Lakeside Bank’s Guide to Better Living Through Better Budgeting, Banking & Financing
Lakeside Bank’s Guide to Better Living Through Better Budgeting / Banking / Financing!
Recommended 2021 Financial Resolutions
We’re Lakeside Bank. We know retail and business banking. We know it well. And we know all the basic banking things folks should do, but many of us don’t! So, here are our very basic banking recommendations for the new year. Put them to work and we promise you’ll be more relaxed by year’s end … and happier financially, too!
COVID has obviously changed things. If you’re working from home, you probably saved a lot in 2020 (the only silver lining to the pandemic). As we begin to (hopefully!) return to a more normal environment, normal banking recommendations will apply. Please read on!
OK … there had to be a list, right? And it starts with the most basic banking recommendation of all: BUDGET! It’s simple; and it’s hard. But, once you create a budget, you’ll be amazed at where the money goes. Your money. Sit down at your computer or pull up a legal pad. Put down your monthly expenses, rent or mortgage, utilities, phone, and other communication stuff (yes, Comcast, HBO, Disney, Amazon+ and the NFL Red Zone count), car/other transportation, meals and snacks out (yes, Starbucks), and any other entertainment expenses. Yes, you can put in a monthly average, but be painfully honest. It’s just you that’s reading it! Yes, there will be meals out again! Entertainment and travel, too!
NOW … once you’re somewhat over the shock of what you spend with your favorite barista, make three columns. The first column should be titled, “MUSTS”. Under this, put your mortgage or rent and basic utilities. That would be water, electricity and gas. HBO is NOT a “Must” (and you know that).
Then make a second column: “NEEDS”. Transportation goes here. You’ve probably got to get to work. Yes, you may have to start transporting, again. There will be a few other things, too. The dry cleaner. Occasional new clothes. We’ll have to give up sweatpants at some point. We’re making a ‘regular’ budget here!
And now … the really tough column: “WANTS”. If you’re honest (remember, it’s just you reading), a lot of normal monthly costs will fall under this all-too-easily justifiable banner.
With these three columns done, Step Back. Take a good hard look at where your hard-earned money goes. And make some hard choices. If you’re chatting with the barista multiple times a day … you could probably cut that down. And do you really need HBO, Starz, Netflix and 12 other networks? It all adds up! As you’ll soon see.
With the hard choices done, reward yourself with a trip to Starbucks! WAIT … that’s definitely not in the spirit of what we’re trying to do here, which is: SET A REASONABLE MONTHLY BUDGET YOU CAN LIVE WITH DURING NORMAL TIMES. But it should have a little bit of pain attached to it. Better said, it shouldn’t be easy, but it’s doable. THEN, put it into practice. Live it. This leads to our next recommendation!
SAVE MONEY! You may have done well here during COVID. Time to get ready for normal times. Here’s STEP ONE: Set up a plain vanilla money market or savings account at your local bank. (Did we mention Lakeside Bank?) Even if you can only contribute a few bucks a week or month, do it! Your goal should be to set aside at least three months of salary (Ideally, six months). Consider this account “untouchable.” It’s your emergency fund. It’s not your vacation fund. And it’s certainly not your Starbucks fund. Howard Schultz is rich enough. Keep feeding this baby. With your BUDGET working, set up an automatic transfer from your FREE CHECKING ACCOUNT (which we offer at Lakeside … and our Kasasa Cash pays 1.50% APY* interest, too!) so that money automatically finds its way to your Untouchable Savings Account or Money Market.
Retirement Savings! We can hear what you’re thinking: “What … more money I don’t get to spend? But I’m young!” Yeah, well, everyone gets old(er). And someday you’re going to need retirement money (especially the way our politicians have been behaving). But here’s the beauty of this area. Chances are that your company offers a “matching” contribution. They’ll literally give you free money! And is there a nicer word than “Free”? We think not!
Anyway, most companies will match a percentage of your first 2%, 3% or even more of your contributions to a retirement account. Did we mention that their contribution is FREE? That’s right. FREE MONEY. Two simple words of encouragement: TAKE ADVANTAGE! Seems obvious, right? You’d be amazed how many folks don’t take the FREE MONEY. We hope we’ve been clear. The FREE MONEY adds up. And this is the good adding. Not like the “Wants” column you’re probably still shedding a tear over, or the extra pounds (lbs.) that may have found their way to your waistline during quarantine.
Debt is Dumb! Well, there is some good debt. A mortgage or other loans you needed and pay on time and can afford (see “Budget”). And there are others. But most debt is bad debt. Let’s take the worst offender: credit card debt. Have you SEEN the interest rates they charge? Mob guys charge less! Simple rule for 2021: If you can’t afford to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month, DON’T BUY IT! And review “Wants vs. Needs” for a refresher course. Believe it; you’ll sleep a lot better avoiding unnecessary debt! Debit cards are wise as they’re like a check. The money comes out of your account right away. If you haven’t got the cash in your account, you can’t spend it. Credit cards can be overly tempting. They’re great for cash back or airline miles, but use them with a wise degree of caution. By the way, our FREE Kasasa Cash Checking Account (the one that pays 1.50% APY* interest!) comes with a FREE debit card. It’s a great habit.
Mortgage Management. There’s an easy way to shave years off your mortgage. Over the course of the year, make additional “Principal” payments on your monthly payment. The goal should be an extra month’s payment total per year. On average, you’ll cut four to five years off your mortgage … and save a lot in interest!
Credit Care. Check your credit rating once a year. There are three sources: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. By law, they have to provide a free credit score once a year. How about that? A law worth liking! Keep an eye on your credit score. If something isn’t right, look into it. A good credit score is important for mortgages and all kinds of things. To help keep your score high, pay bills on time. And, don’t open or close too many credit card accounts.
Invest. The first step is always the hardest. Here’s a simple way to start running. Pick a major mutual fund company like Vanguard or Fidelity. There are many others. Open an account. Pick a basket of basic index funds. They’ll help you do it. Be sure to select funds with low costs. Steer what you can afford (back to the Monthly Budget) to these funds. Make it automatic so you don’t miss payments and continue to make payments no matter what the market is doing. You can do this right from your Lakeside account! Which you can set up yourself (or we’d be pleased to help you)! The market goes up and down all the time. This should be “fire & forget”. Keep plugging away.
So … now you have a rainy day fund in a savings account or money market, you’re steering money into retirement AND now you’re investing, too. How much of your income should you be saving overall? On average, in an average year, Americans save 5% or less. You should shoot for 10% … 15% to be a hero (again, 2020 was a very different situation).
LIVE A LITTLE. Most budgeting recommendations are serious … and a little bit painful. We believe money is a tool. It’s to be saved, sure. That’s responsible and essential. But money is also for living … really living … not just paying the rent. Be sure to earmark monies for what makes you and yours happy, too. Life’s short. Spend a little. (Within the budget!) And we WILL have opportunities to live a little this year! Let’s all be hopeful.
Thanks for reading the Lakeside Bank Every Person’s Guide to Better Living Through Better Budgeting / Banking / Financing!
*APY: Annual Percentage Yield. Kasasa Cash rate effective 1/11/21. Subject to change without notice.