(Family Features) A financial emergency may have previously seemed like a “not me” scenario, but it’s now a reality many families across America are dealing with as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect the economy.
Savings accounts may not be robust enough to weather a significant blow, according to research from Colonial Life. The survey found 38% of U.S. adults have less than $5,000 in savings for a financial emergency, and 23% have less than $1,000.
The study further revealed Americans are already stretched thin due to financial constraints like vehicles with mechanical problems, an unemployed spouse or partner, supporting children and other dependents, mortgage payments and other debt.
Planning ahead for a financial emergency with tips like these can help reduce the long-term impact on your finances and credit.
Avoid unnecessary charges. Late payment fees can add up fast and put a dent in your credit rating. Take inventory of your monthly expenses and note the due dates then plan a payment schedule around your paychecks. Be sure to account for possible mail delays or the time needed for electronic transfers. If your schedule doesn’t work, contact your creditor and ask if you can move to a different due date that helps reduce your risk.
Anticipate unforeseen illnesses. A critical illness such as a heart attack, stroke or major organ failure can impact anyone, from the least health-conscious to the most fit. When a critical illness strikes, major expenses often follow. Health insurance may cover some of your medical costs, but not everything. An option like Colonial Life critical illness insurance helps supplement your major medical coverage by providing a lump-sum benefit you can use to pay direct and indirect costs related to some of the most prevalent critical illnesses.
Reduce debt. Doing what you can now to reduce your financial obligations can pay off in the long run if you experience a loss of income. That may mean making extra payments on a loan rather than paying just the minimum balance due. Interest is calculated based on your balance, so paying extra not only reduces your original debt, but also saves you money that would have been lost to interest.
Keep up on maintenance. When money is tight or you’re worried a reduction is coming soon, it may seem counterintuitive to spend money. However, taking care of ongoing maintenance for big-ticket items like your home and vehicle is an investment in the future. Spending a little now to keep things in good working order can help protect you from a costly problem down the road.
Start thinking smaller. Lifestyle adjustments can be tough when they’re abrupt and unexpected, but if you gradually transition to a more frugal way of living it may not feel as disruptive. For example, start by cutting back on entertainment expenses and dining out. Look for lower-cost ways to enjoy time with loved ones and dial back spending on things like birthday gifts.
Learn more and find programs and services designed to protect your financial interests at ColonialLife.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Tips to pull off holiday hosting
(Family Features) With stay-at-home holidays a thing of the past for many families, they’re now busy preparing for full-blown celebrations. The return of traditional festivities brings seemingly never-ending to-do lists and pressure to be the perfect host.
From mastering a mouthwatering menu and donning your home with decadent decor to ensuring guests enjoy the evening to the fullest, hosting duties bring plenty of responsibilities. This year, though, you can avoid those anxious feelings with some preparation ahead of the big day.
To help pull off a sensational seasonal soiree, consider these tips from the entertaining experts at Sun-Maid to make the holidays brighter and more manageable so you can navigate the stresses of hosting.
Invite Others to Share Favorite Traditions
Especially with stay-at-home holidays in recent years, some friends and family members may have developed their own special traditions from new recipes and foods to seasonal games and activities. Inviting your guests to bring or share something that represents their favorite part of the holidays can help everyone feel welcome.
Take Time for Yourself
Remember to make time for yourself so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor right alongside guests. The busyness of this time of year can add stress but reflecting on the true meaning of the season and reveling in your favorite parts of the holidays can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Add New Ingredients to Your Menu
While pairing this year’s turkey or ham with the classics provides comfort and calls to mind holiday memories of the past, cooking with new ingredients and adding fresh recipes to the menu can put a fun spin on the season and maybe even create your own traditions to carry forward.
For example, baking with an option like Sun-Maid Raisins provides a whole fruit option with zero grams of added sugars per 1/4-cup serving. They’re an easy, better-for-you substitution to reduce overall sugar intake without compromising flavor or texture when compared with dried cranberries, which contain 27 grams of added sugars per 1/4-cup serving. The natural sugars of raisins make them a versatile, useful addition to a wide variety of holiday-worthy dishes.
Hop On Hot Food Trends
One of this year’s most popular trends in the kitchen is food boards, a fun and easy way to elevate flavor while incorporating favorites like cured meats, cold cuts, cheese slices and cubes, dips, nuts and more. Plus, you can keep your board balanced with nutritious items like vegetables and fruit, such as raisins, which provide sweet flavor without the added sugars.
A Time for Truce
Gathering for the holidays is about coming together with loved ones, family, friends and neighbors – and pulling it off means catering to everyone’s needs and wants. It’s a time for compromises and truces. To help add a little extra spark this year, try incorporating a theme to the party or coordinate fun activities and games that can be enjoyed by all. For example, holiday-themed charades, a seasonal “name that tune” game and gift exchanges all give guests ways to get in on the excitement.
To find more holiday entertaining inspiration and recipe ideas, visit SunMaid.com/PullOffTheHolidays .
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
Why you next car will probably be electric
(BPT) – Love them, hate them, or don’t really care, electric vehicles are beginning to take over transportation conversations and roadways, and soon, boats and planes. Already, there were 16.5 million electric cars on the road worldwide in 2021, three times more than in 2018, according to S&P Global. Though still in the early adopter phase, here are four reasons your next vehicle is likely to be electric.
Auto manufacturers are phasing out the production of internal combustion engine (ICE) models. General Motors announced in 2021 that the company will only sell vehicles that have zero tailpipe emissions by 2035, across all global markets. Similarly, leading companies like Ford committed to zero emissions globally by 2040 and no later than 2035 in key markets. Some states are making the same commitment. Through Michigan’s Healthy Climate plan, for example, the state is working to achieve economy-wide carbon neutrality by 2050, including through electrifying vehicles and increasing public transit.
States are accelerating the push for EVs through legislation. The Air Resources Board is offering a Clean Vehicle Rebate Program, making new and used electric cars more affordable for consumers, as some states seek to ban the sale of ICE model vehicles. On the federal level, as part of a broad new Inflation Reduction Act — designed to address climate change, healthcare, and taxes — a new tax credit of up to $4,000 on used electric cars and revised tax credits of up to $7,500 on certain new EVs are available for prospective buyers to take advantage of. These legislative changes highlight the need for tangible progress in increasing the accessibility of EVs.
States are building out supporting infrastructure for EVs. All over the United States, you will find EV chargers popping up at local supermarkets, malls and sporting events. Michigan is taking it a step further by bringing chargers to state parks and working with public universities on pilot programs and research programs to improve battery design. The Lake Michigan EV Circuit Tour, for example, is a network of EV chargers that, once completed, will span over 1,100 miles of drivable shoreline around Lake Michigan throughout Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
“We are going to see a huge uptick in EV adoption, especially as manufacturers continue to diversify the EV models on the market, lower prices for increased accessibility, and partner with states to ensure infrastructure is catching up with the high-tech innovation happening across the country,” says Trevor Pawl, Chief Mobility Officer for the State of Michigan. “It’s only a matter of time before your neighbors are driving one too.”
Beyond incentives and legislation, we’re still human and want to keep up with our neighbors and peers. EVs have been around for almost 30 years, with the first mass-produced, purpose-built modern electric car from one of the industry’s key players released in 1996 from General Motors. Soon, EVs will make up a majority of new cars available. And, with the many financial incentives and user benefits associated with making the shift to EVs, it may not take long for you to begin reimagining how an EV could fit into your life, too.
While your next car choice will hinge on a range of factors — lifestyle, brand preference, car features, safety ratings, availability and price — you may be surprised how many boxes an EV can tick. Even without gas, there’s a lot of sustainable power under their hoods.
Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away
Help for older adults on a budget may be a few clicks away
(BPT) – Food and gas prices continue to rise, on top of record-high housing costs in many cities across the U.S. If you’re an older adult who is already living on a tight budget, today’s inflation can be particularly difficult. Fortunately, there are programs available that can help you save money on health care, prescriptions, food, utilities and more.
One of the easiest ways to find out if you’re eligible for benefits is to visit the National Council on Aging’s BenefitsCheckUp.org. The free and confidential tool connects older adults, people with disabilities and caregivers to benefit programs. The site is easy to use, even for people with minimal digital experience.
“It only takes a few minutes to learn about all the programs available and how to apply,” said Ramsey Alwin, president and CEO of NCOA. “For example, there are Medicare programs that can boost your budget by helping with prescription drug costs, as well as premiums, deductibles and coinsurance.”
There are thousands of programs on BenefitsCheckUp, including:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which can help you pay for healthy food
- The Medicare Part D Low Income Subsidy and Medicare Savings Programs, which can help people with Medicare afford their out-of-pocket health care expenses
- The Housing Choice Vouchers and Public Housing Programs, which can help with housing costs
- Supplemental Security Income, which provides cash for basic needs
- The Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides discounted internet services
- The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which can help you pay for home heating and cooling
Millions of older adults are eligible for, but not enrolled in these programs. In fact, NCOA estimates that $30 billion in benefits go unused each year simply because older adults don’t know about these programs — or how to apply.
BenefitsCheckUp.org will give you a personalized list of benefits you may be eligible for and the steps you need to apply, including links to the correct government agencies and applications. Just a few minutes could save you money every month.
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