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Don't Know How to Put Away Savings? Just Start

Our lives feel so busy nowadays that it seems daunting to sit down and focus on our financial health. But like our physical health, if we ignore the symptoms for too long, we could end up in serious trouble. Savvy consumers now use mobile apps on a daily basis to assist with their routine banking and as well as long-term savings, investments and financial planning.

TowneBank Mortgage and its family of subsidiaries offer credit enhancement programs to assist borrowers in their journey to financial health, but here are a few tips to help you get started on your own. The specific plan isn’t as important as choosing a method and carrying out the plan. Just start.

Let’s start easy…

Be Aware: Create a folder on the home screen of your smartphone for all of your financial apps. Add all your mobile banking apps in this folder. These can include apps like your online banking access, credit monitoring, investment apps, and market update apps.
Keeping these apps together in one folder will help you remember to check ALL of your financial stats. You may just intend to check the balance in your checking account, but when you open the folder, seeing the other apps will likely remind you to also check your credit card balance or your credit score. The more you check, the more aware you are of your standing, which is the first step in repairing your financial health.

  • Push Notifications: Most financial apps have the option of push notifications built in them. Make sure any financial app you use is set to allow push notifications through text or pop up notifications on your phone. You can use this to alert yourself of low balance warnings, suspicious transactions, large withdrawals, due dates for payments, and more.  Look at it as an opportunity to correct any erroneous transactions or prevent yourself from missing an important deadline.
     
  • Select Mobile Apps that Fit YOUR Needs: Let’s be honest, downloading your bank’s mobile app is an easier task than trying to select which budgeting or investment app to register. You’ll want to select apps that you’ll actually use and that are advantageous for your lifestyle. Let’s start with the less complicated of these choices. 

Budgeting Apps: Having a budgeting app is a good start for your financial health. While your banking app may report your transactions and balances, it probably hasn't set up boundaries for your monthly spending. But before you can even set a budget, it’s helpful to see what you typically spend each month on necessities versus discretionary or impulse purchases. Knowing where your money is going will help you easily monitor your spending to see where you can cut back. Three of the Best Budgeting Apps of 2019 were Mint, PocketGuard, and You Need A Budget.

Investment Apps: According to a 2019 Gallup poll, 52% of Americans say they have money invested in the Stock Market. While many Americans feel you need a Bachelor’s degree in Finance in order to invest their hard-earned money, there are many apps today remove the guesswork and make investing a simple, no-brainer without requesting much money to get started.

  • Acorns, for example, encourages you to invest your spare change into a program called “round ups”. Acorns monitors your bank account and automatically invests the change from your daily purchases up to the nearest dollar amount. You can also set up regularly scheduled deposits from your bank account to Acorns to help your investments grow faster.  Taylor Malbon, Marketing Strategist for TowneBank Mortgage was shocked when she tested the app for her husband, “He is one of those people who gets so paralyzed with all the information out there for investments. I knew he just needed to get started somehow and the Acorns app allowed him to set up a weekly deposit and just, let it grow. Before we knew it six months had passed and with the spare change round ups plus a minimal weekly deposit, he had over $1,000 in his Acorns account that he was able to use to pay off an old lingering debt.”Fees do not apply to college students, however, everyone else will be charged a minimum of $1 per month. Most users will agree it is a good service that gets people thinking about saving and investing their money. Most importantly, it automates the process, which is what most people need when getting started.
     
  • Robinhood is an easy-to-use mobile app that allows you to invest in stocks, ETFs, options and cryptocurrencies without paying a trade fee. Traditional brokerages charge $5 to $7 per trade. There is not a whole lot of stock option research provided within the app, but it does allow you to see stock price changes in real-time and sends push notifications to alert you of large shifts in your earnings.

Rewards Apps: Many mobile banking apps offer rewards for purchases at advertised retailers or credit card rewards for purchases within a certain category (2% cashback on groceries, etc.). Most people add these cashback rewards right back into their checking account so they can spend their earnings. An even better idea to consider is to use the cashback rewards to power your savings or investment apps.

  • Clever shoppers use a coupon app, like Ibotta, to earn cashback on their everyday purchases. When those rewards add up to a withdrawable amount ($20 on Ibotta) you are given the option to transfer them to your bank account. Well, why not go one step further and transfer that same amount into your investment app to invest those extra dollars? “I feel like I’m winning free money when I invest my cashback rewards. It’s not money from my paycheck that I’m risking, just extra cash that I earned for buying that Greek yogurt I like,” Taylor said.

Credit Score Anxiety: Everyone feels nervous when pulling their credit score. The truth is, it updates every month so there is constant ebb and flow. You may think your score is at a certain level, but without checking, you really don’t know. The trick is to get in the habit of looking at your most recent credit score on a regular basis so you can

  • Become more familiar with your personal score
  • Get comfortable and understand why your score is what it is
  • Learn from any mistakes and take small steps to correct these
     
  • Credit Karma is a free mobile app that allows you to keep a constant eye on your credit score and even learn what affects your score and what you can do to improve it. Check your credit as often as you’d like. It will never negatively affect your scores. You may be surprised to learn that simple tasks such as requesting a credit limit increase may actually raise your credit score. “If you’re in good standing with your creditor, consider asking for a credit limit increase on one of your credit cards. This could help you keep your utilization rate low.” (Credit limit of $10,000 but only used $1500 of the limit). Source: Credit Karma app.

While Credit Karma is a helpful tool to monitor your credit, you should note that the scores and credit report information come from TransUnion and Equifax—two of the three major credit reporting bureaus. This means that your score and information is missing information from Experian. Credit Karma also gives you a score based on the VantageScore, rather than the more commonly known FICO score. All of that withstanding, Credit Karma can still be used as a useful tool to help monitor your credit.

Don’t forget to visit annualcreditreport.com to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting bureau.

By getting in the habit of monitoring your finances on a regular basis, you’ll find that your financial health is easier to improve than you think. Start today by getting a snapshot of all your accounts, your debts and your credit score. Learn where you stand. Now you’re in a good position to start making small steps toward growth. Live within your means and when possible, automate your finances to avoid late fees. With so many tools available in the palm of our hand, it’s easier than ever to manage your finances on the go, giving you more free time to focus on enjoyment.

Source: Acorns, Robinhood, Ibotta, Credit Karma, Gallup News, Forbes

The information contained herein (including but not limited to any description of lending programs and products, eligibility criteria, interest rates, fees and all other loan terms) is subject to change without notice. This is not a commitment to lend.


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