5 Basic Yet Powerful Financial Lessons
I never thought I’d find myself working for a financial institution. The simple truth of the matter is: Money, financial know-how, and planning for the future always seemed scary and boring to me – although I never denied the importance of these matters.
It just seemed like, if worse came to worse in my own world of finances, someone or something – a financial planner, my parents, or some miracle fallen from the sky – would be there to see me through. Now, in my second year as a credit union employee, I realize how very wrong I was. (Please note: I’m not saying financial planners, parents, and miracles aren’t helpful and much appreciated.) I am saying, however, that taking action - attempting to understand the basics of the financial world ourselves - is crucial for a more stable financial future – one with less stress and more fulfillment when it comes to money.
Maybe you’re in the boat I was two years ago. Maybe you’re in a similar place to me now. Or maybe you’re light-years beyond me in the financial knowledge you hold. In any case, in honor of Financial Literacy Month, here are five of the most basic, yet helpful and powerful financial tips I’ve learned in my two years as a credit union employee.
5 Basic Yet Powerful Financial Lessons
A Budget is Crucial
I can’t count the number of times, even as a teenager, I heard phrases like, “It doesn’t fit the budget,” or, “Yes! We can squeeze that into the budget,” and so on and so forth. I never really questioned where that “budget” came from. Sometimes, I think people are totally making it up just to sound like they have a hold on their finances and really have no budget plan to “squeeze” a purchase into at all. Then again, maybe they do. I digress. The point is: Just like a business needs a solid budget to ensure they are profitable, individuals, couples, and families need a household budget in order to save – and remain financially stable. This includes having an emergency fund! Related: How to Create a Budget
Credit Scores Really Do Matter
I’ve known for some time that credit scores are important, but didn’t really know the power of their impact until recently. I find it both funny and motivating how one little number on a piece of paper can determine whether or not we are approved to purchase a home, take out an auto loan, get the best insurance rates, and open future credit cards or accounts. I mean, we’re so much more than our credit score, right? Yes, character and current financial standing are viewed as highly important, too, but a credit score reflects past behaviors when it comes to money and can signal whether or not we might be a risk to potential lenders. Related: Credit Scores: How They're Calculated + How to Improve Yours
Identity Theft is Real and Really Serious
This might seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re anything like I was a couple of years ago, you know what credit card fraud and identity theft is, and may take a precaution here and there to prevent it, but don’t really give it all that much thought. Until it happens to you. (Hello, Target Breach of 2013!) Once an identity thief has your information (even your full name and birthdate or full name and address are enough in some cases), they not only have the ability to dive into your accounts, but they can also use your information for false imprisonment (yep, they can land themselves in jail for a criminal offense and give the authorities your name), open credit cards, take out loans, tap into your retirement savings, file tax returns, land a job, and more. It’s the fastest growing crime in America. Taking the proper steps to preventing fraud from happening to you is key. Related: Identity Theft: The Fastest Growing Crime in America | Protect Yourself from Fraud
Credit Unions Outshine Banks
You saw this one coming, didn't you? I am admittedly one of the majority: I was only at my previous financial institution (a bank) because my parents opened an account for me as a little one and held my hand when it came to dealing with money matters through high school. It’s all I had ever known. I never had a bad experience. I never shopped around for better rates and fees because I never thought to. I didn’t even know the amount of interest I was gaining or how much I was paying to have an account. I was pretty content. To be honest, my bank was the last thing on my mind on any given day. When I learned, though, about the perks of a credit union, I couldn’t believe I wasn’t aware long, long before.
It blew me away that credit unions are member-owned – owned by anyone who opens an account there, by the community in which they serve – rather than a hot-shot billionaire in NYC. That, accompanied with the fact that they offer lower rates and fees and higher interest on savings, are a part of the not-for-profit cooperative movement, are highly involved in their communities, strive to provide financial literacy and educate their members, and view each member as a unique individual rather than a number, excited me then and continues to inspire me today. Related: The Credit Union Difference | About 3Rivers FCU
Financial Literacy is Available and Essential
Last, but not least, tapping into the many, many tools – websites, blogs, calculators, articles, financial experts, and other resources – that are available to help us improve our financial knowledge and better understand our own money matters is the most important step to not only helping us become more comfortable with our money situations, but also get our finances into their best possible place now, and in the future. Related: Tools + Calculators | WalletCare | 3Rivers Blog | Our Facebook | Our Twitter | Our Pinterest | Contact Us