The Rainy Day Fund

by Lourdes Cortez

In an uncertain world, saving money can be a daunting task.  For most of us, savings is one of the hardest things to do and certainly not always the priority it should be. 

In August 2011, CNN Money published an article stating that 64% of Americans didn’t have enough savings for a $1,000 emergency fund. This is an alarming statistic and an unfortunate truth even in today’s economy.  But what about those emergencies, or even those long-term goals you may have on your bucket list? 

Well, here are a few strategies you may consider to gain control over your financial situation.  

First, create a plan of attack. Whether you are saving for an emergency, a short-term goal, or for a future long-term goal, the basis of creating a good plan is putting it down on paper. There are different ways to create this plan. For example, one could use an excel spreadsheet to map out their monthly income and expenses or a simple budget form used by a financial planner.  Start by taking the time to write it down. Groupexcellence.org published an article about a study of last years’ graduate students at Harvard, which proved that 3% of the students, who wrote down their goals, earned ten times as much as 97% of other graduates.  Think it, write it down, and make it happen. 

If you’re the type of person who is visual, you might want to add colors for different expenses and really make it aesthetically pleasing to help soften the daunting task of examining your expenses. You can even add photos of the goal(s) you are saving for. 

Second, open a bank account whose purpose is to host this money. This account is not to be touched, and you must pretend it doesn’t exist, unless you are depositing money or using it for its intended purpose! This may sound like an easy task, after all out of sight, out of mind, but it will probably be the most difficult part of your plan. 

Third, make it easy to deposit but hard to use.  The easiest way to save is use a direct deposit option and start with small increments like allocating 5-10% of your paycheck. Do what makes you feel comfortable so that you feel good about what you’re saving and not feel stress about the money you’re missing. 

Fourth, limit access to the account. For example, if you enroll in on-line banking, limit viewing your Rainy Day account and rely solely on e-statements to monitor your savings. Also, do not issue a debit card to the account, which may tempt you to use your savings. 

Finally, if you’re saving for no particular purpose besides having that extra financial cushion, set a definitive goal such as “I’m going to save $300 in 6 months”, which is the equivalent of $50 a month.  Every time you meet your goal, give yourself a pat on the back and set a new goal! 

Saving is an amazing accomplishment and creates a sense of security. But more importantly, creating a Rainy Day Fund will provide you and your family, the financial security you need when you need it most. 

Send your questions or comments to asklourdes@njfcu.org 

 Lourdes Cortez, President and CEO of North Jersey Federal Credit Union, hails from Paterson, New Jerseyand is the first Latina CEO of a credit union in New Jersey.  In 1984, she began her career at North Jersey Federal and served in several C-level roles before being promoted to her current position in 2005.  In 2004, she was promoted to Vice President of Operations and soon thereafter became Senior Vice President. Lourdeswas named the President and CEO of North JerseyFederal in 2005. Lourdeswas honored as a “Woman of Achievement” by the Girl Scouts during its Centennial Celebration in April 2012.  She was also named 2010 Star Award recipient by North Jersey Regional Chamber of Commerce and one of NJ Biz’s Best Fifty Women in Business.

Fun Ways to Celebrate the Holidays!

Celebrate the season with the following festivities! You can tailor each event to your budget – everyone can get in the spirit with one or all of the activities. So grab a candy cane, put on a Christmas sweater and get ready to have a jolly-good time!

Decorate – Take the time to decorate your apartment or house! Having ribbons, sparkle and a tree around will definitely get you feeling festive. You could even decorate your work space or play Christmas tunes during your work day.

Make Something – Whether you bake sugar cookies, decorate a gingerbread house or get crafty and make a tree ornament – it’s entertaining to make something from scratch! So get those creative juices flowing and pick a fun or yummy holiday project.

Movie Night – Rent all of your favorite holiday movies and invite friends over to watch a few classics. We recommend: Home Alone, Elf, The Family Stone, Christmas Vacation, Love Actually and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Donate Your Time – There are a ton of charities and organizations that would love to have you volunteer for a few hours. Everyone is so busy this time of year, that your time will be greatly appreciated – pick up your favorite cause and call to set up your volunteer time.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors – Hit up the best sled hill, go ice skating or take a stroll downtown. Find something to do outside to get out of the house and get some fresh air – all while having fun and enjoying the winter season.

Ugly Christmas Sweater – Throw an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party! Gather your friends and family, set a spending limit and see who can find the craziest/ugliest sweater for the party.

Caroling – Break out your pitch pipe and hit up the neighborhood to go caroling… Fa la la la la la la la la!

Christmas Lights – Pile into the car and get on the road to see all the pretty lights around town – of course, while bumping some classic Britney Spears, NSYNC or Destiny’s Child holiday music.

Tuesday Tip #34: Driving Safely in the Snow

Driving in Snow and Ice

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.

Don’t go out until the snow plows and sanding trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.

If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions.

Driving safely on icy roads

  1. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
  2. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  4. Keep your lights and windshield clean.
  5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  6. Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  7. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
  8. Don’t pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  9. Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

If your rear wheels skid…

  1. Take your foot off the accelerator.
  2. Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
  3. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
  4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  5. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid…

  1. Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
  2. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck…

  1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
  4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  5. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
  6. Try rocking the vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Sources: National Safety Council, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Washington State Government Information & Services

WOW WALL: Sarah, Accounting Manager

 

We have another nominee for the WOW Wall!! CONGRATULATIONS SARAH!

Sarah, our Accounting Manager, is always very smooth and thorough when dealing with our vendors.

Thanks to her persistence and tactful approach in disputing invoices, we should be getting a full credit from one of our vendors for over $1K!!

Thank You Sarah, for watching out for our Bottom Line!!

Tuesday Tip #33: Managing Stress

April is National Stress Awareness Month and most of us are experiencing increasing stress levels. We know we should reduce our level of stress, but it can seem too hard to do when we’re just trying to keep up with everything we have to do. Here are some tips that can help you manage your stress.
  1. Take 5 slow, deep breaths whenever you feel tense.
  2. Get some exercise each day to boost your energy level and improve your mood.
  3. Make time for relaxation. Listen to music, work in the garden, play with a pet, or do something else you enjoy.
  4. Keep things in perspective. Look for the humor in situations.
  5. Stretch and massage tight muscles to work out tension.
  6. Talk with a trusted friend instead of keeping frustrations bottled up.
  7. Plan and prioritize each day’s activities and be realistic about what you can achieve.
  8. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people.
  9. Look on mistakes and difficult situations as opportunities for growth.
  10. Learn to accept change and be flexible.

Tuesday Tip #31: What to know about weight management

The key to weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight is to properly balance the calories you take in with the calories you use up in physical activity. This does not mean you should exercise more and starve yourself. “Fuel” in the form of food is required to grow and strengthen your muscles. Exercise without enough fuel puts a body in starvation mode, in which your body starts to store fat and you don’t gain muscle. This would halt your progress toward weight loss or muscle gain.

Here are some tips if losing weight is your goal.

  1. Pump up your exercise program by getting more exercise whenever possible.
  2. Keep a journal in which your write down EVERYTHING you eat and drink, along with the calories. Food journals are great tools that allow you to see where small changes within your diet will benefit your overall health.
  3. Maintain an exercise log.
  4. Instead of thinking about dieting, make a lifetime commitment to eat foods that are low in calories, fat, and suger, and high in fiber.
  5. Work on managing stress so you don’t respond to it by overeating.
  6. Set realistic short- and long-term weight-loss goals, and plan nonfood rewards for meeting each of them.
  7. Drink plenty of water daily. Many people feel hungry when they’re actually thirsty.
  8. Try to eat protein with every meal and snack. Proteins help you feel full longer than carbs.

* Remember that weight gain in the beginning of an exercise program is a good sign that you are eating enough calories to support muscle building. Muscle weighs more than fat and muscle burns more calories than fat.

Tuesday Tip #30: Turn Your Office Into a Mini-Gym

Count exercises done at the office in your daily workout calculations. You can add exercise to your workday without losing time on the job. In fact, you’ll gain extra energy and lower your stress.

  • Use your office chairs, walls and floors for quick tummy-toning exercises, wall stretches, Pilates, or yoga exercises.
  • Whenever possible take the stairs, not the elevator.
  • Walk over to co-workers to give messages or plug ideas.
  • Ask a co-worker to walk with you to lunch.
  • Do some funky dance steps while you file.
  • Park your car farther from the office.

Play It Safe

  • Check with your healthcare provider before starting an exercise program if you have a medical condition or symptoms or a health problem.
  • Always breathe normally during an exercise.
  • If an exercise hurts, stop immediately.

Tuesday Tip #29: Add Movement To Your Day

Keeping exercise fun, exciting, and convenient is the key to committing to extra physical activity daily. Within your busy life, these quick tips can help you achieve your goal of getting the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

 

  • Take a 10-minute walk before or after each meal. Walk with your partner, children, or dog.
  • Commit to another person (or a pet) to walk, run, or work out.
  • Have your workout clothes and equipment in your vehicle so you are always prepared.
  • Park farther from the front door of your daily shops.
  • Sing and dance as you clean.
  • Wash your own car.
  • Do gardening or yard work.
  • Fill TV commercial time with physical movement.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Set up an area in your home for working out; include small weights and a mat.
  • Meet your friends at the beach or walking path for a quick stroll before that coffee shop stop.
  • Add a variety of physical activities that you enjoy to your day. These might include walking, playing basketball, dancing, or anything else you enjoy.
  • Revise your commute to incorporate a workout before or after work.
  • Make note of your commitment and reward your progress. This will keep you motivated.
  • Break your exercise time into manageable time slots: three 10-minute workouts, two 15-minute workouts or, on days when you have time to go for the gold, work out for 30 minutes at a time.

 

Find the fun in fitness and move into a lifetime of wellness. Smile! Breathe! Enjoy. Your body, mind, and spirit will all reap the benefits of extra movement every day.

Tuesday Tip #28: 10 Ways to Reduce Risk Factors & Maintain Heart Health

Ways to Protect Your Heart.

  1. Partner with your doctor. Discuss your risks for heart disease and heart attack and what you can do to reduce them.
  2. Aim for a healthy weight. Excess weight increases  your chance of developing heart disease.
  3. Don’t smoke of use other tobacco products. Avoid secondhand smoke as well.
  4. Have fatty fish, such as salmon or macherel, at least twice a week for its heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.
  5. Get active. Strengthen and condition your heart by exercising at least 30 minutes a day. Aerobic activities, such as brisk walking, bicycling, and swimming, are best for heart health.
  6. Control your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Have recommended screenings on time.
  7. Handle stress in healthy ways. To calm yourself quickly, take several deep breaths.
  8. Choose a heart-smart diet that’s high in fiber and low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, and salt.
  9. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
  10. Learn the warning signs of a heart attack and heart disease, and don’t ignore them.