11 posts categorized "Claudia Cieslak" Feed

The Global Future of Financial Literacy

September is underway and that means it’s back to school for students. As teachers finalize their lesson plans, a growing number may be incorporating financial literacy education. In fact, many schools around the country have already begun integrating financial literacy into their curriculums. And it makes perfect sense.

Helping young people understand financial issues is a matter of great importance. Younger
generations are facing an increasingly complex financial field, compared to their parents, and they are more likely to shoulder more financial risks in adulthood, especially when it comes to saving, planning for retirement and covering healthcare needs. On July 9, the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hosted the U.S. release of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment financial literacy data. The assessment tested 15 year-olds on their knowledge of personal finances and ability to apply it to their financial problems. This is the first large-scale international study to assess the financial literacy of young people.

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March Money Madness

Pig - BasketballWhile many CPAs are in the depths of tax season right now, sports fans are entering the height of the college basketball season: March Madness. Even the most lackadaisical college basketball fan can’t help but get into the spirit. It also can be a prime time for overspending, whether buying rounds of drinks while watching the game at the bar or participating in the office pool. Although the NCAA tournament may be a one-and-done system, CPAs know all too well that this is not the case with personal finances.

The commonsense financial approach to events like March Madness are usually your typical stick to a budget, think before you spend, etc. But often no matter how many “tips to save money” you put out there, consumers are still drawn in by the pressures of friends, family and the media. While the individual consumer may know all the tips and tricks and understand the impact their decisions will make, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, and it doesn’t mean they’ll do it. So how do we, as professionals in the finance community, combat this? How do we change the thinking of Americans to one be focused on financial wellbeing?

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Emotions at Play: To Spend or Save?

Whether we like it or not, emotion plays a part in almost everything we do; from making a move at the end of a date to hitting the snooze in the morning before work. Emotion is that little bug in your ear that can sway your decision making, no matter how logical you may try to be. That’s why strong emotions, such as love, can make you feel so crazy. 

Pig - Love 2I’ve worked on the Feed the Pig campaign for several years, and as a member of its target audience I know firsthand that emotional spending is a common struggle for my peers. This is especially true when it comes to holidays, like today, Valentine’s Day, when Americans feel compelled to spend that extra dollar to show someone that we care, no matter how unnecessary and unrealistic it may be.

A few weeks ago, we sat down with National Financial Literacy Commission members Kelley Long, CPA/PFS, and Clare Levison, CPA, for a Facebook chat with consumers about finances and the role that emotions often play in our decisions. Here are a few of the top Q&As from the event:

 

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It’s Not About the Money

table of foodAfter recently being reintroduced to the reality of my student loans and how slowly I was chipping away at them—oy, the interest—I came to the conclusion that it was time for a budget revamp. I sat down, mapped everything out and determined the only solution was to relive my college days and go on the all Ramen noodle diet. While I usually pride myself on being a “frugal foodie,” the thought of hot noodles during the hot summer was not appealing, no matter how many variations I could make. Luckily, I travelled down to Philadelphia the following weekend and was reintroduced to the beauty of fresh farmers’ stand produce through a visit to the Italian market.

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The Moans and Groans of Student Loans

When I graduated from college I thought I had all my finances under control. Sure I had some student loan debt, but I had been able to get through four years with only the equivalent of one year’s worth of expenses and tuition in debt; compared to those with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student loans, I felt pretty good. Then I entered the “real world” and everything changed. I’ve been out of school four years now, paying the optimal monthly payment on my loans every month, and I’ve barely made a dent. Student-loan-debt-2

As a student applying for loans, I assumed that as long as I made my monthly payments I would see the number go down, plain and simple. I figured that those high school teachers I had that were still paying down their loans in their 40s must have put off payments or took out enormous loans; why else would it take that long? As the reality of the situation sunk in, and I realized the impact of this magical “interest rate,” my student loan debt suddenly felt much heavier. And I’m not alone. According to a recent survey conducted on behalf of the AICPA by Harris Interactive, only 39% of respondents fully understood the burden student loan debt would have on the future, and a whopping 75% have made a personal or financial sacrifice because of monthly student loan payments, like postponing getting married, having children, buying a house and saving for retirement.

This spring I proudly watched my little brother graduate from college, but as I looked out at the sea of graduates, my mind couldn’t help but think of the immense amount of student debt that lay before many of them. Lucky for my brother, working at the AICPA and with our members has given me access to a treasure-trove of tips and information for managing and paying down student loan debt. Here are a few basics that I passed along to him from 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy.

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CPA Profession Flexes Its Financial Muscles This April

April is Financial Literacy Month! This annual event is centered on improving Americans’ understanding of financial principles and practices. During this time every year, the AICPA and state CPA societies bolster financial literacy efforts with added events and resources.
 
Even with the craziness of tax season, it is amazing to see the dedication of CPAs across the country. Here is just a sampling of the various financial literacy events taking place this month.
 Pig - Super
The Texas Society of CPAs is encouraging families to participate in their 30 Days of Personal Finance. They’ve posted 30 tips for each day of the month, ranging from creative savings ideas to budgeting tips.
 
The New Mexico Society of CPAs will speak on financial literacy at an Albuquerque middle school on April 22. Three CPA volunteers and a NMSCPA staff member presented at the event last year, and it was so successful for the school that they have decided to make it an annual event! You can see pictures from last year’s event on their Facebook page. This year they will be giving away Feed the Pig and 360 promotional materials to kids and parents, in addition to raffling off copies of Save Wisely, Spend Happily; a copy of the book is also being donated to the school’s library.
 

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Fitness Showdown: Financial v. Physical

It seems like every time I turn on the TV or open a magazine, there’s some new fitness miracle, whether it’s equipment, classes, cleanses or clothing. And, of course, they all come with a price, usually not within the typical young adult budget. While fitness is important for people in all age groups, it seems to be taking on a whole new import with Generations X and Y. Gym memberships or fitness classes are now a staple in the standard budget, and eating organic seems like a no-brainer trade-off for the higher cost. All of this is well and good from a health standpoint, and in the long run will ideally lead to fewer health care costs down the road, but there’s something big missing from the average American’s budget: saving.
12882-311-SWSH Launch-Infographic-Money Secrets_r9 - CROPPED 2

I’ve been saving since before I knew what the term saving meant; I had some wonderful relatives who knew how much I would appreciate savings bonds down the road. When I started working at the age of 16, the saving continued, with me socking away every paycheck apart from the money I needed for gas. Even when I started my first job out of college, I still found saving easy, and didn’t understand why people just didn’t “get it.”

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I Love You, I Spend a Lot [INFOGRAPHIC]

It seems you can’t turn on the news without hearing at least one story about money. Saving, spending, debt, budgeting…the topic of finances is everywhere, except, however, in the homes of consumers. According to a recent Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of the AICPA to promote the new consumer book Save Wisely, Spend Happily, only 14% of Americans identify financial problems as something they would feel comfortable discussing. What’s more, 28% say they have no one to ask for financial advice. When it comes to family and finances, shouldn’t loved ones be allies?

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Back to Saving

Back to schoolOver the past few weeks, kids across the country packed their backpacks and headed off to start the new school year. I still remember the mix of excitement and apprehension I felt as I laced up my new sneakers for the first day—they were the “special” annual back-to-school purchase in our family. The preparation for school may vary between households, but it can be agreed that every parent wants to set their children up to succeed. While there are many factors that may be out of a
parent’s control, teaching kids good financial habits, like saving, can give them the best opportunity for a financially stable future.

To help kick off the school year, Feed the Pig hosted a live Q&A on Kids and Money, with National CPA Financial Literacy Commission members Kelley Long, CPA and Clare Levison, CPA. Here are a few of the top questions and answers.

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Books, Exams and What I Owe

Financial literacy pig studyingHeading off to college can be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life, especially if it’s your first time living away from home. I still remember the thrill of living with no parents for the first time. That thrill soon wore off when it was time to pay the bills—between books, groceries and my tuition, I didn’t understand how I was supposed to handle it all on my own. Fortunately, student loans showed up to save the day, sort of.

Although student loans made school financially possible, the reality of the debt I was accruing was completely off my radar while I was in school, as it is for many college students. Even with the post-graduation repayment grace period it was still difficult to pull together my loan payments the first few years; I was even one of the lucky ones who found a job the summer after graduation. In today’s economy, and with today’s unemployment rates, it’s a stretch to think that all graduates will find jobs within six months, let alone be on their feet enough to begin repaying their debt. Now, millions of college graduates may see their payments jump.

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Tax Season: An Opportunity for Financial Literacy Lessons

Financial literacy pig doing taxes

The end of tax season is fast approaching, and CPAs everywhere are no doubt looking forward to the end of their busiest time of the year. Although I bashfully admit that my returns still have yet to be filed, I see this time of year as a prime opportunity for me to take a good look at my finances. Sure I keep the typical year-round budget, and do my best keep my finances in check, but there are always places for improvement. Since joining team AICPA, I have realized, more than ever, that year-round tax planning can truly help prepare you for life changes, while staying on track to achieve financial goals.

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