Get a head start on financial literacy

As April’s Financial Literacy Month draws to a close, it’s a good time to review tips for consumers to improve their financial literacy.

Many consumers reach adulthood without a clear understanding of financial literacy. Creating budgets, making smart investments, and financial planning for the future aren’t often taught in high school or even college in some cases.

Financial literacy can seem like a big and daunting topic, encompassing many different goals, including the ability to meet current financial needs, to save for your financial future, the ability to absorb financial shock, and to have the financial freedom to make choices and enjoy life. . As a consumer, it’s important to be financially savvy about investments, savings accounts, and budgeting, and to find a plan that works for everyone. Financial literacy is not a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all plan. Everyone is different and will have their own set of goals to achieve.

Use BBB’s tips to improve your financial literacy:

• Protect your personal information. In today’s digital world, protecting your personal information goes beyond shredding sensitive documents. While collecting, storing, and disposing of sensitive documents goes a long way in preventing identity theft, consumers should also assess their digital footprint. Consider implementing multi-factor authentication systems on your most sensitive accounts, such as your online bank, utility, insurance, and medical accounts. Proper disposal of electronic devices can prevent crooks from accessing data stored on hard drives and is a modern equivalent of shredding services.

• Create and stick to a budget. Following an organized budget, whether weekly or monthly, can be beneficial for the longevity of your financial well-being. Especially for young adults, practicing budgeting can increase confidence, self-esteem, and independence. Parents can help their children establish healthy financial habits by establishing a regular allowance or budget and discussing their planned expenses. Once a child begins to earn their own income, they can apply the budgeting lessons learned to their finances.

• Understand the dangers of debt. As tempting as it may be to buy the latest and greatest product using a credit card or payment plan, debt can quickly spiral out of control. Take the time to understand the terms of loans, credit cards, lease options with payment option or deferred payment offered by a banking institution or company. Look at the annual percentage rate of charge (APR) of the payment and know if it is fixed, simple or compound interest. Figure out your debt-to-income ratio by adding up all your monthly payments and dividing by your gross monthly income.

For more financial literacy advice from BBB, visit BBB.org. And if you spot a scam, whether or not you lost money, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.

Rick Walz is the president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving northern Indiana, which serves 23 counties. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.