finances, savings, budgeting

Tips to improve your financial smarts this National Financial Literacy Month 

April is National Financial Literacy Month and what better way to celebrate than to take this opportunity to review and upgrade your financial smarts.

What is Financial Literacy Month and why is it important? 

Whether you’re just starting out or have been earning your way for quite some time, it’s never too late to learn about saving and improving your financial outlook. Developing a budget and building financial knowledge is the foundation for a brighter future.

Learning about financial literacy is not only for adults either. National Financial Literacy Month places the importance of learning about finances and the tools to learn about them right in the classroom, too. No matter their age, putting the know-how and resources at children’s fingertips will give them the power to make smart decisions now and in the future.

What began with The National Endowment for Financial Education as Youth Financial Literacy Day in 2000 has evolved into a month-long observance supported by the Jump$tart Coalition called National Financial Literacy Month. Both the House and Senate have fully supported National Financial Literacy Month through joint resolutions and the U.S. Department of Education promotes the observance of the month as well. Most recently, President Joe Biden proclaimed April National Financial Capability Month and called upon all Americans to observe the month by understanding barriers to financial well-being, and taking action to build their own financial capability and assist others to do so as well.

You might be interested: Financial matters are women reluctant to talk about money?

finances, budgeting,

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash

Tips to improve your financial literacy

  1. Read and inform yourself as much as you can

As the old saying goes, knowledge is power. If you want to take control of you financial literacy the best place to start is at the beginning by hitting the books. Start reading newspapers or magazines that focus on money matters. Check out books and guides for beginners. Financial literacy is a skill, and like any skill it takes time to learn. Treat it like a school subject or a new hobby you want to master and absorb all the knowledge you can about finances and money matters. 

  1. Make a budget and record your spending

If you want to be savvy with money budgeting is key. Having a set budget will help you estimate the amount of income and expenses for a given amount of time. There are many different kinds of budgets so you may have a weekly budget, monthly, or yearly. You could even have all three! Having a budget will help you keep track of your money and expenses and prevent overspending. 

Additionally, to take this a step further, you can record your spending. Get yourself a nice little notebook or make yourself a spreadsheet and use it to keep track of all your outgoing money. Tracking how much you spend and on what will help you identify areas where you may be overspending such as takeout food or online shopping. Once you know your spending habits, you can then make efforts to improve them. 

  1. Develop a savings strategy

After learning your spending habits, you can now start curating a saving strategy that will work best for you and your lifestyle. Having savings is incredibly important, as we have all learned over the past year, because you never know when an emergency or disaster may strike. Since the pandemic hit, thousands have lost jobs and seen huge changes in their financial situations. By creating a set savings strategy you can help ensure that you will always have something to fall back on. 

Use your newfound budgeting skills to create savings funds such as an emergency fund, a fund for a certain goal, or even retirement. After reviewing your fixed expenses in your budget, decide on an amount that you can set aside each month to go toward your savings fund. Once you put it in your savings, forget about it! Over time you’ll be able to accumulate a solid savings fund for your future.

  1. Utilize financial management tools

If you need help getting started with managing your finances, financial management tools are a great addition. There is a wide variety of both free and paid tools in the marketplace that can help you manage your credit cards, checking accounts, savings accounts, and more. Take some time to research different management tools and find one that works for you and your unique needs.

  1. Ask advice from others or talk to a professional 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about money, seek out the wisdom of others who have already mastered the art of financial literacy. A trusted family member or friend is a great place to start. You can also speak with a financial advisor, whose job it is to help you manage your money safely. An advisor can help you create a financial plan and guide you through many of the steps toward building financial literacy. 

Savings for retirement in a jar

Women pay inequality gap follows them into retirement

If you are a woman in the workplace, you know what “women pay inequality” means: You need to work over 3 more months to earn what your man did last year. Sounds unfair?

Savings for retirement in a jar

According to a report from the White House, full-time working women earn 23% less than their male counterparts. Translated to working days, it equals to approximately 60 business days or three months into each year. Well, as you know, I’m no young chick, and if you are getting near or into your retirement years, the horror doesn’t stop there. If you earn less, you have fewer options to save, with a greater impact in your golden years and into retirement.

In addition, and to make an even gloomier panorama, in all developed countries and most undeveloped ones, women live longer than men. As a group, women outlive men, sometimes as much as 10 years.

In 2011 life expectancy was 78.7 years In the United States, which is slightly below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 80.1. The OECD is an international organization that promotes policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. Their members include the most advance countries in the world and some so-called “emerging” economies such as Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

Men in the USA expect to live an average of 76 years, while women reach 81 in life expectancy. Although the gap has been closing in in recent decades, gender discrepancy is most pronounced in the very old: among centenarians worldwide, women outnumber men nine to one.

So how does a woman who lives to 90 or 95 years old stretch her already meager savings?

A December report by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that “the current median in a 401(k) savings account is just about $18,000.” The median retirement income for women in 2010 was just 59 percent that of men, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office..

For many women, gender inequality doesn’t end at the workplace but it follows them into their retirement years. In fact, women are almost twice as likely as men to live below the poverty line during retirement, with single and minority women struggling the most.

In your view, it this fair? What can be done to solve the gap and help women live a decent retirement life?


Try this Calculator: Will you have enough to retire?



Population Male poverty rate Female poverty rate
All 65 and older 6.6% 11%
Married 4.7% 4.9%
Widowed 10.1% 14.5%
Divorced 12.2% 17.1%
Separated 10.8% 35.4%
Never married 15.7% 23.2%
White 4.6% 8.6%
Black 13.2% 21.3%
Asian 11.6% 11.9%
Hispanic 19.1% 21.8%

Source: GAO analysis of Census data for 2012


money habits

4 Money habits that help your family become wealthier

Financially speaking, what do some households do right? Why do some households tread water financially while others make progress? Does it come down to money habits?

money habits

Sometimes the difference starts there. A household that prioritizes paying itself first may end up in much better financial shape in the long run than other households.

Some families see themselves as savers, others as spenders. The spenders may enjoy affluence now, but they also may be setting themselves up for financial struggles down the road. The savers better position themselves for financial emergencies and the creation of wealth.

How does a family build up its savings? Well, money not spent can be money saved. That should be obvious, but some households take a long time to grasp this truth. In the psychology of spenders, money unspent is money unappreciated. Less spending means less fun.

Being a saver does not mean being a miser, however. It simply means dedicating a percentage of household income to future goals and needs rather than current wants.

You could argue that it is harder than ever for households to save consistently today; yet, it happens. As of May, U.S. households were saving 5.3% of their disposal personal income, up from 4.8% a year earlier.1

Keeping these money habits can help

  1. Budgeting is a great habit. What percentage of U.S. households maintain a budget? Pollsters really ought to ask that question more often. In 2013, Gallup posed that question to Americans and found that the answer was 32%. Only 39% of households earning more than $75,000 a year bothered to budget. (Another interesting factoid from that survey: just 30% of Americans had a long-run financial plan.)2 money habits family

 So often, budgeting begins in response to a financial crisis. Ideally, budgeting is proactive, not reactive. Instead of being about damage control, it can be about monthly progress.

 Budgeting also includes planning for major purchases. A household that creates a plan to buy a big-ticket item may approach that purchase with less ambiguity – and less potential for a financial surprise.

 2. Keeping consumer debt low is a good habit. A household that uses credit cards “like cash” may find itself living “on margin” – that is, living on the edge of financial instability. When people habitually use other people’s money to buy things, they run into three problems. One, they start carrying a great deal of revolving consumer debt, which may take years to eliminate. Two, they set themselves up to live paycheck to paycheck. Three, they hurt their potential to build equity. No one chooses to be poor, but living this way is as close to a “choice” as a household can make.

You might interested: Consumer debt, the small business trap

 3. Investing for retirement is a good habit. Speaking of equity, automatically contributing to employer-sponsored retirement accounts, IRAs, and other options that allow you a chance to grow your savings through equity investing are great habits to develop.

Smart households invest with diversification. They recognize that directing most of their invested assets into one or two investment classes heightens their exposure to risk. They invest in such a way that their portfolio includes both conservative and opportunistic investment vehicles.

Taxes and fees can eat into investment returns over time, so watchful families study what they can do to reduce those negatives and effectively improve portfolio yields.


You might interested: Understanding how your 401(k) plan protects your children

4. Long-term planning is a good habit. Many people invest with the goal of making money, but they never define what the money they make will be used to accomplish. Wise households consult with financial professionals to set long-range objectives – they want to accumulate X amount of dollars for retirement, for eldercare, for college educations. The very presence of such long-term goals reinforces their long-term commitment to saving and investing.

Every household would do well to adopt these money habits. They are vital for families that want more control over their money. When money issues threaten to control a family, a change in financial behavior is due.


Aquiles Larrea Jr. AIF® may be reached at 212-390-8918 Option 1 or


This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.



1 – [6/29/16]

2 – [6/3/13]


Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services offered through Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc. a Registered Investment Advisor. Financial Planning Services offered through Larrea Wealth Management. Cambridge and Larrea Wealth Management are not affiliated. The information in this email is confidential and is intended solely for the addressee. If you are not the intended addressee and have received this email in error, please reply to the sender to inform them of this fact. We cannot accept trade orders through email. Important letters, email, or fax messages should be confirmed by calling (212) 390-8918. This email service may not be monitored every day, or after normal business hours. This message distributed via use of the MarketingPro system.



Early retirement forced to retire

4 Steps to deal with sudden retirement when forced to retire early

 Welcome to our new wealth coach and contributor Aquiles Larrea Jr.! Aquiles specializes in coaching entrepreneurs and business owners as well as working Latinas and Latinos who’d like to plan their present and enjoy their future.

Early retirement forced to retire


What if you are laid off or forced into early retirement before 65, or even before 60? If that happens to you, what do you do in response to the next phase of your life starting sooner than you planned? Here are some steps you might want to consider if this sudden situation happens to you.

  1. Gauge where you stand financially

It could be that the full-time job you just left will be your last. It could be that you have been thinking seriously about retirement. Depending on your outlook, you may see your glass as half-empty or half-full – but no matter your outlook, you need to assess your financial position.

With no income from work, your household will be more reliant on your spouse’s income or savings (assuming you are married at the time). So how big is your emergency fund? Is your cash position strong enough so that you can lean on it for a while until you decide how much you want or need to keep working?

Do you want (or need) another full-time job? Do you see yourself transitioning into part-time work? Or are you looking forward to retirement? Regardless of your employment prospects, you will have to calculate the amount of income you receive (or can potentially receive) from other sources – the pension or termination payout you were (hopefully) given, your investments, and other sources of passive income.

If that income doesn’t appear to be enough, should you apply for collecting Social Security as soon as you can? Many financial professionals will tell you no, and here is why: for each year you delay filing for Social Security benefits, your benefits grow by about 8% (from age 62 to age 70). If you were born in 1954 and you file for Social Security benefits at 62 in 2016, you will reduce your monthly Social Security benefit by 25 percent as a consequence.1,2

On the other hand, some people really need the money and/or are in poor health, so they would rather have the income sooner than later. Your projected lifetime Social Security benefit remains the same regardless of the date you first file for benefits, so even healthy retirees sometimes sign up as early as they can. In fact, in a June survey of more than 600 retirees taken by the Nationwide Retirement Institute, 76% of Americans who had been retired less than 10 years and 68% of Americans who had been retired 10 years or longer said that looking back, they felt they applied for Social Security at the right time.1

Nevertheless, a time like this is a great time to examine Social Security claiming strategies with help from a financial professional –especially if you are married or have been married. The wrong move could leave a great deal of money on the table.

  1. Can you take advantage of any benefits as you leave work?

Talk to the HR officer. If you have not been informed of your eligibility for severance pay or an early retirement package, ask about it. Depending on the circumstances of your exit, you may also qualify for Social Security disability benefits or unemployment benefits.

It will not be cheap to secure health insurance if you need it. If you are lucky, you worked for a big company, giving you COBRA eligibility. Maybe you are even luckier – perhaps your employer offered you the option of retiree health benefits when you were hired. (Hopefully, that offer still stands.) 

Early retirement planning

  1. See what you can do to reduce spending and taxes

Leaving work early might mean that your retirement is longer than anticipated. This calls for a reassessment of your retirement income strategy and your probable retirement expenses, including your day-to-day spending habits.

What fixed expenses are non-negotiable? What can you trim? If you are married, you and your spouse should be on the same page regarding how much you spend and what you spend money on. Perhaps gifts to children or grandchildren should be ceased. Maybe you could sell the house and move someplace cheaper. Maybe just one car is enough. You could eat out less. Spending less on mere wants is appropriate in your situation.

Every tax dollar you can save is a dollar back in your wallet. So pay attention to investment location and the impact of taxes on your portfolio, as you may be deriving income from investment accounts.

  1. Stay positive

You may not have left work on your own terms, but you have an opportunity in your hands –the chance to change, and perhaps even reconceive the way you live and work from this moment forward. If you have significant retirement savings, you may even be surprised at the potential your future holds.



This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.


1 – [9/23/15]

2 – [10/22/15]