Jeanette A. Tucker, Van Osdell, Mary Ann, Uzzle, Linda D. (Diane) | 7/3/2008 1:24:39 AM
With the average credit card holder owing $9,000 and paying $1,200 a year in interest, consumers can benefit by learning tips on managing money provided in an LSU AgCenter financial program.
The LSU AgCenter has expanded a financial education program traditionally given to school system employees and recently held four evening sessions for the general public in Arcadia.
The program called SAIL, Saving and Investing for Life, is conducted by LSU AgCenter family economist Dr. Jeanette Tucker and LSU AgCenter agent Diane Uzzle.
The class is of particular interest to employees in higher education, community colleges, local and state government, law enforcement and business and industry, Tucker said.
The free training covers developing and using a saving and spending plan, finding money to save and invest, setting financial goals, understanding and selecting the best investment options, identifying appropriate help for financial management and avoiding investment fraud.
Uzzle said the course gives participants time to stop and think about spending and some of the habits they have. “You work for your money, but is your money working for you?” she asked.
She said the first priority is to live within your means, followed by maximizing contributions to tax-protected savings and building an emergency fund.
“We want you to start saving early, but it’s never too late,” Tucker said.
Uzzle said small savings – cutting back on soft drinks, cigarettes, snacks and lunch – can add up.
Tucker said most people accumulate wealth through home ownership. “Homes appreciate about 3 percent a year,” she said.
During the first lesson, participants identify what financial security means to them, learn how to calculate their net worth and receive a receipt bag to track spending.
Class participants learn how to determine monthly amounts needed for periodic expenses (such as hunting licenses and back-to-school clothes) and how to use a card that shows the interest savings by increasing credit card payments from 2 percent to 3 or 4 percent of the balance.
Other lessons include how to choose financial professionals. Tucker suggests asking friends, colleagues and family members for recommendations or contacting the Financial Planning Association, National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or Society of Financial Service Professionals.
Ask the professionals you are considering for information in writing, including the names of a couple of satisfied clients, Tucker said.
Check the planner’s references and license, she said. For example, all stock brokers must register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and are listed in the Central Registration Depository. Call FINRA at (800) 289-9999 or your state securities regulator to see if the broker is registered and ask if there are any disciplinary actions on file, Tucker said.
At a face-to-face meeting, ask how long he or she has been a financial planner, his or her basic investment philosophy and the costs for services.
“Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with this person,” Tucker said.
Another hot topic is investment fraud.
Tucker said investment scams can be avoided by getting answers to three questions: Is the investment registered? Is the person licensed and law-abiding? Does the investment sound too good to be true?
Licensure information is available from the Central Registration Depository, a computerized database that contains information about most brokers, some investment advisers and their firms. You can get CRD information from the state securities regulator, by calling FINRA or visiting www.finra.org/brokercheck.
“Watch out for claims of astronomical yields in a short period of time,” Tucker said. “Be skeptical of offshore or foreign investments. Make sure you fully understand the investment before you part with your hard-earned money.”
The SAIL program is made possible by a grant from the NASD Investor Education Foundation.
Information about SAIL is available from LSU AgCenter parish offices and the AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com.
Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or firstname.lastname@example.org