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Parents: Teach Your Teens Not to Make 3 Big ATM Card Mistakes

Parents: Teach Your Teens Not to Make 3 Big ATM Card Mistakes

When does a single iTunes song cost $35.99? When the purchaser uses a debit card to buy it for 99 cents, goes over his bank account balance, and gets slapped with a $35 overdraft charge. This happens more than you think — often to young people.

These days almost any basic checking or savings account comes with a free ATM or debit card. That means even a first-time bank-account holder — like your teen — will have immediate, convenient access to his cash anywhere, day or night. Great news, right?

Nobody but you is going to teach your teenager how to handle that card responsibly. The bank won’t do it. Teachers won’t do it. So it’s up to you. Here are a few common pitfalls of mismanaging a debit / ATM cards — and ideas to teach your teen how to avoid them.

Mistake 1: Wasting money on ATM fees.

If your teen is out with friends and needs cash, she’ll be tempted to use her ATM card at whatever machine is close by. Usually, that will mean an ATM not owned by your teen’s bank — and using it to pull out a few bucks will probably result in a high fee.

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Bankrate.com’s 2011 Checking Account Survey found the average ATM charge in the US was $2.40. Plus, your teen’s bank might charge an additional fee for using another institution’s ATM. That could mean paying $4 or more just to access $20 — an insane 20% interest charge just to pull out her own money! If your teen uses her ATM card regularly (say, once a week), she could pay hundreds of dollars per year in needless ATM fees.

The lesson: Plan ahead.

Teach your teen to plan ahead, to withdraw money only from her bank’s ATMs, and to do so before she needs the cash. You can also use this opportunity to teach your teen how to budget.

Mistake 2: Overdraft charges.

Most bank accounts allow overdrafts on ATM card usage at stores or for other purchases — and charge high overdraft fees for the privilege. Worse, your teen won’t have any notification he’s about to go over his account balance — and get hit with a big fee — until it’s too late.

If your teen spends just a few dollars over his balance using his ATM card, that mistake could cost him $35 in overdraft charges (the average fee for overdrafts in 2011, according to Bankrate.com).

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If this happens regularly, because your teen does not keep accurate records of his account and does not know how much he has at a given time, your teen could face hundreds of dollars in fees each year. Over time, these mistakes can negatively affect your teen’s credit report — which can be extremely costly in the long run.

The $35.99 iTunes song

This actually happened to someone I know. She bought a few songs on iTunes using her ATM card; and the last song apparently took her bank account into negative territory. Meaning that last song, at 99 cents, actually cost her $35.99!

The lesson: Know what’s in your account at all times.

Teach your teen to keep accurate records of his bank account, and to monitor it regularly, so he never spends over his balance and gets hit with nasty overdraft penalties. Tell your teen the above story to illustrate why it really does pay to know how much he has in his bank account before using his ATM card.

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Related suggestion: The “carry-the-receipt” rule.

If your teen uses her debit / ATM card at a store, a gas station, the movie theater and an ATM — but doesn’t keep a record of these transactions — how will she know at any given moment how much money she actually has in her account?

Teach your teen to carry each receipt, for every withdrawal or purchase she makes with her ATM card, until she’s back home and able to record these items in whatever she uses as her official record for managing her bank account — her checkbook register, for example.

I purposely fold my receipts and tuck them into my wallet so they stick out. That way, I can’t help but notice them when I pull out my wallet, and therefore I can’t forget to record them. Only after I’ve recorded a receipt in my checkbook register will I throw it away (or file it).

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Problem 3: Physical danger from thieves.

ATMs attract muggers and other bad characters, because they know that anyone using one is just a few seconds away from having cash in their hands.

The lesson: Use ATMs only in safe situations.

Teach your teen to minimize the danger of ATM withdrawals by limiting her ATM usage to certain situations, like these:

  • Use an ATM only during the day, if possible.
  • Find an ATM indoors, either enclosed in a vestibule at a bank or inside a store, such as a supermarket, someplace that is populated and well-lit.

Taking the time today to teach your teens how to handle a debit / ATM card responsibly can make a huge difference in their financial future — the difference between enjoying the card’s convenience over the long term, or suffering serious financial problems from mishandling it.

Featured photo credit: Junk ATM/Robbie Hyman via Shutterstock

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Last Updated on September 2, 2020

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

How to Set Financial Goals and Actually Meet Them

Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?

In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.

4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals

Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.

1. Be Clear About the Objectives

Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.

It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.

Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.

2. Keep Goals Realistic

It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.

It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.

3. Account for Inflation

Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.

Therefore, account for inflation[1] whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.

For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.

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4. Short Term Vs Long Term

Just like every calorie is not the same, the approach to achieving every financial goal will not be the same. It’s important to bifurcate goals into short-term and long-term.

As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.

By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.

How to Achieve Your Financial Goals

Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:

  • Ensuring healthy savings
  • Making smart investments

You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.

Ensuring Healthy Savings

Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.

This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.

1. Track Expenses

The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.

Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.

If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.

2. Pay Yourself First

Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!

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Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.

The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.

Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.

3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It

Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized

Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.

At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.

Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.

You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.

4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal

In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.

Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:

  • Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
  • If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
  • If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.

The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.

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5. Talk About It

Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.

Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.

6. Maintain a Journal

For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.

If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.

When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.

Making Smart Investments

Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.

1. Consult a Financial Advisor

Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.

Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.

2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely

Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.

Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference[2].

As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.

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3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder

Einstein once remarked about compounding:

“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”

Use compound interest when setting financial goals

    Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.

    Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.

    4. Measure, Measure, Measure

    All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.

    If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.

    Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!

    The Bottom Line

    Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals

    and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.

    More Tips on Financial Goals

    Featured photo credit: Micheile Henderson via unsplash.com

    Reference

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