

    • Necessities and Niceties for Your Newborn

      Parents-to-be – and new grandparents – are sometimes overwhelmed at the amount of ‘stuff’  a new baby requires. But while some equipment is essential to baby’s well-being, not all baby gear is created equal.

      Before you shop, check the necessities and niceties suggested by Parents Magazine:

      The Must-Haves:
      - Crib and mattress – There are many reasonably priced cribs on the market, and a ‘gently used’ crib that meets safety standards can save big bucks. But do buy a new mattress.
      - Bedding – Choose sheets that fit snugly around the mattress. Steer clear of potential safety hazards like pillows, quilts, and even bumper pads.
      - Changing pad – A sturdy one with a safety strap is a must. But put it atop a low-profile chest of drawers the child can use for years instead of investing in a changing table that will soon be consigned to the attic.
      - Basic diaper pail – Fancy diaper disposal pails and refills are costly and store up odors. Consider a simple, easily emptied diaper pail lined with plastic grocery bags.
      - A comfy chair – At feeding time, or when baby is fussy, a comfy chair or rocker can be a blessing. Before you buy new, check the ads for a good, used recliner or glider.
      - Car seat – This is the single most important item you can purchase. Nothing will do more to protect an infant, and hospitals generally won't allow you to take the baby home without one. Put your money on a new one rather than used.
      - Infant carrier -- Front carriers and slings free up your hands and are very packable – and consider a standard infant carrier, usually a molded bucket seat lined with soft cushioning. Some parents find babies love to sleep in their infant carriers, even at home.
      - Baby seat – The infant carrier is a safe spot for baby to sit. But after the first six weeks, most parents want a more entertaining contraption. Options range from simple bouncing seats to battery-operated swings to baby gyms/activity centers. Good used choices are easy to find.
      - Stroller - Invest in a combo stroller system that can be used through several stages of growth.
      - Bath tub – Most are inexpensive – or consider a spongy tub or sink liner.

      The Niceties
      If you can stretch your budget, consider:
      - Baby monitor
      - Crib mobile
      - Hooded towels
      - Backpack-style carrier

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Money Tips for College Grads

      While they leave college with a diploma in hand attesting to their completion of a rigorous course of learning, recent graduates are falling short when it comes to financial smarts, according to a recent Experian survey.

      The research reveals that although 69 percent of recent graduates surveyed do have student loan debt, 70 percent feel their college failed to properly prepare them to handle real-world personal finance. KeyBank research shows similar concerns – nearly 20 percent of those surveyed know their financial goals, but are not confident they know how to reach those goals.

      To help bridge the gap, KeyBank suggests college grads take the following steps:

      Build a Budget
      For many recent grads, that first, full-time paycheck may make them feel rich compared to what they were used to earning from their part-time and campus jobs. This makes now the perfect time to build a budget that takes into account all of their new economic realities: student loan payments, rent, utilities, transportation costs, career clothing, insurance and food.

      Start a Savings Strategy
      KeyBank recommends a three-pronged approach to savings that provides for short-term goals, long-term goals and saving for retirement.

      - First, build an emergency savings that will cover 3 - 6 months of living expenses. This will allow grads to avoid turning to credit cards for unexpected expenses.

      - Second, set up a second savings account for long-term goals, such as a car, travel or a down payment on a home.

      - Third - and this will be tough one for grads to buy into - establish a retirement savings plan. Take full advantage of an employer’s 401K plan by allocating at least enough to qualify for any available 401K employer match, and then making a commitment to increase that contribution by 1 percent every year until you're saving 10 - 15 percent of your salary.

      Monitor Your Credit Score
      Establishing and managing a credit score is important for college graduates, as credit scores can affect their ability to rent housing, access utilities or eventually obtain a low-interest loan for major purchases. Good credit scores are built by managing credit payments, including student loan payments and credit card debt, paying bills on time and keeping any credit card debt at a minimum.

      Adopting these three steps will put college grads on the road to financial security and help them build wealth long-term.

      Source: KeyCorp

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Selling Your Home? Attack Issues Head-on

      You’ve finally made the decision to put your home on the market - now comes the tough part: making sure it’s ready for prospective buyers.

      According to Buddy Stark, director of operations for HomeTeam Inspection Service, there are several steps home sellers should take before beginning the selling process and having a home inspection. Here’s what he recommends:

      Clean the house. This may seem like an obvious one, but you must keep your home at a heightened level of clean on an ongoing basis in anticipation of a showing. An ultra-clean home will convey that it's been well cared for and that the house is less susceptible to any issues caused by neglect.

      Check all windows. Take a quick inventory of your windows to make sure they're in good working order. Replace windows that are cracked or broken before the inspection to save time during the selling process.

      Finish the “honey-do” list. You might not think that certain areas of your home have anything to do with your home’s appeal, but they will come up as safety concerns on a home inspection report. Replace burnt-out lightbulbs, test smoke detectors, replace air filters and unclog drains. These little things are easy to forget in day-to-day life, but taking care of them is a relatively easy task that will help potential buyers focus on the important systems of the home.

      Check all outlets. A sampling of electrical outlets will be tested as part of the home inspection to make sure they're in good working order. Take note of which outlets are not functioning in the home and replace them. Or consider hiring an electrician to make sure both outlets and the electrical box are updated and in proper working condition.

      Clear areas for easy access. Home inspectors will be looking at the major parts of the home, including the foundation, HVAC systems, electrical systems, plumbing and even the water heater. Making sure home inspectors can easily access these areas, including the basement and attic, will save time during the inspection process.

      Consider a pre-listing inspection. Having an inspection conducted before the selling process, will allow you to take care of issues that may arise later, clearing the way for a smooth - and speedy - sale.

      Source: HomeTeam Inspection

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Finance Tips for Young Parents

      As a young parent, you may just be learning about all the responsibilities parenthood requires. When it comes to financial planning, setting your sight on the future can help immensely.

      Demolish debt. Slaying your own debt will positively impact your family's financial future. While it may take years to pay off those student loans or credit card debt, creating a plan can help. Tackle your lowest balance first to gain momentum then take on the next smallest. Additionally, pay attention to higher interest rates that are costing you a lot of money.

      Build a budget. Creating a budget doesn't have to be hard. There are many budgeting apps available on the market to help you track your expenses, or you can try the trusty envelope system with monthly allowances for groceries, entertainment, utilities, etc.

      Build an emergency fund. Setting a fund for potential emergencies will never backfire. Aim for a small, achievable goal as low as $500 then set the bar higher. Participate in your employer-sponsored savings program to boost retirement savings, especially if there is a match. Make it an automatic payroll deduction and increase it when your paycheck goes up. As far as your child's college savings, save what you can, when you can. Every little bit will help when education bills come due.

      Child care. Consider establishing a flexible spending account if one is offered by your employer. Parents can use pretax dollars to pay up to $5,000 in child care expenses in most states.

      Review insurance and important paperwork. Create a will either by using an online program or hiring a professional to name your child's guardian, and designate at what age any payouts, savings or investments will be distributed. With health insurance, notify your employer within 30 days of the birth to ensure that the child is eligible for any dependent benefits. Purchase appropriate health care coverage to protect your family. Review your employer's life insurance plan and determine if it is adequate for your needs. If not, consider purchasing additional life insurance.

      Source: SmartAboutMoney.org.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.