Without the Fiduciary Rule, Can You Still Find an Honest Retirement Planner?

Earlier this year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit effectively repealed a rule from the Department of Labor requiring financial advisers to meet some of the same legal requirements to which real estate agents, attorneys and other professionals must adhere serving their clients. While the so-called “fiduciary rule” isn’t exactly dead yet, it probably isn’t going to be enforced either. So what does that mean for investors looking for a new financial adviser?

In all honesty, not a lot. The new rule went into effect in part last year, so it’s a bit of a return to the status quo. Here’s what happened: The new rule was met with a lot of criticism from a number of groups, financial advisers in particular. It was intended to ensure brokers and other financial planners and advisers make investment recommendations in the best interest of their clients. For example, if your adviser were to choose one investment for your portfolio over another because it paid them a higher fee but had a lower rate of return for you, the fiduciary rule would have smacked them.

The 5th Circuit’s ruling has essentially repealed the Department of Labor’s enforcement of the rule. It technically remains in effect, but it has been rendered virtually meaningless.

How to choose a good financial adviser

This means investors should do their due diligence in choosing any kind of financial adviser. Here are five things you can do to ensure you get an adviser who acts in your best interest:

1. Choose a certified financial planner

Certified financial planners are trained and held to a code of ethics. They also take mandatory classes to maintain their licenses. This helps ensure they are aware of the latest industry standards and that someone is keeping an eye on their work.

2. Ask how they get paid.

If the planner you’re considering gets paid a commission instead of a flat, hourly rate, they have an incentive to choose investments that are in their own best interest. Members of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors are fee-only and accept no commissions for their work.

3. Do they follow a code of ethics?

Ask if they follow a code of ethics and make sure you read it. If you see “fiduciary” in the language, your planner has agreed to put your best interests first.

4. Are they working for someone you know and trust?

Getting a recommendation from a friend or family member is a great way to find an adviser, but you should still do your due diligence as outlined in steps one through three.

5. Run a background check.

This may sound complicated, but it’s pretty simple. Start by asking your potential adviser if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime. Also ask if they’ve ever been investigated by a regulatory agency or industry group, and, if so, if they were found guilty or responsible of any wrongdoing. It’s also a good idea to Google them. Finally, ask for references of current clients.

Can’t I just do it myself?

If your investments are solely through an employer plan like a 401(k) and you’ve only just begun to invest, a self-directed program may be all you need for now. But as your investments grow and become more complicated, choosing an adviser can be a wise decision. Just like you’d go to a professional to extract your teeth or install your septic system, turning over your investments to a professional also typically results in better outcomes.

Another benefit to hiring an adviser is that they help keep you disciplined when it comes to your short- and long-term investment strategies. They frequently also can help with reviewing employment and other contracts, insurance policies and other legal vehicles.

Worried about your retirement nest egg? Here are five fast ways to start saving more.


This article originally appeared on Policygenius.

 

A Guide to ChexSystems

Imagine going to a new bank and waiting in line to open an account. You chat with the friendly bank teller, giving him the information he needs to open an account, along with your ID.

Maybe you’ve had a few overdraft charges in your past, but who hasn’t? Besides, your act is together now, and when you need a late-night pizza, you know you have the money in the bank for it. After a few minutes, his face turns grim. “I’m sorry,” he says. “At this time, we can’t offer you a bank account with us.”

What gives? If you haven’t experienced this embarrassing event yourself, count yourself lucky. It happens every day, and it might just happen to you someday too. It may have to do with one consumer reporting agency: ChexSystems.

Read on to learn more about ChexSystems and what you can do if you’re denied a bank account.

What is ChexSystems, anyway?

ChexSystems is a consumer reporting agency (CRA), and it operates like the credit agencies Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Except, in this case, ChexSystems collects data about how you’ve used your past bank accounts, rather than how you’ve paid off your debts. Another key difference between ChexSystems and the debt-related CRAs is that ChexSystems generally only lists negative information on your report. So, even if you’ve only had one overdraft charge, it’s possible that it’s the only thing listed on your ChexSystems report (even if you are an otherwise perfect banking customer.)

There are a few other agencies that do the same job as ChexSystems, but according to the National Consumer Law Center, ChexSystems is one of the most widely-used CRAs. In fact, over 80% of financial institutions use CRAs like ChexSystems and its rival, Early Warning Services, to determine whether to grant someone a bank account. Information on your ChexSystems report stays there for a full five years. This means that your mistakes from yesteryear can still impact you today.

Why ChexSystems is Unfair

The reason banks use CRAs like ChexSystems is to make sure you’re not going to open a fraudulent account or rack up a bunch of unpaid bank fees. It makes sense, right?

In reality, however, using ChexSystems is an unfair business practice that can harm consumers like you, according to the National Consumer Law Center. Currently, 17 million Americans — about five percent of the entire U.S. population — don’t have a bank account. And, out of those in this group who have had bank accounts in the past, about 15.5% of them can’t get a bank account now, likely due to a negative CRA report.

Lest you think this is a problem just for poverty-stricken people, think again. On average, about 25% of banks will automatically deny you right off the bat if you have any negative information on your account at all, even if you’re a millionaire. A further 50% of banks will need to call in a branch manager to make a decision on your case (how embarrassing).

Couple this with the fact that many big banks have unfair or unclear overdraft policies, making it even harder to avoid negative marks on your ChexSystems report.

What are my rights for dealing with my ChexSystems report?

Luckily, ChexSystems is governed by the Fair Credit Reporting Act just like TransUnion and the other CRAs. This means that when it comes to how your information is reported and used, you do have rights.

You can get a free copy of your ChexSystems report once per year, just like with your credit report. It’s a good idea to check your report periodically to make sure there’s no fraud or errors listed on it, especially if you plan to open a new account.

If you do apply for a bank account and are denied based on what the bank saw in your ChexSystems report, you can also get another copy for free to make sure it’s accurate. Sadly, even if you’ve paid all of your bank charges, negative information still stays on your report – if it was actually your fault. Yet, if you spot an error, you can resolve it by contacting your bank and ChexSystems to file a dispute. The bank and ChexSystems have to investigate your dispute, but — surprise — it doesn’t always go in your favor, even if you’re in the right. If you think both of them made a mistake and they’re not clearing it up to your satisfaction, you can also file a report with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission.

What if I’m still denied a bank account based on my ChexSystems report?

If you’ve checked your report and it accurately reports negative information, we hate to be the bearer of bad news. Many banks won’t offer you a bank account.

However, you’re not out of options just yet. There are many bank accounts — like Chime Bank — that don’t use the ChexSystems reports. If you open a bank account with Chime Bank, you won’t even be charged pesky overdraft fees, which may have led to the negative information in in the first place.

Having a negative ChexSystems report is certainly an inconvenience, but it’s not the end of the world. Chime has your back, even if no other banks do.

 

How Much Does It Cost to Get Married?

Americans spend an average of $33,391 on weddings, according to a study by The Knot. But depending on where you live, your wedding may cost more or less than that.

For instance, New Yorkers living in Manhattan spend an average of $76,944, and New Mexico residents spend only $17,584. Keep in mind that neither price-tag includes the honeymoon.

Does a $17,584 wedding bill still sound too steep for you? I’m here to tell you that it is possible to get hitched for much less than that. When my wife and I got married in Utah in 2010, for instance, we spent a tad more than $3,000 on the festivities.

Indeed, where there’s a will, there’s a way – so to speak. If you’re looking for a budget wedding but don’t want to skimp on the essentials, here are some tips on how to do it.

1. Start saving now

Roughly three-quarters of couples go into debt to pay for their wedding, according to a survey by Student Loan Hero. The sooner you start saving for your big day, the easier it will be to cover the costs without having to borrow money.

Set a goal to save with each paycheck. Also, consider automating your savings. Chime offers an Automatic Savings program that sets aside 10% of every paycheck in your savings account. What’s more, when you use your Chime Visa debit card, Chime will round up each transaction to the nearest dollar and transfer the round-up amount to your savings account.

2. Set a budget

For many people, their wedding day is the most important day of their lives. So, it can be easy to get carried away with the planning  – to the point of overspending.

The first thing you can do to limit your wedding spending is to set a budget. This includes:

Who’s going to contribute: According to the aforementioned study by The Knot, the bride and groom typically pay just 41.1% of their wedding costs on average. The rest is covered by the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents and other sources.

This may or may not align with your specific situation, but it’s important to know upfront who’s going to help pay for what.

A list of priorities: As you’re budgeting, it’s important to know where you should economize and where you shouldn’t. For example, avoid asking a friend or family member to do your photography or bake your cake for free or cheap. Why? This can end up backfiring on you, especially if your friend isn’t really up to the task. My sister, for example, had a friend make her wedding cake for free, and one of the tiers collapsed midway through the reception. In other words, don’t get so caught up in saving money that you end up regretting it.

While you’re figuring out your budget, make a list of your other priorities. There’s no right or wrong answer, and your priorities may be different than your parents’. It’s your day, so focus on what matters most to you.

Do your research: If you’ve never been married before, you likely don’t have a good idea of how much things cost. Do some research in your area to get an idea of what to expect. Get estimates from several different vendors to get a reasonable average.

3. Don’t be afraid to enlist amateurs

My wife and I were able to save on our wedding because we had connections with people with applicable skills. For example, my friend’s mom had experience making wedding cakes and offered to make ours as her gift to us. This saved us a few hundred dollars, and she knew what she was doing!

Another family friend had a hobby of designing floral arrangements and offered to do ours for a little more than her cost. I knew she did good work because she did the floral arrangements for my sister’s wedding.

Depending on where you live and the wedding culture in your area, getting help from amateurs can sound tacky. But as long as you get what you want for your special day, does it really matter if your vendor is a hobbyist or a professional? Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re still getting good quality products and services. Remember my sister’s cake story. You certainly don’t want to regret your frugal choices.

 4. Be picky about who you invite

My wife and I chose not to have a wedding dinner, instead offering hors d’oeuvres that we bought and prepared. Why? Catering can be expensive. The Knot estimates $70 per person on average — so it’s important to keep your guest list contained to the people you absolutely want at your wedding.

For example, consider making your reception an adult-only affair. Or, consider sending just an announcement to distant relatives you’ve never met. Trimming just 10 people off your list could save you $700.

5. Do it yourself

It’s easy to outsource most of the work in the wedding planning process, but there are some things you can easily do yourself for less money.

For example, my wife and I spent an evening designing our own wedding invitations, then another evening addressing the envelopes. While you may think you need superb handwriting to do this, this is simply not the case. You’d be surprised at the free help you’ll find via online calligraphy tutorials.

Alternatively, if you have the time and ambition, you can learn how to arrange your own wedding flowers or DIY another aspect of your wedding. Not only can a DIY approach help you save money, but it can also create an opportunity for you and your future spouse to spend time together working on a common goal.

6. Consider all the costs

When choosing your venue, it’s important to consider the full cost. You may think you’re saving money by opting for a raw space rather than a reception hall. But after renting tables, chairs, decorations, and equipment for the caterer, you could easily spend more than you bargained for.

Like everything else, this requires research. Get some estimates from venues that include all the basics, as well as quotes for a raw space plus all the extras. The same goes for every other aspect of your wedding. Look for hidden or extra costs you can avoid by choosing an alternative instead.

The bottom line

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life. To this end, if you don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to spend, you may need to be frugal. As you start planning your wedding, start walking through the financial side of things before you make any big decisions. With a budget in mind, it’ll be easier to avoid letting your emotions run the show.

Also, start saving now, and if you haven’t set a date yet, consider delaying your wedding day until you have enough cash saved up to pay for it.

 

3 Ways to Prepare for Student Loan Payments

The time has come. College grads are about to walk into the real world.

If you fall into this group, this also means it may be time to start paying back your student loans. According to Student Loan Hero, 71 percent of 2017 graduates carried student loan debt.

And, monthly student loan payments are typically between $200 to $300 a month. That’s a lot to swallow, especially if you won’t be earning much at your first job.

To help you tackle your student loan payments, it’s important that you first understand your repayment options, including the ins and outs of grace periods. Take a look at our primer on preparing to pay down your debt.

Understand your “grace period”

First things first: What is a grace period?

A grace period gives you a period of time after you graduate during which you do not need to make payments. When this timeframe ends, you’re on the hook to start making payments. If you don’t have a grace period, your payments start kicking in immediately.

“The first thing recent grads should do is see if they even have a grace period,” says Adam S. Minsky, an attorney specializing in helping student loan borrowers.

While most undergrad loans do have some sort of grace period, Minsky says the length of time can vary depending on the type of loan you received. For example, direct subsidized government loans have a grace period of six months, whereas The Federal Perkins Loan Program has a nine month grace period.

Got multiple student loans that you’re thinking of consolidating? If you really need a window of time to prepare become making payments, be aware that consolidating loans can make that grace period go away. Yet, there is a way around this caveat: make sure you put a grace period “delay” on your application. This will alert the servicer not to process the loan consolidation application until the end of your grace period, says Minsky.

Weigh your repayment options

Did you know that as a borrower you can choose different options for paying back your loans?

In the case of federal loans, you have seven different repayment options to choose from, depending on your eligibility. These repayment plans determine how much you pay, when you pay, and how long it will take you to completely pay off your loans.

Typically, if you do not request a repayment option, you’ll automatically be placed in the Standard Repayment plan. Under this plan, your monthly payments are fixed and spread out over 10 years. However, there are several other plans that may work better for you.

For example, you may qualify for an Income Driven Repayment Plan, whereby payments would comprise 10 percent of your discretionary income. In order to start the process and be considered, you must first fill out the application on the StudentAid.gov site. Another option is the Graduated Repayment Plan. For this option, your monthly payments start out on the low end and increase over time. Only certain types of federal loans are eligible for this plan. You can find out whether or not you are eligible by visiting StudentAid.gov. To figure out which repayment option is best for you, you can also run the numbers via calculators provided by StudentLoans.gov and StudentAid.ed.gov.

Some types of borrowers – particularly those with government jobs or those employed by a non-profit – can enroll in a repayment program under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). This program forgives the balance on Direct Loans after you make 120 qualifying payments.

The earlier you start making qualifying payments, the sooner you’ll reach the requirements needed for forgiveness. Just be aware: any payments you make during a grace period don’t count, so you’ll have to forgo the grace period by immediately enrolling in a repayment program, according to Minsky.

Start making payments ASAP

Let’s say you landed a job right out of college. If this is the case, you’ve got some money coming in and you may want to start paying back your student loans during your grace period.

“Since 2012, there’s no interest subsidy for most federal loans during the grace period, so you can save money long-term by paying something towards your student loans during this time,” says Minsky.

Even if you don’t have a full-time job lined up, you can still start paying back your loans immediately. Perhaps you can get a part-time job while you’re hunting for a job in your field. Or, you can start a side hustle and take advantage of the gig economy.

You can also sit down and create a budget incorporating your student loan payments.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the more you understand your student loan repayment options, the better off you’ll be. So, make sure you educate yourself on the types of loans you have and your applicable grace periods. From there, you can create a plan to pay back your loans. Once you wrap your mind around this and budget for your payments, you can start saving for your other goals.

 

How to Work Together as a Couple to Get Out Of Debt

They say two heads are better than one. Well, not if those heads are butting over financial decisions like when and how to pay off debt.

Indeed, being on the same financial page as your partner is crucial. But when it comes to paying off your debt, this isn’t so easy. Take it from me. When my husband and I first started our financial journey, we had different ideas about how to approach debt. This created frustration on both ends and slowed down our progress. Eventually, we started working together and paying down debt aggressively.

To help you get on the same page as your partner right away, take a look at these 5 tried-and-true tips. Hopefully, this will save you time, money and frustration.

Be Open About Money

If you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s important to talk openly and honestly about money. Plain and simple.

If you have skeletons in the closet when it comes to your finances or debt, it’s time to come clean. Financial infidelity and miscommunication can lead to money fights and often make the situation worse. Instead, plan money dates and lay it all out on the table. What accounts do you have? How much do you owe independently and as a couple? Although you don’t have to combine debt totals, this is recommended if you’re married or already living together.

It’s also important to discuss how your debt makes each of you feel. From there, you can work on steps to get out of debt and develop better money habits.

Work Together to Make Lifestyle Changes

When you work together as a couple to pay off debt, you shouldn’t view it as his debt or her issue that is hindering you from making progress. Remember: you’re in this together.

If you feel like your partner is a spender, talk to him or her respectfully and suggest some changes you can make as a couple. Maybe you can encourage him or her to start packing lunches to take to work, and you can do the same. Or, instead of going out to dinner and a movie every Friday night, maybe you can get into the habit of cooking dinner at home and going for a bike ride or to a free concert in the park. Odds are, you both may need to improve your money management habits. Why not work on it as a team and support each other?

Jen Hayes, who runs the blog Frugal-Millennial, says it takes teamwork and dedication to pay off debt as a couple. Hayes and her husband started out with $117,000 of debt in 2013 and they’ve already paid off $88,000.

“We both reduced our expenses and increased our income. We cut back on expenses by renting a room from my parents, driving an 18-year-old car, and finding free things to do for fun,” she says.

Hold Each Other Accountable

Paying off debt often takes time and requires sacrifice.

To this end, knowing that you’re not alone can be motivating. For this reason, think of each other as an accountability partner. My husband and I, for example, commit to weekly finance dates. This is a time when we talk about money in our household and discuss our debt repayment progress report. Checking in often reminds us that we need to stay on top of our goals – together.

Find Flexible Ways to Make More Money

When you put your debt balances together, you may be in for sticker shock. But, here’s the good news: your double income can help you pay off this debt faster.

You can also boost your earnings and improve your financial habits. For starters, if you and your partner both work, you’ll already have two incomes to consider when budgeting for debt payments. Then, if one or both of you start bringing in extra money on the side, you’ll likely be able to pay off your accounts even faster. Case in point: both my husband and I have side hustles to generate more money. You can do this too! Whether it’s babysitting, walking dogs, freelancing, or driving for a rideshare company, you just need a few hours each week to earn extra money on the side. You can then throw all of this toward paying off your collective debt.

Do What Works Best for You as a Couple

When asked how she and her husband paid off so much debt in just a few years, Hayes answered with this: “Do what works best for you as a couple.”

For some couples, this may mean moving back in with parents to save money. For others, it may mean cutting out gym memberships or swapping out expensive hobbies for more frugal ones.

While some people insist that all couples have joint bank accounts or weekly budget meetings, every couple is different. At the end of the day, you and your partner have to come up with a money action plan that you can both stick to.

 

6 Things You Should Do Right After Graduation

So, you graduated college. Now what?

Indeed, graduation is a monumental achievement. It’s also a time full of changes and this may cause feelings of fear and anxiety. Perhaps you’re starting your first job or still searching for your dream job. Maybe you’re leaving your friends and family to move across the country. Or, perhaps you’re living on your own for the first time and learning how to save money.

Wherever you may be on your post-grad path, life can feel overwhelming. So, take a deep breath and start planning now for long-term success. To help you get going, here are 6 tasks you should do immediately after graduation. Ready, set, go!

1. Create a Career Plan

Whether or not you have your first job lined up, now is a great time to consider your career plan. Sure, you’ve probably thought about your career while in college. But now it’s time for a reality check: what are your job prospects really like?

As a good starting point, identify your strengths and interests. Not sure what talents really set you apart? Ask your friends and family for their input.

Next, map out your goals. Where do you want to be in 20 years? What about 10? By keeping your long-term goals in mind, you can better evaluate your options. With a career plan, you’ll scrutinize each job opportunity more carefully. Career plans can also help you move forward confidently as you’ll hopefully be taking steps in the right direction.

2. Clean Up Your Social Media

Do you have some embarrassing photos and posts on social media? You’re not alone. Even if your posts are meant to be funny, you never know how a potential employer could react.

According to CareerBuilder, over 70 percent of employers search job candidates’ social media profiles before making hiring decisions. According to the same study, over 50 percent of employers decided not to hire a candidate after viewing something negative on their social media profiles. Whoa.

So, before you start applying for jobs, make sure your social media sites are professional, or at least private. Pro tip: remove any photos of you partying or acting in any way than can be frowned down upon.

3. Update Your Banking

Now is an ideal time to consider your banking options. It may be in your best interest to switch to a bank that is free to sign up and has no fees.

For example, if you are moving to another state to start a new job, you may not have access to your current local bank. Or, perhaps you want a bank account that will help you save money. One way to achieve this goal is to open a Chime bank account. The best part about a Chime account is that there are zero fees.

4. Network like Crazy

You never whether that person you recently met will be the ticket to your next big gig. The bottom line: post-graduation is a crucial time to network.

Just take it from Tom Farley, the president of the New York Stock Exchange. In an interview in Fortune Magazine, Farley stated, “When I think about my own career, I owe every job I’ve ever had to networking.”

If you’re intimidated by the idea of networking, don’t fret. You can begin by simply sharing your professional goals with your friends and family. They likely have connections to people who may be able to guide you in your career. And, social media sites like LinkedIn allow you to make professional connections from behind a screen.

With LinkedIn, you can reach out to professional recruiters and hiring managers, and connect with people in your field. In fact, about 95 percent of recruiters use LinkedIn to find qualified candidates, according to an article by US News & World Report. So don’t miss out!

5. Create a Budget

Landing your first job and seeing those paychecks hit your bank account is exciting. But, as you enter the post-graduate world, you’ll also encounter a slew of other expenses. It’s easy to spend more than you earn.

To avoid overspending, it’s a wise idea to create and stick to a budget. For tips on picking out a budgeting style that works best for you, be sure to check out our budgeting guide.

6. Understand Your Student Loans

Unfortunately, many recent college graduates don’t know how to deal with paying back their student loans. Some don’t even realize how much they actually borrowed.

In fact, according to a study by the Brookings Institute, only 38 percent of college students know how much money they borrowed to pay for school. Furthermore, 14 percent of students with student loans incorrectly reported having no debt at all, according to the same study. Because of this, many recent college graduates suffer a rude awakening when they find out what they really owe.

So, it’s best to be educated about your loans. Your student loan provider should be sending you information about how to access your student loans and make payments. If you don’t hear from your loan providers shortly after graduation, you should contact them directly.

If you have federal student loans, you can find out who your servicer is by going to the National Student Loan Data System. Start by clicking on “Financial Aid Review,” and accept the terms and conditions. After that, go ahead and login. In order to log in, you will need your FSA ID. If you do not already have an FSA ID, you can easily create one on the web page. Once you login, you will see all of your student loan information, including your total balance. From there, it’s a good idea to figure out how you will tackle your loan payments by factoring this into your budget.

Relax!

You’ve worked hard to get to this point. Graduating from college is a major accomplishment. So, while you’re setting yourself up for financial success, you should also take advantage of this transition time by relaxing and enjoying the summer. Just remember to budget for your summertime fun!

 

What Do You Need to Open a Bank Account?

If you’re ready to open a bank account or switch banks, there’s probably a big question looming over your head: “What do you need to open a bank account?” After all, opening a bank account is a process and you want to prepare and have things ready. Right?

So, here’s the lowdown on what you need to open a bank account.

Know what kind of bank account you want

First things first. You want to know what kind of bank account you want. Do you want a checking account to pay your bills? Or are you looking for a savings account to pocket your coins?

Perhaps you want both a checking and savings account to help you manage your finances. Here are some things to consider when searching for a specific type of bank account:

  • Look for online bank accounts with no fees
  • Look for free checking account banks (with no monthly minimums!)
  • See which banks offer a free checking account without an opening deposit
  • Find options where you can open a checking account online instantly

All of these things can make it easier to find the right bank for you.

What kind of bank do you want to work with?

Secondly, you’ll want to figure out what bank you actually want to do business with. A bank is a financial institution responsible for housing your money. You want to make sure your values align with your bank and that you’re not getting nickeled and dimed for everything.

Do your research and search for free checking account banks that don’t hit you with monthly fees or unnecessary charges. A good option can be an online bank account, like Chime, where there are no fees and you can open a checking account online instantly.

Before deciding on a bank, make sure to read the fine print and understand any fees, as well as the terms and conditions. This way you’ll avoid any surprises later on.

What do you need to open a bank account?

After you’ve figured out what type of bank account you want and chosen the bank you want to work with, it’s time to actually open an account!

But what do you need to open a bank account? And if you’re applying in-person, you might wonder what to bring to open a bank account. While many banks have different requirements, they often need the same information. All banks, for example, require that you are at least 18 years old.

Take a look at what to bring to open a bank account:

1. Government-issued I.D.

In order to open a bank account or online bank account, you’ll likely need a government-issued I.D. like a passport or driver’s license.

2. Social security card

You will need a social security number to open a bank account, so bring your social security card with you or have it handy if you’re applying for an online bank account.

3. Utility bill, lease, or billing statement

Now that you know you’ll need an I.D. to open a bank account, you may wonder, “Do I need proof of address to open a bank account?” This may be an important question if you’re in the middle of moving or don’t have a full-time residence. The answer is yes. You will need to have a utility bill, lease or billing statement on hand to have proof of address to open a bank account.

How to open a bank account online

If you want to open a checking account online instantly, you will want to apply for an online bank account and download their mobile app. If you’re wondering how to open a bank account online, it’s pretty simple and can be done from the comfort of your own home!

Simply go to the site or app of the online bank account, fill out the application, and then provide your personal information and verification. Once you apply for a traditional bank account or an online bank account, you’ll want to deposit money to fund your account.

If you’re worried about how much money you need to open a bank account, consider an online bank account like Chime that has no fees and no requirements for minimum balances.

Bottom line

If you’re ready to open a bank account at a traditional bank or apply for an online bank account, you’ll want to know what to bring to open a bank account. Using this guide, you can be prepared and open a bank account today.

 

5 Tips to Save Money When Someone Else is Paying for Your Wedding

So, your parents or future in-laws offered to pay for your wedding. Consider yourself lucky!

With the average wedding costing over $33,000, according to Business Insider, weddings can certainly put a dent in your wallet. If you don’t have to foot the bill, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

Yet, even though someone else is paying for your special day, you should still be mindful of the costs involved and offer to chip in and help your parents save money. Here are 5 ways to save money on your wedding when someone else is paying the tab.

1. Create a Plan

Let’s face it – everyone has different priorities. When your family is paying for part or most of your wedding, you do need to take their opinions into account. After you share your priorities, you can ask your parents to do the same and create a plan from there.

By being honest and open, everyone will be more apt to take each other’s desires into consideration. Plus, once you have laid out your priorities, you can better set a budget that works for both you and your parents.

2. Provide a proposed budget

It’s hard to know what a realistic wedding budget is unless you’re the one planning it. Before you dive head first into planning a wedding with your parents, do some research. Come up with a realistic budget that can work for the both of you.

From the start, a proposed budget can help show your parents the true cost of a wedding. As you walk through the necessary line items, you can then let them know what’s most important to you for your big day. At the same time, you can discuss spending areas where you can cut back if needed.

3. Location

Once you’ve agreed on a budget, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty: where will you hold your wedding?

Not only is the wedding venue likely to be one of your biggest expenses, but it is a point of disagreement for many families. Your parents may have a certain venue price-point in mind, but that may not match the vision you have for your big day.

Don’t fret! With a little creativity and compromise, you can score your dream venue at an affordable price. For example, you can look at some less costly venues that don’t come with as many bells and whistles as an expensive hotel. Yet, you may be able to save money and bring in your own special touches, like table linens and centerpieces. You can also look at some out-of-the-box venues on sites like Venues & Vows and Mayflower Venues.

By doing research and asking questions, you can find a venue that fits your budget without sacrificing what you want. Better yet, you’ll find something both you and your parents can agree on.

4. Food

Next to the venue, food is one of the most expensive wedding costs. Depending on your location, a full-service dinner costs an average of $71 per person, according to The Knot’s 2016 Real Wedding Study. If you have 150 guests, that amounts to well over $10,000 just for dinner.

If you are looking to spend less on food, you have a few options. You can consider doing an hors d’oeuvres-only reception, which can save you the cost of a full meal. Or, you can get creative and hire food trucks instead of traditional caterers. Food Truck Invasion states the average cost of food trucks is $10 to $20 per person, which is a far cry from the cost to hire a caterer.

Food isn’t the only hefty cost. Beverages and alcohol will quickly run up your wedding tab. According to The Bridal Association of America, the average open bar package costs $16.50 per guest. If you have 150 guests, that adds up to $2,475. Ouch.

If providing alcohol is important to you, you may want to switch to lower-shelf liquor or provide beer and wine only. You can even try creating a signature cocktail and serve this to all – instead of paying for an open bar.

5. Limit the guest list

The easiest way to save money on your wedding is to have a smaller, more intimate celebration. Having a small wedding, however, can be challenging when your parents are paying. Typically, parents have friends and acquaintances of their own that they would like to invite to your wedding. Adding a few guests here and there can indeed add up quickly.

Your best bet here is to be honest about how many people you would like to invite to your wedding. For budgeting purposes, you need to have a solid idea of the guest count. Once you have your ideal count in mind, talk openly with your parents and ask them if you need to invite anyone not already on your list. If so, add them on as soon as possible. This way, you’ll feel more prepared right from the get-go.

Remember: Squeezing in additional people closer to your wedding date is stressful on everyone, plus it can ruin your budget.

Show gratitude

It’s important to remember that your parents are helping you have the wedding of your dreams. It should be a joyous day.

So, when all is said and done, let your parents know how thankful you are for their emotional and financial assistance. There are endless ways to show gratitude. Perhaps you can make a special toast to them during the reception or give them a thoughtful gift. Whatever you choose to do, be grateful and celebrate.

 

How to Go on a No-Spend Weekend

You probably already know this: it’s a cardinal rule to make a budget and stick to it. During the summer months, however, it’s almost as if the money gods are setting booby traps, divisive schemes, and other prickly obstacles to make it super hard for you stay on course.

Common culprits include getting bitten hard by the FOMO bug, not tracking your spending as closely as you should, or reaching for your credit card for willy-nilly spends. Whatever the reason, summer can bust your budget. This happened to me last summer while taking on a side hustle as a pet sitter in Chicago. While I was saving on big essentials, like housing and transit, I was spending way too much eating out and cavorting around the Windy City. To get back on track with my finances, I went on a no-spend weekend diet.

Here’s how to set yourself straight on a weekend spending fast:

Set Rules Beforehand

Like all challenges, you’ll need to provide some parameters and set rules beforehand. Besides not being able to use any cash, I couldn’t put any charges on my debit or credit cards. Scary, I know. What I could do was stock up on groceries ahead of time, and load up my public transit card to get me through the weekend. I was also allowed to use any gift cards I had lying around.

Exceptions included a true emergency that required tapping in to my emergency fund – such as a trip to the ER, urgent dental work, or a family member who desperately needed a helping hand. If something urgent and unexpected popped up during my spending fast, I could certainly take money out of my bank account.

Check Past Spending Habits

When setting rules for your no-spend weekend, carefully review your transactions from the last few weekends to see what has been gobbling up your money. I noticed that I had been spending more on restaurants and nights out reveling in booze and pinball at the local barcade. My Chicago pals also turned me on to a few killer thrift shops. While it certainly wasn’t an ‘80s style, full-blown shopping spree on Rodeo Drive, all those little purchases were adding up. My frugal self was starting to suffer the consequences.

Prepare to Decline Social Outings

This is probably the toughest part when you’re cutting back on spending: curbing those FOMO feels and the YOLO philosophy to spare your pocketbook. During my no-spend weekend, I skirted going to dinner with pals. Instead, I checked out art shows, where I enjoyed free drinks and snacks, and went to the Farmer’s Market and sampled goodies. When I did decide to go to a bar to meet friends, I first trolled the perimeter of the Pokemon Go Fest grounds for free fun (yes, I’m that person). Once I was inside, I drank water and made it clear that I was on a spending fast. For the most part, my pals understood.

However, after a bit of tugging on my friend Greg Slade’s part, I agreed to join him for dinner. Sitting at a restaurant while my friend noshed on a burger was A-W-K-W-A-R-D. He did insist I have his hot tea and share of fries. That being said, I still felt a bit shameful for mooching.

Be Resourceful

My gut reaction was to stay home and minimize interactions with friends. But, I made a point not to be a hermit during the weekend. I wanted to get out and be my regular social self. In planning my weekend, I scoured listings for art show openings, movies and concerts at the park, readings at jazz nights at the local coffee shop, and free street festivals.

And those gift cards that had sunk to the bottom of my purse finally got some love. I used movie passes, and gift cards to Target and Buffalo Exchange. I did a little happy dance to be rid of those gift cards, at long last.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to live in a major city to have a social life during your spending fast. You can enjoy some nature by way of a hike or bike ride. Or check your city’s calendar of events for some options for free fun.

Try It During the Week First

If attempting a spending fast during the weekend is a bit intimidating, try it during the week. Trying it out midweek is far easier than the weekend for a number or reasons. If you’re a worker bee, you have a routine and structure. Because you’re busier and your schedule is more predictable, it’ll be easier to plan to eat in and refrain from shopping. Plus, you’ll be less tempted to hang out late with friends and spend money.

Know Your Intention

Before committing to a spending fast, it’s also important to know your “why.” In my situation, I wanted to curb my purchases and cut back on eating out. After my no-spend weekend, I committed to dining in more frequently and I quit shopping for the time being. I bought groceries for the week and used up everything I had before heading back to the market. I actually found the challenge to be fun while discovering new ways to get out and about without spending a dime.

Are you ready to try out a spending fast? Just think: by becoming more mindful of your spending, you’ll save money. In my book, that’s a win!

 

The 10 Golden Rules of Money Etiquette

We know how awkward – and frightening – talking about money can be. Yup, it’s oftentimes considered more taboo to chit chat about the “M” word than about sex and politics.

While shooting the hay about your job may be less anxiety-inducing than your debt situation, having convos about financial matters is super important.

Yet, as the saying goes, “there’s a time and place for everything.” If not well-timed or in the proper context, chatting about finances can simply create tension. To avoid socially awkward situations, money faux paus, or full-on blow-ups, here are the 10 golden rules of money etiquette:

1. Thou shall not inquire about one’s debt during family functions

 That’s right. No meddling about Uncle Harold’s outstanding credit card balance or cousin Ave’s student debt load in front of spectators at a 4th of July grill-out or during Thanksgiving dinner.

Or even worse, it’s probably not a good idea to start a convo about how much debt is owed to you. What’ll most likely happen? Probably nothing productive. Instead, you’ll probably painfully endure mad-dog glances for the duration of the meal.  

What to do instead: If a family member’s debt involves you (can you say authorized user, or long-overdue loan?) carve out some private time to suss things out. If the person is in a bad financial situation, see if you can talk to him one-on-one about how to build solid credit card habits. But tread carefully! You don’t want to set off any landmines.

2. Thou shall not ask to split the bill afterward.

Does this sound like a likely scenario? You’re enjoying a lovely patio brunch with some pals. Your meal companions order double espressos, bottomless mimosas, while your frugal self meagerly gulps on tap water. When the check drops, your friends say they’re too tipsy to do math, and suggest splitting the bill evenly. You know, for the sake of convenience.

What to do instead: Oy vey, this is one of my personal pet peeves. Figure out the payment sitch beforehand. Otherwise, you’ll be tasked to be the “uptight one” who wants to divvy up the bill according to what each person ordered. Note that you may be expected to be the one that has to calculate the tab. This is far better than paying more than you budgeted. You can also decide ahead of time to use an app to split the tab. Easy peasy.

3. Thou shall not text about serious money matters with your partner.

This is a money faux paus I’ve ashamed to admit to. This happens when I’m feeling particularly brave and resolute about having “a talk” on budgeting or how to best split bills. I’ll then send my partner a mini-novella of a text. In turn, he gets agitated or feels blindsided. A likely reply: Let’s discuss IRL.

What to do instead: It’s simply not in good taste to bombard your partner with long-winded texts about serious money topics. Instead, carve out some time to discuss spending habits or your financial future. It doesn’t have to involve a five-course dinner. You can chat en route to the supermarket, or during an evening walk around the neighborhood. Just make sure it gets done.

4. Thou shall not outright ask about another’s salary.

While discussing salaries isn’t always a social no-no, it’s deemed outright rude to ask someone how much she earns. Why? It can easily lead to feelings of inadequacy, or cause your friend to go into “compare and despair” mode.

What to do instead: If you suspect you make more than your friends and family, it’s easy to be the one mouthing off about how much you take home. It’s quite a different story if your friend earns more than you. But please, don’t be the clueless one who lives in a self-absorbed, more financially-astute than-thou bubble.

If you’re dying to talk salary, start by broaching topics with lighthearted money topics. For instance, mention a great deal you nabbed at a sample sale. Or how you’re trying to cut back on eating out. Or… you might even start out with a general discussion on career planning or investing in your professional life. Then feel things out, and take it from there.

5. Thou shall not hide important financial information.

If you have outstanding debt, or made a money boo-boo in your younger years, you’ll need to let the cat out of the bag eventually. You loved ones deserve to know the truth. Plus, remaining silent is a borderline act of financial infidelity, and can lead to feelings of hurt and betrayal.

What to do instead: Be upfront with those who could be negatively impacted by information you don’t share. Otherwise, this may just lead to more problems down the line.

6. Thou shall not ask for one’s credit score on a first date.

…Or net worth for that matter. A relative of mine once had his date ask him what tax bracket he fell into. The proper response? “None o’ your business.” You’ll probably want to make sure you have similar interests and values before prodding about someone’s net worth. Just sayin’.

What to do instead: As you know, talking about money matters is a super sensitive topic. When you’re just getting to know someone, you want to be extra careful. When on a date, I’ve learned to look for subtle cues on how my date manages money. Granted, as a personal finance writer, many times my date will outright express an interest in money management or flat-out admit they’re terrible with money. It’s a start, and will lead to more serious discussions as the relationship progresses.

7. Thou shall not ask for money during a friend’s birthday.

Sad but true: I have been guilty of this. Granted, I was a broke college student at the time. My good friend checked out some books at the university library using my card. He lost them during a bad breakup, and I was fined three hundred dollars.

On his birthday, I brought up the topic and suggested coming up with a repayment plan. The lighthearted chit chat in the room dramatically faded into dead silence. #majorfail

What to do instead: Approach the situation with kid gloves. In private. You really don’t know what is going on in the other person’s life. My friend eventually paid part of it of back, only to have his car towed, and he needed the moola to get his car back. We were both riding the broke student train. While three hundos was nothing to scoff at, especially at a time when I subsided on mac and cheese, I realized it was best to just let it go.

8. Thou shall not push your frugality on another person.

Yup, this was former me. I used to assess people’s capacity for frugality with a harsh, critical stare. And just like how some youngins would only choose friends who drove certain cars and carried certain brands of handbags, I picked my friends based on how good they were at scouting a killer deal.

What to do instead: While hanging out with frugal folks can help you stick to your budget, it’s also great to have friends with different money philosophies and habits. It’ll not only help you be more open-minded and compassionate, but you’ll build your resistance to FOMO.

9. Thou shall not judge others on their money decisions.

There’s no point in harshly judging others on how and why they spend their money. People have varying relationships with money, mindsets, and ways of being. Just because you may decide to do something differently doesn’t mean what they’re doing is plain wrong.

What to do instead: If you really want to help others with their finances, be the cheerleader or accountability buddy they need in their life. Only help out if they ask for it. Sure, you’ll want to tout the benefits of auto-transferring a portion of your paycheck, or saving for an emergency fund. But, put a lid on it – for the time being. Otherwise, you’ll come off as intrusive, which will just lead to ill feelings of resentment.

10. Thou shall not debt shame.

Debt shaming can feel just as bad as looking down on someone who doesn’t have a lot of money. You just don’t know what kind of situation someone is in, and what factors led them to their current state of affairs. Debt can create a lot of stress, anxiety and depression.

What to do instead: Be a pal. If someone shares tales of debt woes, nod and commiserate. Offer up resources and tips if you think it would be useful.

Bottom Line

Stick to these golden rules of money etiquette, and I assure you, you’ll be a well-regarded money nerd. It sure beats being the insensitive, out-of-touch one who just doesn’t get it and is privy to an eyeroll – or two. Trust me, your relationships and social life will be better off for it.