New Year, New Finances: How to Improve Your Personal Financial Health in 2019

While most resolutioners are focusing on weight loss and fitness, you have another type of health in mind for the New Year: financial health. Unfortunately, too often resolutioners make vague goals like “save more” or “increase income.” If you truly want to make a difference in your finances in 2019, these are the goals you need to set — and the steps you need to take to get you there.

Pay off Credit Card Debt

On average, U.S. households at the start of 2019 have about $5,700 in credit card debt — with no-income houses boasting average debt upwards of $10,000 and high-earning households hovering around $8,000 in debt. While that isn’t even close to the average student loan debt, it is a sizeable amount of money that would be better spent elsewhere. That’s why your first and foremost financial resolution for 2019 should be to pay off your credit cards, so you can focus on other sources of debt in future years and generally reduce your expenses overall.

There are two primary strategies for paying down debt:

  • The snowball method. You pay the accounts with the smallest balances first, so you experience small victories and continue paying down your debt.
  • The avalanche method. You pay the accounts with the highest interest rates first, which reduces the growth of your debt and makes it easier to pay down as you go.

You should choose the strategy that best applies to your situation and make a plan for making payments until you are credit card debt–free.

Add 20 Points to Your Credit Score

It’s always possible to increase your credit score — even if you are already in a coveted super-800 position. A better credit score will win you better interest rates and limits on credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and other loans as well as a free pass when it comes to contracts with security deposits and job approvals. Unfortunately, there are no fast fixes for credit scores; the nature of the number is measuring your long-term financial behavior. Thus, you need to be patient.

Here are a few tricks for increasing your score a moderate amount over the coming year:

  • Reduce your debt.
  • Pay bills on time and in full.
  • Don’t open many new credit accounts.
  • Reduce your reliance on credit.
  • Diversify your credit.

Monitor Your Credit Report

You should have a personal checking accountinto which you can deposit your wages and from which you can pay major bills. However, it is smart to avoid using a debit card linked to your checking account online or when you travel because if a thief steals the card info and takes money from that account, you probably won’t get it back.

Credit cards are more secure for a few reasons. First, they have limits, so criminals can’t make unlimited purchases. Secondly, you can dispute transactions more easily on your credit account. Finally, you can check your credit reports for signs of fraud, including names, social security numbers and accounts that don’t belong to you. You can file a correction with one of the three credit bureaus and maintain the health of your credit score — but only if you are in the habit of monitoring your credit report.

Build a Budget (and Stick to It)

The fastest way to increase your income is to reduce your needless spending, and the best way to reduce your spending is to adhere tightly to a well-defined budget. Your first step in building a budget is understanding your current spending habits. For at least two weeks — and as long as a month — keep a diary of everything you spend money on, and try to avoid modifying your behavior or lying in your notes. You will use this information to form the foundation of your budget.

Next, highlight your essential expenditures, like rent, debt payments, utilities and insurance. Then, allow yourself some “fun” money — but you shouldn’t give yourself the rest of your income to play with. Instead, you should set aside some of that money for emergency, retirement or other savings efforts. To force yourself to stick to your budget, you might take out your spending money in cash and keep it in carefully marked envelopes. Resist the urge to dip into your savings accounts or sneak some cash from other envelopes; your goal is financial health, and that means financial honesty, too.

Identify Your Long-term Financial Goals

Finally, your last resolution for 2019 shouldn’t take much time, but it will take some effort. Long-term financial goals will guide how you spend and save during the course of this year and years to come. Thus, as soon as possible, you should carve out about an hour to sit and reflect on what you want from your finances.

Everyone’s goals will be different, but here are some good examples to inspire you:

  • Buy a housein a certain price range and pay it off in 10 years.
  • Accrue a college fund for any children existing or anticipated.
  • Build a retirement account that will ensure financial security in old age.

This year has just begun, which means you still have 12 months to improve your finances. Even better, you can make financial resolutions alongside your physical fitness goals. Make 2019 the year of overall health, and you’ll be happy for years to come.


How to Help Your Employees Get the Most Benefit from Payroll Cards

Although most employees still receive their pay via check or direct deposit, a growing number of employers are offering an additional option: A payroll card. Payroll cards work like debit cards, giving employees immediate access to their pay without needing a bank account.

Payroll cards offer some significant advantages to both employers and their workers. In general, payroll cards cost less than other forms of payment, saving companies money. Employees enjoy the quick access to their earnings and the freedom to make purchases, transfer money and withdraw cash as needed without having to maintain a checking account or go through a credit check to get a bank card. With a service like Bank of America CashPay, your employees enjoy a great deal of flexibility in how they manage their money.

However, before you implement a payroll card program, there are some things you need to do to ensure that your employees get the most from the service and that you stay within the boundaries of the law. Even with all of the benefits of a payroll card, there are some guidelines to follow, or else you could face some stiff penalties. With that in mind, here’s how you can help your employees get the most from your payroll card program.

Offer Options

In many states, payroll cards can only be offered as an option to employees and not the only way to be paid. Even if your state doesn’t have such a rule, it’s good practice to continue offering other methods of payment, i.e., traditional paychecks or direct deposit. Some of your employees are likely to have existing relationships with a bank and may resent having to use a different card to transfer their pay to the bank.

It’s also important that you choose a payroll card that has plenty of local ATM locations where employees can access their money, ideally without fees. It doesn’t make sense to select a provider that only has one or two ATMs in the area, forcing employees to go out of their way to get cash or else have to pay big fees.

Be Aware of Fees

Some payroll cards come with fees, which may be nominal but can quickly add up. Employees shouldn’t have to pay to access their money, but in some cases, card issuers charge fees for making more than one ATM withdrawal, making purchases online or getting cash back from a purchase. Other cards may charge fees for getting a paper statement, checking balances, declined purchases and withdrawing from out-of-network ATMs.

The problem with fees is that in some cases, they substantially reduce the amount of pay that an employee receives, effectively reducing their hourly wages. Employees have successfully filed claims against employers for this reduction, so the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that employers ensure that employees have free access to their full pay at least once every pay period. In addition, some states have laws relating to fees, including a requirement that employees have a certain number of fee-free transactions per month, so before you choose a payroll card provider, evaluate the fees charged and when.  Also, be certain that you disclose all fees to your employees when they sign up for the card. Most cards do charge some type of fees, but the more you can limit the costs to your employees, the more enthusiastic they will be about the program— and the less likely it is that you will land in hot water.

Provide Education

When you offer payroll cards to your employees, it’s a good practice to provide education for them on how to best use the cards and keep them safe. Because payroll cards are debit cards, like any other bank-issued cards, they are at risk of being stolen, so employees should know how to secure their card and use it safely. Offer information and training sessions on best practices in card security and inform your employees about how they can prevent their pay from being stolen. Some topics you might cover include creating PINs, shopping online safely and how to get cash safely.

Payroll cards are appealing to both employers and employees for many reasons, but they need to be handled appropriately, or they could prove costly to everyone. By giving your employees to tools they need to use them to their full benefit, everyone will be more satisfied.

Making Your Restaurant Cosy In The Winter

If you own a restaurant or you are looking at buying one this year to launch a new business, there are a lot of different things you will have to consider and a lot of preparation which you will need to make for a comfortable space. Creating a swanky and comfortable restaurant for your guests is a big challenge, and it can take some time to nail your ideas and make the ideal space. Here are some of our top tips for making a cosy and inviting space for people to visit during the winter months.

Keep it warm

The first and most obvious thing you will want to do during the winter to make people feel comfortable is to keep the restaurant warm and toasty. When people have been walking around in the cold all day the main thing they want is for a warm space to sit in. This can be achieved with lots of insulation around the building as well as by bringing in an efficient heating system. Radiators placed strategically around the room can make all the difference and will have a positive impact on your customers.

Ventilate the space

As important as it is to lock in the heat and make the restaurant as cosy as it can be, you will also want to think about air flow and ventilation. If you have an old system in the building make sure to invest in restaurant ac repair, and if not, get an efficient system which allows clean air to flow through the building. You’ll be cooking a lot of food which will produce different smells and air flow can help these smells to escape as to not overwhelm your customers. It will also be helpful for those who suffer from respiratory illnesses who may need extra support with the air flow.

Add soft furnishings

One of the things which can make a big difference to the overall look and feel of your restaurant and will also be a good way to brighten up the space is soft furnishings. Cleverly placed throws and cushions can be just what you need for a homely atmosphere and your patrons will appreciate these extra touches to make them feel more comfortable.

Light candles

Whenever we think about making the house cosy and warm in the winter, candles are always a great option as they give off a soft glow which creates a relaxing atmosphere, and it also makes the room feel warmer and more homely. In your restaurant you can place small candles on each table and this will make for a lovely atmosphere and will keep everyone feeling warm and content during their meal.

Create a cosy area

If you have a small corner of your restaurant which is free for you to use, you can create a cosy lounge space for those who have finished their meals and want to enjoy a drink or two. This space can consist of some sofas and chairs and you can even have a fireplace in this part of the building to create a magical atmosphere. Having an area like this can be great because it will encourage people to stay in the restaurant after eating and it will make people less likely to want to leave!