This is not the easiest time of year to tighten the belt on your wallet. As Psychologist April Benson said in a recent article for JeanChatzky.com, the confluence of the back-to-school shopping season, end-of-season summer sales, and hot new fall merchandise are simply too tempting for those inclined to overshop. In the story, by reporter Maggie McGrath, Benson shares some helpful tips for keeping your powder dry for things you really need (or really want) later on.
According to a new Bankrate survey, that’s help many of us need. The site took a look at our savings habits and the results were less than inspiring. Only 18 percent of Americans are saving more money than they did last year, while 17 percent are saving less than they did last year. What’s more, 35 percent of respondents told Bankrate that they feel less comfortable with the amount of money they have in savings compared to a year ago.
How are you doing with your savings? Has this been a good year for you so far, or have you had to cut back on what you’re depositing into a savings account in order to make room for something else, like the payroll tax or a child’s college tuition? I know that savings rates can ebb and flow — after my son’s freshman year of college, I found that the money we put toward all those books would have gone into a 529 in a normal year. If it’s been a tough year to save, do you have a plan to try to make it easier? I’m genuinely curious to hear from you, so head to my Facebook page to tell me about your savings progress and how — if at all — you plan on changing your savings rate. Don’t be shy!
Saving more — for all of your goals — is on of the topics we’ll do a deep dive into during this semester of Money School. Signups are open for this series of classes that I teach live via webinar. Each class is 45 minutes with 15 minutes of Q&A (followed by office hours, during which you can drop in). Whether it’s saving more, spending less or planning for retirement that you’re thinking about, please take a minute to check our classes out.
And now, here are the other headlines for the week:
Speaking of savings…
Not only are people saving less, but according to a different, unrelated study, a majority of Americans can’t figure out their 401(k)s. CNBC reports that Charles Schwab polled 1,000 401(k) participants and found that 52 percent of people find the explanations of their investment plan more confusing than their company’s health-care benefits, and 57 percent wished there was an easier way to choose their investments. Unsurprisingly, 34 percent of people say they feel a “great deal” of stress over correctly allocating their 401(k) funds.
Does this describe you? If so, check with your employer to see if there are any 401(k) education opportunities; if you can’t find a work-sponsored explanation, talk to a fee-only financial adviser about the best option for you.
What Not To Wear — When You Shop
As much as I love Richard Gere, one of my favorite scenes in Pretty Woman is when Julia Roberts, dressed to the nines and arms brimming with shopping bags, returns to a store that had refused to serve her the day before and says, “You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Big. Huge!” It’s one of the best lessons in not judging a book by its cover, or the size of a person’s wallet by their outward appearance.
Yet apparently, a boutique in Zurich never really learned that lesson, as they recently refused to show Oprah a $38,000 Tom Ford crocodile handbag. Why? According to Oprah, she wasn’t dressed up enough — and didn’t look like she had money. This incident led Marketwatch to curate a list of what to wear, and when, in order to get the best retail experience. (In short: at a car dealership, set expectations low by wearing sweats; on Rodeo Drive or in a department store, make like Julia in Pretty Woman and dress up a bit!)
Calling All Bloggers
Before I sign off for the week, I want to quickly mention that I will be speaking at FinCon, a conference for financial bloggers, in St. Louis in October. There are still a few slots left, and the tickets will 50% off from Thursday, August 22 at 8am CT to Friday, August 23 at 11:55pm CT. If you’re a blogger and are interested in attending (or just meeting me in person), use this link to get the discount. And if you decide to come, let me know — I’d love to meet you at the conference!
Have a great week!
P.S. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or regularly visit my website, you may have noticed that I’ve recently added a free 30-Day Money Course — a series of over ten videos and lessons based on my favorite Money Rules. I’ve gotten a few messages from newsletter subscribers who wanted to sign up for the course but got an error message. I’m sorry about that, and we’ve fixed the issue. Please click here to immediately sign up. Thanks for joining me!