(BPT) - If you had to grade your financial literacy, what would it be? Are you an A+ saver, investor and planner, or do you think you could do better? If you grade yourself average at best, you’re not alone.
When asked to grade their own financial literacy, more than half of Americans say they’d earn a “C” or lower, according to new data from Prudential Financial. This isn’t surprising, considering data from Prudential’s Financial Wellness Census shows less than half of Americans are on track to meet their financial goals, including planning for retirement.
“Regardless of where you are on your family’s financial wellness journey, the best way forward is through financial literacy,” says Prudential Advisors President Brad Hearn. “Researching, educating yourself and getting advice from a financial professional can help you make the best decisions based on your life stage, risk tolerance and goals.”
Hearn says each family’s situation and goals are unique, and things like life stage and personal preference will impact how they choose to prepare for their financial future. To get started, here are five financial wellness basics every family should master:
Set up an emergency fund
Life is a series of experiences, and sometimes the unexpected can hit your finances hard. Whether it’s a car breaking down, your AC unit on the fritz or even losing a job, it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. If you don’t already have an emergency fund, start saving a little each month until you reach your goal. A good rule of thumb is to have three months’ worth of expenses saved in an emergency fund. So, if your monthly expenses are $2,500, you should have $7,500 saved.
Create a budget
Saving for college? A new car? How about starting that emergency fund? Whatever your family’s financial goals are, it’s important to have a plan in place that helps you achieve those goals. Budget to manage day-to-day expenses, and include in that budget a commitment to save for bigger milestones. For tips on getting started, do some research. There’s no shortage of advice, whether you decide to go it alone or consider using the help of a professional financial advisor.
Plan for the unimaginable
If you have people who count on you for financial support or caregiving, you should have life insurance. A life insurance policy can help give your family financial peace of mind should the worst happen. There is no rule as to how much life insurance you need, but important things to consider are your annual income, mortgage debt, potential college costs for kids and other future financial obligations.
Save for retirement
According to Prudential data, of Americans who have retirement savings and debt, nearly one-quarter have more in total debt than in retirement savings (23%), while 15% of Americans say that they have no debt, but also have nothing saved for retirement. Planning for retirement is something that should start as soon as possible. If your work offers any type of matching program, make sure to take advantage. If you don’t, you’re essentially leaving free money on the table.
Seek professional advice
Retirement, life insurance and savings can be confusing. Information overload is partly to blame. According to Prudential data, two-thirds of Americans agree that the list of things they need to learn to successfully manage their finances keeps growing, not shrinking. That’s where financial literacy programs and professional financial advice can play a key role. Nearly two-thirds of Americans don’t have a financial advisor. They say they cannot afford one (42%) or don’t believe their financial situation warrants needing an advisor’s help (26%). The reality is that advice is more within reach than ever before — and it’s not just for the wealthy. A financial professional can help at various stages in life and work with you to create a strategy based on your timeline, risk tolerance and goals.
“Financial wellness isn’t always a matter of having more money,” says Hearn. “Instead, it’s a journey that takes a combination of proactive effort, dedication and professional guidance.”
Prudential Advisors is a brand name of The Prudential Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries. Life insurance is issued by The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ and its affiliates.
The open road, independence and the flexibility to work how and when you want. Reasons why trucking is a great job.
(BPT) - To truly understand the impact the trucking industry has on our economy, walk into any business, retail shop or grocery store and take a look around. Nearly everything you see was delivered there by a truck. In fact, according to the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Freight Transportation Forecast, 70 percent of all freight in the U.S. is handled by trucks. It is awe-inspiring to realize one industry has such an enormous impact on everything we do, purchase and consume in our everyday lives. Quite simply, trucks keep America moving, and without them, America stops.
Imagine going to your favorite grocery store to pick up your family's dinner and seeing the shelves empty, or stopping by the corner hardware store for light bulbs only to find they're not available. If it's not during the aftermath of a weather disaster, we can't readily imagine such a scenario happening in this country. That's because 3.5 million professional drivers are always on the job, working day and night to make the deliveries that keep our economy humming.
But, it's getting more and more difficult for the industry to keep up with demand. There's a severe shortage of professional truck drivers on the road today, and it's expected to get even worse. The ATA estimates that the industry will face a 175,000-driver shortfall by 2026. Ask any professional driver and they'll tell you the same story: They get headhunting emails and calls from recruiters every day, and their own companies are so short-staffed they need to put in extra shifts just to cover all of the routes.
That's why the ATA is partnering with Pilot Flying J, the largest network of travel centers in North America, to raise awareness of the profession, recruit new drivers, and celebrate the tremendous contributions of professional drivers to our nation's economy.
It's ironic that there's a shortage in this profession, because those same drivers who remain committed to the industry and to keeping our economy moving will tell you how much they love the job.
"My father was a driver and as far back as I can remember, truck driving is all I've ever wanted to do," says Steve Brand, a professional driver who has spent 27 years with FedEx Freight. Brand is a member of the ATA America's Road Team, a national public outreach program of professional truck drivers who share superior driving skills and safety records. "Trucks move America forward and it's a great feeling knowing I have a small part in that."
Other benefits of being a driver?
* Independence. When you're in a big rig, nobody is looking over your shoulder telling you how to do your job. It's like being your own boss.
* Freedom. If an office job isn't for you, trucking is a perfect choice. You're out on the open road, and not tied to a desk.
* Flexibility. There isn't just one kind of driving. Want to see the country driving from coast to coast? You can do that. Want to come home to your family every night? You can do that, too, and myriad options in between.
* Pay. ATA’s recent Driver Compensation Study found that the average salary for a truck driver ranges from $53,000 to $86,000 depending on the type of employer and type of equipment operated.
Coupled with not having the crushing student debt that college graduates are carrying around, it makes for a very good living.
Opportunities. Since the industry is hurting for drivers, it's a job seeker's market out there. Recent grads from driving schools are in high demand, and can pick and choose the job that's right for them.
Brand counsels potential recruits to choose a reputable school for proper training and then seek out a top-rated company, or find a company that has its own school.
"I go to bed happy and wake up happy knowing I'm making a difference," he says.
Pilot Flying J is making a difference, too. As part of its partnership with the ATA, Pilot Flying J recently announced a $60,000 philanthropic gift to the ATA's Trucking Cares Foundation to help support professional drivers and the future of the industry.
“Hardworking professional drivers make many sacrifices to keep our economy moving and our ways of life possible,” said Ken Parent, president of Pilot Flying J. “As we face a growing driver shortage, our hope is that this contribution will help support the Trucking Cares Foundation’s mission to improve the safety, security and sustainability of the trucking industry and contribute to the future growth of the industry through education and training.”
To learn more about becoming a professional driver, visit the ATA at www.trucking.org.
(BPT) - Across the nation, thousands of seniors have used a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM), commonly called a reverse mortgage loan, as a savvy way to access the equity in their homes as part of their retirement strategy.
Those who are interested in a reverse mortgage loan should know that there are six main phases to the process: 1) educating and qualifying, 2) counseling, 3) approval, 4) funding, 5) using and 6) settling.
1. Educating and qualifying
The HECM process begins by contacting an FHA-approved lender who will review the borrower’s situation, educate them on the HECM program, and determine if they would likely qualify for a reverse mortgage loan.
“Once the lender has determined that the borrower is eligible, they work closely with them to shape the loan so it fits their needs,” says Paul Fiore, Chief Sales Officer for American Advisors Group, the leading reverse mortgage lender in the nation. “At AAG, this is a highly personalized process designed to give the borrower the best outcome for their financial situation.”
Once qualified, borrowers are referred to reverse mortgage counseling, an important consumer safeguard mandated by the government. During counseling, a HUD-approved HECM counselor reviews the borrower’s needs and circumstances. They consider how the funds might best be distributed, the financial and tax implications, and whether a HECM is right for them. If so, an application is submitted to the lender.
Next, the property will be appraised, and after that the approval process will begin. Before closing on the loan, borrowers will choose between several loan disbursement options, from taking it all out in a lump sum, receiving fixed monthly payments, opening a line of credit or any combination.
After the closing papers are signed, the homeowner has three business days to change their mind and cancel the loan (except if the loan is being used to purchase a new home). After the rescission period has passed, the funds are ready to be paid out through the payment option selected, subject to an initial disbursement limit that is determined by HUD.
5. Using your loan
The loan servicer will generally disburse funds via direct deposit or mail on the first business day of the month, following the funding of the loan. The borrower can live in the home as long as they like without making monthly mortgage payments, as long as they continue to pay property taxes and insurance on the home, maintain it in good condition and comply with any other loan terms.
6. Settling your loan
If the last surviving borrower sells or transfers the property, passes away, or does not use the property as a principal residence for more than 12 months, the loan has reached a “maturity event,” meaning that the loan comes due and no further funds can be disbursed. Borrowers also have the option of paying off their loan in full at any time without penalty.
Following a maturity event, an appraisal will be ordered by the loan servicer to determine the property’s current market value. The heirs can sell the property to repay the loan, or purchase the property for 95 percent of its appraised value. Since HECMs are non-recourse loans, the proceeds from the sale of the home are the only asset that can be taken to pay the loan’s balance, even if the loan amount exceeds the value of the home.
A home equity conversion mortgage can be shaped to fit an individual’s needs. With new consumer safeguards in place, many seniors are discovering that it is an important part of their retirement strategy.
Retirement is supposed to be a reward for decades of hard work, but if you haven’t planned well, the milestone may be a dark cloud on your horizon. New data shows that nearly 50 percent of Americans are most afraid of outliving their income or the inability to maintain their current lifestyle, and nearly 20 percent are worried about having enough money to cover health care expenses. Take control of the uncertainty and create peace of mind when it comes to retirement with these simple steps.
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