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    • Should Alexa Be Choosing Your Next Credit Card?

      While you may be using Alexa to order your groceries and stream your Spotify, this popular smart home device is kicking it up a notch when it comes to functionality.

      For example, the personal finance company NerdWallet recently announced a new skill for the Amazon Alexa. You can now ask NerdWallet via the device to help you find the best credit card. Alexa will then guide you through a series of questions to determine a variety of factors, like your spending habits, your credit score range and what you're looking for in a credit card (e.g., a basic credit account or one that's tied into rewards). Once Alexa processes your answers, presto—a card is recommended. For some of the suggested credit cards, Alexa will provide a phone number that you can immediately call using voice command should you want to apply on the spot.

      According to MarketWatch, NerdWallet is just the latest entrant of many financial services firms that have joined the Alexa bandwagon, with some allowing customers to access account information through Alexa. Credit rating agency Experian is also allowing consumers to check their FICO scores through Alexa for $25 a month.
      Should you decide to shop for a credit card using Alexa, here are some important details to keep in mind:

      - While there is no subscription fee involved, NerdWallet does earn a commission on the credit cards it recommends; however, Alexa will also recommend cards that NerdWallet doesn't collect any commission from.
      - You are under no obligation to apply for a card through Alexa.
      - NerdWallet doesn't ask for any sensitive information through Alexa; you are simply providing a credit score range. None of the information is personally identifiable.
      - All developers, like NerdWallet, that create skills for Alexa are required to provide a privacy policy, which Amazon displays on the skill's page; developers must use the information in compliance with their own privacy policy, as well as all laws that apply.

      Source: MarketWatch

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Survey: Finances Are Stressing Us Out

      Let’s face it. There’s a lot to stress over these days: the job, the kids, the state of the nation...the list goes on. But according to a recent survey conducted by CreditWise from Capital One, the No. 1 cause of tension in our daily lives is finances.

      According to the survey, which focused on credit behaviors and attitudes, 73 percent of respondents consider finances a source of stress in their lives, even more so than politics (59 percent), work (49 percent) and family (46 percent).

      That said, people are looking on the bright side: 42 percent of those surveyed expressed optimism, expecting to be better off financially a year from now, while only 10 percent expect to be worse off.

      Financial stress varies according to demographics, with younger consumers experiencing a bit more tension when it comes to money:

      Current Financial Climate for Younger Consumers

      Finances are the biggest point of stress, particularly for younger consumers, with 82 percent of Generation Z and 81 percent of millennial consumers surveyed saying finances are a source of stress in their lives.

      Millennial women surveyed are significantly more stressed about finances (61 percent said they find finances very stressful) than millennial men (47 percent).

      Younger consumers surveyed are also the most optimistic, with more than half (53 percent) of millennials who responded saying they will be better off a year from now and only six percent expecting to be worse off.

      Another source of financial stress involves the ramifications of a good credit score—how to maintain one and what to do about a not-so-good one:

      Credit Score Literacy

      51 percent of U.S. consumers report that they regularly check their credit score, while a quarter (25 percent) report they check when a bank or credit monitoring service suggests they do.

      Despite the frequency with which U.S. consumers check their score, 29 percent admit they are not confident they would know what to do if they saw something strange on their credit report.

      When it comes to specific life events that could impact one's credit score, U.S. consumers report feeling the most concerned about their credit score when buying a house (62 percent), buying a car (60 percent), going through a wedding or divorce (34 percent) and holiday shopping (33 percent).

      More than half (59 percent) of respondents want to learn more about tips to improve their credit score.

      Digital tools are consumers' preferred way to manage their finances with around half (51 percent) of those surveyed primarily using digital/online tools.

      The good news is that there are plenty of ways to get help when it comes to financial stress. Online budgeting tools, savings programs and tips for improving your credit score are a mere click away. Talk to your accountant or financial advisor to get pointed in the right direction. 

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Here’s How

      Who wants to be a millionaire, asks the popular TV game show – and the answer is, we all do! But the sad fact, according to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning and Progress Study, is that a shocking 21 percent of Americans have nothing saved for the future at all, and another 10 percent have managed to tuck away less than $5,000.

      That means about two thirds of the population does have a shot at millionaire status – if they started saving early enough and continue to step up their stash.

      Statistics tell us if you start at age 23, and put away $14 a day, you’ll reach a million by the time you’re 67 (assuming a six percent average annual investment return.) If you don’t start saving until you are 35, you’d have to sock away $30 a day to hit that seven-figure mark.

      That’s not encouraging for the non-savers, especially in a time when monthly expenses seem to going up and up, and there’s never much left over out of your paycheck. But therein lies the secret, financial experts say; don’t try to save what’s left over. Pay yourself first instead.

      Here are three strategies that work:

      Start ASAP. The longer you wait, the less chance you have of securing a comfortable retirement. Deposit 10 percent of every paycheck into a savings account before you pay your bills. The experts say you won’t miss it, but if you think you can’t manage it, start with five percent – or even one percent.  

      Automate. If part of your paycheck is sent directly to a retirement account, such as a 401 (k) or an IRA, see if you can set up ‘auto-increase,’ which allows you to choose the percentage you want to raise your contributions by and how often. This way, you won't forget to up your contributions or talk yourself out of setting aside a larger chunk when the time comes.

      Bank every dollar you can. Chuck your change into a piggy bank at night. Recycle – or find another source of secondary income – and save the extra cash. Bank that birthday check instead of spending it. Every dollar counts. Start now.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.