Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Save Money this Holiday Season with these Helpful Tips!

We compiled a list of helpful tips to keep in mind that could help save you money this holiday season.  
1.      Don’t spend more than 1.5% of your annual house hold income, not on gifts, food, or anything else. I promise you, it won’t be worth it after it is all said and done.
2.      Only use your credit card to buy gifts if you can pay it off with what you have in the bank. Otherwise, just use cash! When January finally does roll around, you will be happy with yourself that you did.
4.      Relax and think it through! The holiday spirit is supposed to be about spending time and making genuine connections with friends and family. 
5.      Clean Out the Closets
      You will be amazed to find several things that you can use, such as wrapping paper, ribbon, gift bags, and tape.

6.       Gifting on a Budget-
 Make a list of all the people that you plan to buy a gift for this year. Put one or two gift ideas next to their names and the maximum amount of money that you are willing to spend on them.

7.      Start Early this Year-
It is good to be conscious all year long in terms of gift giving for the holiday season. You may come across the most perfect gift for someone in July. This is one less person that you will need to buy for this season.

8.      DIY Gifts-
To save money and the madness of public shopping, make your own gifts this year, or at least make a few.  You can host a holiday craft party or attend one. Bake sweet holiday treats this year, make jewelry, candles, foot & hand scrubs, the possibilities are endless in terms of DIY gifts.

9.      Hit up Garage Sales
You will be amazed at the items you can find at garage sales….holiday-themed dishware and other seasonal decorative items.

10.  Do Your Research!!
You can find many resources online to help you find reviews on products. Maybe your significant other wants a new grill or a new laptop. You can look at the reviews to determine which product is the best bang for your buck.
Pricegrabber.com- online shopping comparison site

11.  Cyber Monday-
 This is the biggest online day to shop: it is the Monday after Black Friday. Many online retail stores offer big savings on this day.

12.  Coupons
 www.Couponsherpa.com  is an online resource that searches for coupons that can be scanned from your phone.  www.Gasbuddy.com  helps you to find the best gas prices within miles of your location. www.Dinnerspinner.com  comes up with recipes from the ingredients you have in your kitchen.

13.  Pick Up A Seasonal Job
You can find a seasonal job in retail stores. The discounts you get will be well worth it. Allow yourself to spend your entire pay from this seasonal job on the holidays.

14.  Clean Out the Closets
Before the holiday season is upon us, clean out your closets. You will be amazed to find several things that you can use such as, wrapping paper, ribbon, gift bags, and tape.

15.  Holiday Skype–a-thon
If you can’t manage a plane ticket to see family out of town, or afford to take the time from work, schedule a holiday skype visit with loved ones that are far away.

16.  Save $$ on Energy
Dim the lights, light candles, and build a fire (outside, not in). J

17.  Participate in Free Holiday Activities
There is much free fun to be had this season.  Bundle up the entire family and head out to a tree lighting or parade. You can also attend a play at school or church.  Maybe you decide that you want to stay indoors, snuggle up, and watch a holiday film such as It’s a Wonderful Life, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, or A Christmas Story. You can check out movies for free at your Public Library with a library card.

Everyone here at FSI hopes that you have a merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and a happy New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Truth or Consequences:
The Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (DSNAP) provides a means for eligible households to purchase nutritious foods for their family during the aftermath of a disaster.

            The Department of Agriculture Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) approved a request that was made by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) to issue Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) benefits to households that resided within any of the 24 counties that were affected by Hurricane Joaquin. Joaquin struck South Carolina the first week of October.  Many South Carolina residents suffered disaster- related damages and losses due to the severe storms and flooding that were brought on by Joaquin.  On Oct. 20, 2015, the (FNS) approved the following counties for food assistance for disaster relief, Bamberg, Calhoun, Clarendon, Colleton, Lee, Newberry, Williamsburg, Lexington, Richland, Sumter, Dorchester, Horry, Florence, Berkley, Charleston, Darlington, Georgetown, Greenwood, Kershaw, Orangeburg.  The application period differed by county and has now ended for all counties.

Residents that meet DSNAP income guidelines are eligible to receive benefits if they endured one or more of the following conditions, damage to or destruction of the home, loss or inaccessibility of income including a reduction or termination of income or a significant delay in receiving income due to disaster related problems, disaster-related expenses (home or business repairs, temporary shelter, evacuation, etc.) that are not expected to be reimbursed during the disaster benefit period.

 North Charleston Coliseum – Charleston County residents
 wait to apply for DSNAP benefits
Charleston County’s application period was the week of Nov. 16 – 20 and was held at the North Charleston Coliseum.  As soon as visitors walked in the doors, they were directed to keep moving forward with the line and you were given a number.  The line fed into a huge room with a gray concrete floor and blue metal chairs where applicants waited for their number to be called. In the middle of the room there were several rows of tables set up where local DSS workers sat on one side of the tables, waiting to help the next people in line once their number was called. One worker said in two days they had seen over 5,000 DSNAP applicants that resided in Charleston County.  She said she felt that “it was a very positive thing” to be able to offer the people some kind of relief and support.  The workers simply asked applicants a few questions and then determined if they were eligible and the amount that they were entitled to receive the relief benefits. Applicants that qualified were given a standard EBT card and told that the money would be loaded on the card within a week or so. 

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

FEMA and the State of S.C. have decided to extend the date until Jan. 3, 2016 for which survivors of the October 2015 floods can apply for Disaster Assistance.  The extension applies to S.C. residents who live in the following counties: Bamberg, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Fairfield, Florence, Georgetown, Greenville, Greenwood, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Marion, Newberry, Orangeburg, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter, and Williamsburg.

A quote given by FEMA states that $51 million dollars has been given to S.C. to help out with losses. In addition to this, 1,400 houses suffered significant damage of $10,000 or more, and 30,000 houses had damage that was less than $10,000. 

FEMA’s Individuals & Households Assistance Program can potentially help people with rental assistance, temporary housing, emergency home repairs, personal property losses, medical and dental, funeral expenses, and other expenses that are a result of a disaster that insurance does not cover.

To register for this assistance, go online at DisasterAssistance.gov. You may also register by phone 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585 toll free from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Survivors who use 711 or Video Relay Service or require accommodations while visiting a disaster recovery center may call 800-621-3362.

By: Lindsey Jenkins

Monday, November 9, 2015

Making Your Dreams a Reality: Let CARES Work for You

Complete Action Real Estate Services (CARES)…..They are not interested in finding you a house … they are interested in finding you a place to call home.

I like to see the home buying process in a similar light as learning how to swim in the ocean for the first time. It is all uncharted territory at first, a whole new realm where most of what you have learned doesn’t even apply. Did I mention that a number of creatures, some of them predators, lurk beneath the surface that we can’t even see? In a sense, you are very vulnerable because you are not even aware of the potential harm or the potential beauty that is hidden beneath.

You can think of the CARES agents much like your swimming coaches. These agents are aware of the potential expenses or “dangers” that can go unnoticed or are “hidden beneath” of which most people are just simply unaware.

First, they can protect you from potential unperceived costs. They know what to look for and what types of questions a buyer should ask themselves before and when walking through a home. They also have a keen eye for the gem that is undiscovered.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a timeless quote that I’m sure everyone has at least heard once in their life. Debbie Kidd and Brad Kidd, two agents that work at CARES, really bring this quote to life. Debbie, in one of her many roles, rehabilitates houses! With the help of Brad, she searches for homes that no one in their right mind would even think twice about buying. You know, the house on the street that you purposely look away from, or maybe you speed up as you pass by because the burnt orange window shutters sting the eye a bit. Brad explains there are certain characteristics he looks for when investing in a house to rehabilitate, “we look for the forgotten homes, often from the ‘70's, shag carpet and wood paneling.” Yes, they buy these houses, these diamonds in the rough, these houses just waiting; because they have a vision.
4334 Bream Road

So what does “rehabilitate” or “rehab” actually mean? In this case, it means to gut the entire house and put it back together.  Brad said, “It truly depends on what is needed…new kitchens, new bathrooms, maybe new floors.”

4334 Bream Road
Debbie and Brad are big on open concepts, and open concepts equal open space. Knocking down walls to achieve this open space concept is not uncommon for them. Sounds easy right? So why aren’t more people doing this? Brad explained that these houses are actually hard to find.  Sometimes clients find these homes themselves because they are already looking for a fixer upper, and can’t afford the $200,000 house. In these situations, the agents look at the house and determine if they can invest in the house. In fact, if you go through the first time home buyer process with CARES, you will only need $1300 out of pocket for the whole process, including closing on a home. This is almost unheard of in the home buying process. 

CARES is a wholly owned, for-profit subsidiary of Family Services, Inc. CARES acts as a foundation of support to home buyers and sellers. The agents at CARES have a tight grip on the seemingly endless and obscure details that surround the completion of real estate transactions. This gives them the ability to represent buyers and sellers in the Tri-County area with the highest standards of knowledge, support, and assistance.
CARES does not focus on commission and the 25-plus years’ experience and knowledge that the agents have truly make the services offered at CARES unique. Their roots in the nonprofit sector and partnerships in the community help to generate business so they are able to help you move into a home.

4334 Bream Road

These photographs are taken of a home on Bream Road in North Charleston. If you are interested in seeing more of this beautiful home please contact the agents listed below. Click here to visit the CARES website for more information and photographs.  

If you would like to speak with a CARES agent directly about owning your dream home, please contact
Debbie Kidd at 843.276.8744 or Debbie@caresrealestate.com, or 
Brad Kidd at 843.276.8282 or Brad@caresrealestate.com.

By: Lindsey Jenkins

Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm a SURVIVOR, I'm going to make it

I had my first and only screening in 2005. 

Every year after that my doctor stayed on me to have another, but, like most women, I just ignored it. 

In 2012, my doctor made the appointment for me and I decided it was best that I go and thank goodness I did. As a result of my mammogram, the doctor found a small mass. Even though self checks are important, this one was undetectable by touch so I believe mammogram screenings are more important than anything. When it was found, I was only at a stage -0-, which means the cancer had not spread outside of the cell wall. I was not required to have chemo but did have a lumpectomy (which left me somewhat disfigured), and I went through 33 daily radiation treatments which leave your skin burned and your body exhausted.  

It has been three and a half years since my surgery, but, as a result of the radiation, I still get easily fatigued and have permanent bone loss in my ribs leaving me susceptible to fractures. I was truly blessed to have caught it so early. Early detection saved me from chemo and hopefully the chance that it will return. 

Had I waited just one more year, I could have been at stage 2-3 and would have had chemo. If I had waited and the cancer was discovered in the later stages, my chances of recovery would have decreased and the possibility of it returning would have increased.  

Case in point:  

My sister, who is 19 months younger than me, also put off going in for her mammogram.  Once I was diagnosed, she decided it was best that she go. When she did, she found out that she too had breast cancer and was already at stage 2.  She went through a double mastectomy, chemo, and was put on a medication for five years (which gives her serious side effects). Had she gone in just a year sooner, she may have been lucky like I was. Thankfully, she is cancer free today but her road has been and will be much more devastating than mine. 

I urge all women of [doctor-recommended] age, and even younger folks with a family history, to have screenings done on a regular basis. Visiting your doctor for a physical exam is important, but as I mentioned, mine was only found by the mammogram. Once you are diagnosed, your mind goes crazy and you begin think of the worst case scenario. I had good doctors and I did as a I was told by having ultrasounds, MRIs, other procedures and sticking to my follow up care. I have overcome cancer and can proudly say I am a survivor! 

Should you become diagnosed, my best advice is do as you are told, stay in touch with your doctors, and most importantly keep your faith strong and you will overcome and be a survivor too!

By Laura Jeffers, Bankruptcy/Credit Counselor

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Affordable housing - is it hard to find??

Is affordable housing something that is difficult to find? Section 8 or not, it is difficult to find a good home, in an area that is not only nice, but provides you with the things you need.  So, for many, if not most, the answer is yes.  According to Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Housing Needs Assessment of 2014, “A thriving region is weakened by an unaffordable housing market that fails to meet the needs of its residents.” And what is more, “If the housing issues facing the region are ignored, residents will continue to migrate to the outskirts of the region where fewer employment centers exist, public transportation is inaccessible, and public facilities are scarce.”  Who then takes the responsibility to solve this issue? Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Housing Needs Assessment of 2014 says it should be, “a collaborative effort of local governments, housing providers, community leaders, private sector businesses, non-profit organizations, and other key stakeholders is required to address the housing affordability crisis the region is facing and plan for the future of our community.”

At Family Services Inc. (FSI), we are doing our part to help the affordable housing crisis in the region. FSI offers a number of Housing Stability Programs.  We offer classes that help to pull people out of poverty by equipping them with the knowledge they need on many subjects. Our Homeownership Resource Center is a HUD- and South Carolina State Housing-approved agency that offers assistance in areas such as home purchase advising, down payment & closing cost assistance loans, foreclosure prevention counseling, reverse mortgage counseling, and fair housing workshops. The Homeownership Resource Center not only makes it possible, but gives people a chance to own their first home. Another way that FSI is fighting poverty is through homeless prevention services such as, Lease on Life, Shelter Plus Care- Home to Stay Program, and Supportive Services for Veteran Families.

Lease on Life program provides permanent supportive housing to chronically homeless individuals. Participants are disabled and have been homeless for at least a year or four times or more within the last three years.

Shelter Care Plus program allows FSI to obtain and subsidize permanent housing for individuals who are clients of Charleston-Dorchester Mental Health Center.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families is a service that exists to assist very low-income veterans in the Charleston Tri-County area who are currently homeless or need assistance to avoid homelessness.

If you are, or someone you know is a veteran in need of housing assistance, please contact the SSVF information line at 843.737.8389.

FSI also offers Conservator & Representative Payee services. These services allow FSI to manage the finances of more than 1,700 clients to help them live as comfortably as possible and maintain financial stability.  FSI also offers Behavioral Health Service programs.

What exactly is Section 8 housing?
Section 8 housing provides people with low income or almost no income a solution to potentially being homeless.  The individuals that qualify are required to pay 30% of their monthly income to rent.  The rest of their rent is paid by the local housing authority.  The waiting list to receive federal rent subsidies is quite long. Recipients often wait years before they ever receive a voucher.  Once they receive the voucher, they may begin to look for a place to live that falls within the price range.

Recently a few Beverly Hills investors with Latitude Management Real estate purchased two West Ashley apartment complexes that house several low- income tenants.  Both built in the 1960s, Charleston Arms & Georgetown Apartments were recently purchased for $ 18.7 million.

According to an article in the Post and Courier, the tenants who rely on federal rent subsidies were originally told they had 30 days to pack up and leave their “homes” for good.  However, several S.C. Human Affairs Commission complaints were filed due to this, and the State Representative, Wendell Gilliard, met with the company that manages the apartments. This proved to have some effect because shortly after, the Section 8 tenants received notice that they would be allowed to stay in their current homes until May 2016.

Gilliard asked Trademark Residential to grant these tenants a time span of one year to move, and to pay their moving expenses as well. What they actually received was a $25 rent increase and they were given until May 2016 before they must leave.

In a sense, this agreement or compromise was a saving grace for many, if not all of these tenants.  Statistics show that most of the people who rely on Section 8 are either senior citizens, mentally or physically disable, or veterans.  A lot of them do not have anyone to care for them, which is why they rely on the housing stipend in the first place. To give them a month or less to find a new home and move out would have been near impossible for most.  

A similar situation in North Charleston also has the potential to leave the tenants of Dor-Towne Apartments on Dorchester Road in North Charleston.  The tenants who currently occupy the 84-unit apartment space were told they had a month to vacate the premises after it was purchased by a firm from North Carolina for $4.1 million. Although these residents do not rely on federal housing subsidies, they are considered to be low-income tenants. This clearly portrays the less flattering side of the real estate boom.

An apartment market research firm based in Charlotte states that within the past year, the average rental rate has increased about 5.4%. The monthly average in the Charleston area for a one-bedroom unit is $907.

In South Carolina, the fair market rate for a two-bedroom apartment is $758, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. A renter, without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, would need to earn $14.57 per hour to stay in a two-bedroom unit, according to the coalition. The necessary wage rises to $18.08 an hour in the Greater Charleston area, the highest of any metropolitan region in the state. The minimum wage in South Carolina is $7.25 an hour.  

Do all landlords accept Section 8 tenants?
Landlords are not required to rent to people who have Section 8 vouchers.  In fact, this is why most places that do accept Section 8 tenants have a waiting list a mile long. It could take up to a year before they have space for them. If landlords decide to accept tenants with these vouchers, there may not be a shortage. This means that it is not under the landlord’s discretion to determine how many Section tenants they are willing to accept.  If the door is open to one, it must be open to all, as long as there are vacancies.  Most of the time, landlords receive 20 percent less in rent from the Section 8 tenant than they would be able to get from a different tenant without a federal housing voucher.  This often turns landlords away from openly accepting the Section 8 tenant. 
On a different note, Section 8 tenants can also be a saving grace for many property owners, especially if the property is located in area that is known for theft, vandalism, violence, or drugs.   In addition to this, their rent is guaranteed to always be paid on time and directly deposited into the landlord’s account.

By Lindsey Jenkins, Marketing & Development Assistant, AmeriCorps VISTA

Monday, July 27, 2015

Facing the bear: student loan default (HELP!)

Student loans have been a hot button topic for some time now. According to estimates by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), existing student loan debt is around $1.2 trillion and is continuing to grow at alarming rates due to the increasing cost of higher education. Unfortunately, as the cost of education is increasing, earnings aren’t increasing as quickly.

Still, that shouldn’t stop anyone from going to college. Statistics show that those who have a college degree on average earn approximately 114% more than those without a high school diploma and 50% more than high school graduates. But, it is still a problem as many graduates are struggling to pay their student loan debt.

There are options, such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, but for many the information available is difficult to understand and can be much more difficult to navigate. Or, for many like my younger self, the whole situation is so overwhelming that they just bury their head in the ground and ignore it all. That’s what I did, and the consequences were even more difficult than if I would have faced my student loans head on. Here’s my story –

I started at Trident Technical College to get some of my general credits out of the way in a less expensive manner than starting at a four year college or university. So, I started off on the right foot with my higher education.

In 2005, I transferred to the College of Charleston. I lived at home and commuted to school, which also helped to keep my education costs lower than average. However, while applying for my first student loans, I found out that I qualified for $10,000 for the year. I was 20 and wasn’t very financially savvy at the time, so, of course, I took it… ALL.

I could use that money for tuition, books, lab fees, a brand new laptop, and of course new clothes (because those were obviously needed school supplies, right?). Really, I had no need for that much money since I was still living with my parents and working part-time while in school, but I took it all anyway. I didn’t qualify for as much for the following years I was in school, and even had to take a semester off due to not being able to hammer down financial aid in time to register for classes.

In my senior year, I got pregnant. I took another semester off right before my last semester of college, but did go back and graduated the summer of 2009. It was not a good year to graduate from college as it was during the recession; however, all of my finance classes were extremely interesting with everything that was happening. Now I had graduated college with a shiny new Bachelors of Science in Business Administration and about $27,000 worth of student loan debt, so now what?

As I graduated right smack in the middle of a recession, I couldn’t find any jobs where I could use my degree, so I kept waiting tables as I had since high school. Money was pretty tight as tips weren’t great during the recession and I had a 1 year old at the time. His father was working, but had some personal issues and lost his job soon after I graduated. We had very limited income and my student loans were last on the list of things we needed to pay. I didn’t pay any attention to them and basically pretended they didn’t exist. I’m pretty sure they were calling me for payment, but I had other creditors calling as well and just didn’t answer the phone. I think I knew that I could probably call and try to get on a deferment or forbearance, but I felt like I was already so far behind and didn’t want to make the embarrassing phone call. Looking back now, I wish I had.

In 2010, things looked up and I was hired as a temp here at Family Services, Inc.; although, soon after I became a single mother with a toddler. Again, I had very limited income and was just trying to make ends meet. I still played the ostrich and kept my head buried in the ground when it came to my student loans. In the beginning of 2011, my HR manager came to me with a name and a phone number and said that I really needed to call this person because they were threatening to garnish my wages. That’s when I woke up and realized that my student loans were in default.

At this point, I hadn’t paid my student loans EVER, so they had defaulted and my credit score was around 435. The collection agency had also added penalty fees, so it wasn’t pretty. I called the collection agency and was offered a rehabilitation program. With the rehabilitation program, I would have to pay nine on-time payments in a 10 month period. Once I did that, all of the penalty fees would be wiped away and my loans would be reported as current. Another benefit, which wasn’t explained at the time but I know now because of research and training have done since then, was that all of the default would be removed from my credit report. That all sounded great, however, in a rehabilitation program, the borrower doesn’t get to receive the benefit of Income-Driven Repayment plans—so my payment was quite high compared to what I was making at the time.

I was still a single mother trying to live on my own on a $28,000/year salary. I made too much to qualify for public assistance like SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid, so the $245/month payment was really hard for me to manage.  I knew the benefits were significant, so I stuck with it. Unfortunately for me, the Department of Education was going through a transition, so my 10 month rehabilitation period turned into about 14 months. Eventually though, my loans were sent to a servicer, placed in current status, and I was able to enter into an Income-Based Repayment plan to lower my monthly payment to $21.

If I hadn’t called the collection agency, my wages could have been garnished, along with my tax refunds. Even in South Carolina, the federal government can garnish wages and tax refunds, so I would have not been protected. Fortunately for me, I manned up, pushed away my pride, and faced the problem that I created for myself. It was a difficult road, and, as they say, hindsight is 20/20. Knowing what I do now, I would have done everything much differently and not caused myself the unnecessary hardship I had to endure.

That’s why I want to tell my story. I want others to know that there are other options, and there are legitimate agencies and people who can help navigate the intricate student loan realm. I am now one of those financial counselors who knows the ins and outs of student loan repayment. I’m here to help with knowledge from personal experience and formal training. Take it from someone who’s been there – it’s a much better route to face your student loans and repayment earlier rather than later.

Need guidance? Contact us at 843.735.7802 or info@fsisc.org.

By Kristin Bastian, Financial Education Manager

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finance doesn't have to be a dirty word


It's a topic that most parents and kids don't discuss, at least not as often or as in depth as they should. And it's something many teens don't hear enough about in school.

When I was a kid, I remember saving pennies, dimes, nickels, and (oh, joy!) quarters. I'd roll them up and my Dad would take me to the bank to cash it in. Eventually, I had my own "bank" and made deposits in secret stash accounts within my home.

Once I reached high school, I made some cash with my own tutoring and babysitting gigs. I felt that I was pretty responsible with my money, budgeting enough for needs and wants, and eventually opened a checking and savings account to start putting away some $$ for college life.

Hey, I even took accounting as an elective!  Maybe I was genuinely interested in feeling more money conscious. Or maybe it was to avoid the homemaking class, because the idea of cooking, baking, and sewing made me cringe (still does sometimes). Whatever the case, it was in accounting that I learned about personal finance (assets, budgets, cash flow, etc.). It was not in my economics class or any math class, for that matter.

And not much has changed.

I went on to college to make my own financial mistakes and learn from them. And though I was pretty frugal compared to my friends and other college kids, I didn't know things.

I didn't know about credit, or how to pay back student loans, or the importance of an emergency savings. After graduation, I felt so ignorant to these things, as I'm sure a majority of students do.

So, as much as I hope our Money Rocks program will spread like wildfire into the schools and touch thousands of lives, I thought I'd also put together a few tips for the parent (or the teen) preparing for the future.

  1. Have open conversations. Parents and teens need to talk about budgets. Look at how much the parent makes and the monthly expenses, then see how much is left at the end of each month. It's pretty eye-opening!

  2. Open a bank account. Seriously, I wish I would have done it earlier than I did. It's important to have the experience handling both virtual money AND cash AND a debit card before going off to college. It's a great time to experience the feel of a plastic card in the hand, without the threat of going into credit card debt!

  3. Make some money! Anyone at any age can earn money. Help neighbors with yard work, practice saving birthday money, babysit, wash cars, tutor, part-time job at a retail store, or come up with your own business idea! It's so much easier to save money when you don't have responsibilities and a ton of expenses to worry about.

  4. Pay yourself first. 
    You'll hear our staff say this all the time. And it's a tip that REALLY works. Setting money aside early means more money later! Pick a percentage of what you want to put in savings, and stick to it.

  5. Write down needs versus wants and think about goals! Time to prioritize how you want to spend money. Being specific and having a plan makes it easier to save money.

  6. Give. I was taught to give 10% of my income to my church. So whether it's church or charity, it's important to invest in something selfless and meaningful.

  7. Emergency fund - do it. Establish a separate savings account that's just for an emergency. That way when something big happens (car accident, for example), it's handled.

  8. Think about retirement. Well, at least a Roth IRA! These can be used without penalty to help pay for a first home, to pay higher education expenses, and even to pay medical bills. And, guess what? If the account is open for at least five years, there are no penalties for using it before retirement. For a person under 18, a Roth IRA can be opened as a custodial account. There's usually no fee to open one, but there may be a minimum contribution requirement. Definitely check it out! 

  9. Work your butt off in school. I know school can really be a drag and teachers just don't get it, but it's such a small speck in time. Bullied, having relationship issues, family hardship, etc.? Keep your head high, find a support system (outside of school), and be yourself. You will continue on and live an awesome life that only gets better! Believe me, I've been there.

    Work hard now, look to your future, and be smart with your money. Start looking for scholarships and grants early if you plan to go to college. Research student loan options and ask about repayment options BEFORE ever taking out a loan. OR look into an apprenticeship if you want to go straight into the workforce. Some businesses will even pay for you to go to school part-time while you work.

Finance. It's not a dirty word. Talk about it. And take some preventative steps to ensure a secure financial future! If you want some guidance, feel free to contact us for some financial coaching at 843.735.7802 or info@fsisc.org.

By Jenna Johnson, Marketing & Development Director

Friday, February 13, 2015

For the love of money and your SO

As we approach Valentine’s Day this year, our team at Family Services wants to make sure that you and your loved one have the best V-Day possible.

One of the most detrimental stressors for couples has to deal with money.  A recent January poll conducted by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) revealed that nearly half (47%) of respondents claimed disagreements about money are most likely to cause the greatest stress in their relationships.

Family Services has a few suggestions to make sure finances don’t get in the middle of you and your other half this Valentine’s Day. First of all, if you have disputes over money with your loved one, do not let them go unaddressed! Instead, hit the ‘pause’ button, and have a sit down with your partner. 

“Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner. Left unaddressed, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples. Understanding those differences means having honest discussions early in a relationship so the rules are mutually accepted and the financial goals are clear. No matter the differences or challenges, the best approach is to start communicating early” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC.

The NFCC recommends the following guidelines for couples:

  • Be honest with yourself and each other when it comes to financial matters. As financial challenges appear, work together to address them directly instead of ignoring problems and wishing they will resolve themselves.
  • Establish money rules for the relationship and hold each other accountable. Discuss what will be jointly managed and set rules for making independent spending decisions.

  • Don’t conceal debt or sources of income from each other. Financial infidelity should be taken as seriously as any other form of cheating. Adhere to a policy of financial transparency to strengthen trust in the relationship.

  • Set a time and place where financial matters can be discussed on a regular basis, free of distractions.

  • Keep the tone of the conversation casual, and remain open to what each other has to say.

  • If a disagreement should go unresolved during a conversation, take a moment to find acceptable ways to compromise or consider revisiting the issue after a short time-out.

  • If a financial mistake is made, couples should work together to find solutions without assigning blame. Be willing to accept a fair share of the responsibility for the problem and the solution.

  • When tracking joint financial goals, understand that changing circumstances require a degree of flexibility from both partners in a relationship.

  • Understand that a single financial setback impacting one person ultimately affects the entire relationship, no matter how large or small the issue.
Family Services understands that finance can be a very strenuous subject for couples, and we are here to help. Seeking assistance from Family Services can help bring your finances to good health, making it easier to focus on other aspects of the relationship. Visit our website at www.fsisc.org or call us at 843.735.7802 to find out more about our services. 

By Jeff Lewis