Raise Your Financial IQ
Financial literacy should start with that first piggy bank and continue through retirement. Providing our members with a full range of competitive financial products and great service is just part of what we are about at Cornerstone. Financial education is one of our core values.
Get on the Right Path
We are partners with GreenPath Financial Wellness, a credit and financial counseling company. Every Cornerstone member can connect with GreenPath for a free financial counseling session. They also provide excellent short articles and webinars on a variety of financial subjects, including debt management, financial literacy for kids, and saving for retirement.
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Get to Know Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a big factor in qualifying for loans and the rate you receive. Watch this two minute video to better understand how your credit score is determined and how you can improve it. You may obtain a free copy of your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Get Control with a Budget
Financial literacy starts with understanding how much you spend and creating a plan to control it. A monthly budget might seem like a lot of work, but it gets easier! Stay focused on the goal: less stress, more control, and a secure financial future.
Need help tracking your budget? Download a Budget Template for Microsoft Excel.
5 Tips for Budgets that Work
Start with five categories. Add more or separate them only if it is helpful.
- Income – what you make
- Giving – what you give to charities and non-profits
- Housing – what you spend on mortgage, rent, utilities, insurance, and association dues
- Living – what you spend on food, personal care, household items, medical expenses, recreation, and unsecured debt payments
- Driving – what you spend on vehicle loans, maintenance, insurance, registration, and gas
2. Track your expenses
The only way to know how much you spend is to add it up. Don't let this become a long chore at the end of the month. Make it part of your daily routine to add in new purchases. This habit will also help you stay on track and under budget.
3. Make room for irregular or unplanned expenses
You don't want irregular expenses – holiday shopping or bills owed a few times each year – to catch you by surprise. Neither do you want an unplanned expense like a car repair to wipe out your savings. Make room in your monthly budget for these items. For example:
- Allocate $200/month for education expenses that cost $1,200/semester
- Allocate $150/month for car maintenance and repairs that might occur ($1,800/year)
- Allocate $50/month for holiday shopping ($600/year)
4. Spend less than you earn
Here's the simple truth: the only way to get out of debt and build wealth is to spend less than you earn. Does that seem almost impossible in your current situation? Regardless of your current debt or income, you can do this! Make sure there is money left over in your budget to build up an emergency fund or pay down debt faster.
Are you ready for an ambitious goal that will help alleviate financial stress in an uncertain future? Allocate 20% of your income for emergency savings and retirement.
5. Find ways to save
Once you track expenses for the first time, the results can be shocking. Where can you save? Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Buy items – especially groceries – when they are on sale
- Cook at home more and bring your lunch to work
- Limit Internet, phone, and streaming services – you probably don't need the unlimited/fastest/best plan – and ask your provider for promotional discounts
- Shop for better values on insurance – some independent insurance agencies will do this for you
- Enjoy free entertainment and recreation – limit extra screen time and visit local or state parks
- Get enough sleep and focus on your health – the better you feel the less likely you will encounter extra medical expenses
Watch Out for Common Scams
If you or a loved one encounter any of these situations, stop immediately. Do not proceed. Do not provide personal information. Most importantly, do not send money or form of payment.
Computer Support Scam
A prompt on your PC states that there is a problem (like a virus) and that you should call a support number to resolve the issue, often claiming to be Microsoft Support. Do not call the support number or provide remote access to your computer.
The scammers intend to capture your personal information and obtain your passwords (keylogger malware). Instead, delete your browser history. When you need computer support, start with a person you know or a local business.
Gift Card Scam
Connected with the Overpayment Scam, you are asked to purchase gift cards, then provide the gift card numbers by email. You get to keep some money for yourself as payment for your services. There is never a legit situation where that makes sense.
You receive a check payment for completing a task and are asked to return part of it by wire or P2P service (like Western Union or Venmo). Before the check is returned as fraudulent, the money you returned is sent and irrecoverable.
Relative In Need Scam
You receive a call or email concerning a relative who has been in an accident or arrested, typically in a foreign country, and are asked to send money to pay for medical bills or jail bonds. This scam is commonly directed at grandparents with a grandchild in trouble.
You meet someone online from a foreign country. You message one another. As the relationship develops, you are asked to send money to help in a sad situation. This is a tough one because you are invested emotionally, but sending money is the biggest red flag of every scam.
Tax Audit Scam
You receive a call about a tax problem and are told to pay in order to avoid a lien, garnishment, fines, or even imprisonment. Do not be alarmed or frightened by the threats. Hang up and do not provide personal information. You will receive a letter from the IRS if there is a concern about your tax return or tax payments.