Tag Archives: Benefits

From MSA: Protect Your Credit This Holiday Season

msaThe holiday season is upon us, and you know what that means.  Shopping.  (And pumpkin spice lattes, of course.)  Before you buy gobs of candy for trick-or-treaters, plan your Thanksgiving feast and look for the perfect Christmas gift, remember this:  shopping can either hurt or help your credit.

Why is credit so important?

In the world of finances, your credit is your reputation.  It affects your chances of getting a loan with a good interest rate, acquiring certain job positions and even housing.  Your credit score is built upon several things, including types of credit used, credit history, credit limits and utilization, and payment history.

Today, we’re focusing on the two biggest influencers: payment history (35% of your credit score) and credit limits and utilization (30% of your credit score).

Payment history includes, among other things, your habits for paying back bills.  Constant late payments lead to negative payment history and consequently, bring down your credit score.

Credit limits and utilization revolve around how much credit you use.  If you have a credit card with a $3,000 limit, are you constantly using the full $3,000 (100% utilization)?  Maintaining a low usage rate is best – regardless of your actual credit limit.

What do pumpkins and mistletoe have to do with my credit score?

So maybe pumpkin spice lattes and new twinkle lights can’t literally hurt your credit, but the amount of money you spend on them can.  Your credit will take a major hit if you consistently spend more than your means and get behind on your bills.

Did you know that over $600 billion was spent during the winter holidays last year, with the average American spending over $700 for food, gifts, and decor?1

Everyone wants to make the holidays festive, entertain family and friends with the best food and fun, and show generosity with gifts for all.  Which is well and good, don’t get us wrong.  We love and look forward to holiday cheer as much as the next person.

What we don’t want is that holiday cheer ending when you get the bills.  Unfortunately, bills don’t take a winter break (Wouldn’t that be awesome?!), and credit card companies still expect payments.

How do I improve my credit and my holiday cheer?

With attention and planning, this winter could provide an incredible chance to improve your credit by being diligent with finances.  What’s more is it’ll help you stay calm amidst the shopping frenzy, and when you find that perfect gift for your loved one, you don’t have to worry about straining your wallet.

Here are five steps to get you started:

1.  Know your credit limits

Before you join the mob of people enjoying Black Friday specials, jot down all your credit cards and their respective limits, as well as their current balances (if any).

2.  Calculate a utilization limit

Now that you know the limit for each credit card, calculate how much you can spend with each card while still maintaining a positive utilization rate.  Exceeding even 30% of your available credit can be damaging, so leave yourself some wiggle room.  A good place to start is only using 25% or less of your credit limit.  For example, if you have an $8,000 line of credit, then you would try to keep the credit card balance under $2,000 at all times.

As you shop around, keep track of which card you use and how much you’re charging to that card, so you can better gauge how close you are to the utilization limit – and refrain from going over it.

3.  Stick to a budget

Just because you have a credit card with an $8,000 credit limit doesn’t necessarily mean you should spend $8,000 on holiday gifts.  And calculating a $2,000 utilization limit doesn’t necessarily mean that you can spend $2,000 without consequence either.

The spending calculation you should adhere to is the dollar amount that fits your budget.  As the holidays approach, think about all the purchases you want to make (candy, decorations, gifts, donations, etc.) and how much money you can afford to put towards those purchases while still meeting your other expenses (like rent and utilities).

Living within your means by sticking to a realistic budget will help you stay on track with credit usage and make it easier to pay off your bills on time.

4.  Set up bill alerts

Sometimes, people miss a bill payment simply due to distractions.  You see the familiar envelope with the monthly bill, and you toss it aside because you’d rather make some hot chocolate, but putting off the sweets for just a minute and making a point of paying your credit card bill is a small step that makes a huge difference.

Always making late payments influences your credit score and losing track of payments during the holidays are a sure fire way to get behind and stay behind.  So… set up alerts on your phone for when a bill arrives and when it’s due.  Unless you pay your bill the moment it becomes available, insert periodic reminders into your calendar so you don’t find yourself waiting until the last minute and increase your chances of incurring a late fee.

5.  Pay bills in full

Paying bills on time and in full are equally important.  Why?  When you only pay the minimum, you actually increase the amount of debt you carry, and you increase the amount you have to pay for your credit card purchases because of interest.

For example, let’s say you make a $10,000 purchase (a bit excessive but works well for this demonstration).  You use a credit card with 15% interest to make the purchase.  You make no other purchases with the card, and the minimum monthly payment required is 2.5% of the balance.  If you only pay the minimum each month, it will take 23 years to pay off, and you will pay an additional $9,637 in interest.

Carrying around that kind of debt and paying off so much interest is certainly enough to kill the holiday mood.

How can I keep track of everything?

So keeping track of credit card usage and bill payments will help you build and maintain good credit, but that’s a lot to remember, especially when you’d rather focus on finding a great Christmas tree.

With Wallet, you can squeeze all your financial information into your pocket for easy access.  Wallet is an online money management tool that allows you to see all your accounts in one place, track your spending (credit card transactions, cash and more), and even set alerts so you never miss a bill or go over budget.

You can also keep your credit in tip-top shape (or learn more ways to repair it) by working with a Money Coach.  All of our money coaches are Certified Credit Counselors who have years of experience in financial services and are familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, and many have additional accreditations like Certified Credit Report Reviewer – CCRR®.

A Money Coach can help you keep the holidays bright while integrating smart financial practices into your daily life.  You can talk about everything from budgeting, bills and credit cards, to mortgages, retirement and investments.  And, of course, how holiday spending can boost your financial wellness.

Call 888-724-2326 to get started.

 

 

Reminder: On-Site Meetings

cignaPlease keep in mind that representatives from Cigna will be visiting both the Middlebury and Monterey campuses several times through the fall months. The September and October site visits are reserved for private, one-one-one meetings between employees and a Cigna representative.

A Cigna Rep will be on the Middlebury campus on: 9/21, 10/4, 10/ 12, 10/20, 10/26, 12/14 and 1/11/17. If you are interested in having an individual meeting on the Middlebury campus please schedule your appointment at:

Middlebury Campus:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090e4cadac2babf49-cigna

The representative will be available on the MIIS campus on 9/28, 9/29, 10/4, 10/12, 10/20, 12/14 and 1/11/17. If that would like to schedule at:

Monterey Campus:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090e4cadac2babf49-cigna1

During November Cigna will hold a series of open meetings (on each campus) in which they will present information about: how to access services, network coverage, switching mail order prescriptions, technology offerings, etc. There will also be ample time for questions from the audience. Open meetings will be offered at various times on November 1st, 3rd, 8th, and 10th; specific meeting times and room locations will be announced as we get closer to November.

TIAA ONE-ON-ONE COUNSELING SESSIONS WITH ERIK MOREAU

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October – December, 2016

  • Thursday October 6, Davis Library 150D
  • Wednesday October 12, Davis Library 150D
  • Thursday October 20, Davis Library 150D
  • Wednesday November 2, Davis Library 150D
  • Tuesday November 15, Davis Library 150D
  • Thursday December 1 , Marble Works, Suite 203
  • Thursday December 15, Davis Library 150D

To schedule an appointment with Erik Moreau, please call the Field Support Team at (800) 732-8353, M-F 8am – 8pm (EST).

Upcoming MSA Webinar – How to Navigate a Divorce (Sept 13th)

msa divorceA divorce is a distressing experience for most of us. In addition to the emotional toll, our finances can be greatly impacted. In this presentation, we will focus on important financial steps that can help us through one of the toughest times in our lives. Maybe you need to know how to get started and what your options are. Or you want to know how the divorce may impact your credit, your budget and your taxes. Or maybe you already went through the divorce, and now you’re ready to rebuild your assets and credit. No matter where you are in the divorce process, you will receive helpful financial information.

12pm EST SIGNUP

3pm EST SIGNUP

Consider This in a Divorce

We’ve compiled a quick list of things to remember during this huge life change – including how you can get a whole team of support…. READ MORE

Financial Peace of Mind

On September 29th, join our webinar to hear about your opportunity to work with a Money Coach to overcome financial stress and achieve your financial dreams. REGISTER

Take Action and Win!

You get the chance to win cool prizes, when you engage in the financial wellness program, work with a Money Coach, and attend classes. REWARDS

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September EFAP News: Lessening the Burden of Legal Matters

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FREE WEBINAR:

The Importance of  Having a Will

September 20th 12-1pm and 3-4pm    EST

11-12pm and 2-3pm  CST

10-11am and 1-3pm  MST

9-10am and 12-1pm  PST

There is much confusion about what you need to do preserve your wealth and end-of-life intentions. This webinar will focus on understanding basic will terminology, understanding why a will is important, the cost of wills and estate planning, and the pros and cons of various will options.

REGISTER TODAY! Space is limited

Click on the time you would like to attend above.

Or log on to www.HelloE4.com with your username and password.  Click on “UPCOMING WEBINARS” on the homepage and follow the easy instructions.

Unable to make it to the scheduled webinars? 

We have them archived for your convenience. Visit www.HelloE4.com click on E4 University, then click on Webinars to search by webinar title.

 

FEATURED ARTICLE:

Understanding Why You Need a Will

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DIE AND I DON’T HAVE A WILL?

If you pass away and you don’t have a will, you become “intestate” or often the phrase is one of the following:  “he died intestate” or “intestate estate.” Intestate simply means you had the opportunity to create a will and didn’t, so based on the laws of your state, and the decision made by a judge appointed administrator, your estate will be divided as the administrator sees fit. Normally, in cases where one spouse passes, assets are divided between the living children and the surviving spouse.

For many reasons not having a will isn’t a good decision, such as:  1.) if you have property in multiple states, state laws may further complicate your estate and resolving any decisions involved with it which may tie up assets for months or years before they are awarded. 2.) A judge appointed administrator has no affiliation to you or your family, and their decisions are strictly legal and may not be the decisions you wanted or your family wanted (for ex. an estranged blood relative could be awarded your entire estate rather than the family member or friend you wanted your estate to go to), and 3.) without properly documented guardianship, if children are involved and both parents die, the children may not be going to the family member or friend you wanted them to live with.

HOW DO I CREATE A WILL?

You can create a will many different ways. Please consider the following:

  • You can use one of many free online tools to create a will and most other legal documents.
  • You can hire an attorney to create your will.
  • You can use the online tools, create a will, and then schedule an appointment with an attorney to review what you have created. Often because you have done much of the work for them, your fee will be discounted.
  • Or use the free and discounted resources, such as Legal/Financial aids, available on the website. Self-help forms are available, along with legal assisted forms (at a discounted rate), and direct access to attorneys for an initial free consultation and discounted rates if further services are needed.

Please note there are other legal documents you may need to consider creating depending on failing health or the death of a loved one:

  • Financial and healthcare power of attorney
  • Eldercare agreement
  • Living trusts
  • Living wills
  • Request forms regarding a loved one who has passed (ex. request for death certificate, notice to creditors of death, notice to homeowner’s insurance company of death, etc.)
  • Deeds

Please attend this month’s webinar, “The Importance of Having a Will” for more specific details.

ALWAYS AVAILABLE.  ALWAYS CONFIDENTIAL.

E4 Health is a free, confidential service that’s available to you as well as your immediate household family members. We are available any time, any day to assist with any work or life issue that matters to you and your family.

For professional counseling and supportive resources, call or log on any time, any day.

Just call or log on to get started.

e4health administers the College’s EFAP program.  To access their comprehensive web site, with many tools and articles, go to the e4health web site.
Username:  middlebury college
Password:    guest
Or call them at: 800-828-6025
(phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

On-Site Meetings

Representatives from Cigna will be visiting both the Middlebury and Monterey campuses several times through the fall months. The visits will fall into two categories:  one-on-one meetings with employees and open meetings.  The initial visits days are reserved for private, one-one-one meetings between employees and a Cigna representative and are intended for those employees who have specific questions or concerns, such as: the need to pre-schedule a surgery early in January, an on-going serious health condition, concerns about whether a particular provider is in-network, worries about transferring mail-order prescriptions, and so forth.

Cigna On-Site One-on-One Meeting Schedule
Middlebury MIIS
9/15 afternoon 9/28 afternoon
9/21 midday 9/29 morning
10/4 morning 10/4 morning
10/12 midday 10/12 midday
10/20 afternoon 10/20 afternoon
10/4 morning 10/4 morning
10/26 morning 10/26 morning
12/14 TBD 12/14 TBD
1/11/17 TBD 1/11/17 TBD

 

If you have specific concerns or questions and would like to meet individually with a Cigna representative please click on a link below to schedule an appointment.

Middlebury Vermont Campus: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090e4cadac2babf49-cigna

Monterey California Campus: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090e4cadac2babf49-cigna1

During November Cigna will hold a series of open meetings (on each campus) in which they will present information about: how to access services, network coverage, switching mail order prescriptions, technology offerings, etc. There will also be ample time for questions from the audience. Open meetings will be offered at various times on November 1st, 3rd, 8th, and 10th; specific meeting times and room locations will be announced as we get closer to November.