Tag Archives: financial literacy

Financial Literacy and Retirement

April is Financial Literacy Month. But what is financial literacy? Basically, it’s the ability to understand and use financial skills to make wise decisions about your finances.

Financial literacy encompasses a variety of skills, but we’d like to focus on some basic skills that are relevant to planning for a successful retirement. Whether you’re just starting your career, planning on retiring soon or already retired, mastering these skills will help you and your future financial security.

financial literacy

Taking Stock of Your Finances

A good place to start building your financial literacy is by getting a handle on your current financial situation. Ask yourself some basic questions:

  • How much do you earn and spend each month?  
  • How much debt do you have?
  • Do you have any major expenses on the horizon?

If you know where you stand, you’ll be in a better position to plan for the future.

If you’re planning for retirement, you can estimate your pension by using the benefit calculator in Retirement Online. (You can also check your future Social Security benefit online.)

Creating a Budget

This financial planning tool helps you track your income and expenses. Having a budget can help you make better financial decisions, avoid debt, prepare for emergencies and save money.

If you don’t know how to get started, here are some tips on creating a budget. If you plan to retire soon, you can use our worksheet to create a post-retirement budget.  

Understanding Interest Rates

Interest is great if you’re on the receiving end, but not so great if you are paying it. Unfortunately, consumers can pay very high interest rates on credit. The average interest rate on a new credit card account is nearly 18 percent, and many consumers pay 20 percent or more on their credit cards.

If you have credit card debt, and only pay the minimum each month, you’ll make little progress on reducing the balance while the interest you pay every month adds up. For example, if you owed $1,000 on a credit card with an 18 percent interest rate, and made payments of $40 a month, it would take you 71 months to pay off and your total interest cost would be nearly $500. On the other hand, if you paid $100 a month, it would be paid off in half the time and your total interest would be about $160.

Managing Debt

Debt is not necessarily bad, but it can easily derail your financial plans if you’re not careful. Credit cards pose a particular risk because they are so easy to use, but you can learn strategies to avoid credit card debt.

Saving

As a NYSLRS member, you’ll receive a lifetime pension that will be based on your years of service and earnings. But your personal retirement savings can be an important supplement to your pension and Social Security. It’s never too early or too late to start saving for retirement. To learn more building your savings, read our recent blog post Saving for Retirement. Is Now the Right Time?

Follow our blog for future posts on retirement savings and related topics.

What is Your Net Worth?

Using Financial Literacy to Plan for Retirement

Becoming familiar with your finances is an essential part of retirement planning. By understanding how you spend, save, or invest your money, you can plan ahead and work for the type of lifestyle you want in retirement. Once you’ve retired, you can continue to check your saving and spending to keep making good financial decisions for the future.

One important step you can take is to figure out your net worth. Your net worth shows your current financial status, like reading a report card for your finances. You can see where you’re doing well or where you can improve. Once you have that information, you can get a head start on retirement planning.

“Worth” Noting: According to the Wall Street Journal, in 2010, the average net worth per person in America was $182,000. By comparison, according to Forbes, the net worth of Microsoft’s co-founder Bill Gates was $76.8 billion as of August 27, 2015.

How to Calculate Net Worth

The way to calculate your net worth is simple:

net worth = total assets – total liabilities

Your total assets are items of value that you own. These can be things like:

  • Your house
  • Bank accounts
  • Stocks
  • Bonds
  • Investments

Total liabilities are money that you owe. If you still owe money on a mortgage, credit cards, or loans, these all add up to your liabilities. (This net worth article from the Wall Street Journal has other assets and liabilities to consider.) If your total liabilities (what you owe) equal more than your total assets (what you own), you’d have a negative net worth.

Why Net Worth Is Important To Retirement Planning

Your net worth will change over the course of your life. A negative net worth might not mean you’re in financial trouble, it just means at that moment in time you have more debts than assets. This means you’d need to start thinking of ways to increase your assets and/or lower your liabilities to work with your financial goals. If you make a habit of checking your net worth, you can start seeing how financially secure you are (and could become) as you plan for retirement.