This Week In Your Wallet: Helping Others And Helping Yourself - Jean Chatzky - Making money make sense
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This Week In Your Wallet: Helping Others And Helping Yourself

Before we launch into the financial news of the week, let’s take a moment to talk about Sunday night. Our hearts are aching for the victims, their families and friends and the entire Las Vegas community. It’s well past time for this senseless violence to stop.

If you want to lend a hand to victims and are in the local area, Newsweek reports that a few different organizations are hosting emergency blood drives over the next few days. If you’re not, it’s a reminder that many of the nation’s blood banks are in need of donations. The American Red Cross recommends scheduling blood or platelet donations by calling 1-800-733-2767, and United Blood Services allows you to schedule an appointment here. Sometimes, just doing something is what it takes to feel less helpless.

Equifax Breach Update

Yes, we’re still talking about this. Because The Associated Press reported Monday that 2.5 million more U.S. consumers could have been impacted by the infamous Equifax data breach, bringing the grand total to 145.5 million. If you haven’t frozen your credit yet, it’s time. Here are the details.

Oh, And One More Thing

If you are or will soon be eligible to receive Social Security checks, there’s something else you should do ASAP, says Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary. You need to go online to open a my Social Security account. It’s an online service that allows you to check your Social Security information and manage your benefits. Why create one now? If you don’t, someone else posing as you could do it instead, then use your information to claim your Social Security checks and redirect them to another address. That’s a hassle no one needs…

The State of Consumer Finances

…Particularly because so many people are depending on that money to get them through the month. Last week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released results of its first national survey on financial well-being. It found more than 40 percent of U.S. adults struggle to make ends meet, and over one-third of consumers said they experienced material hardships in the past year, like running out of food, lacking money for medical treatment or not being able to afford somewhere to live. The CFPB also released an interactive online tool to take stock of your own financial well-being and consider ways to take control of your financial life. You can check your own financial well-being “score,” track it over time and access the bureau’s resources for financial goals (plus get access to free or low-cost help from financial professionals).

College Students And Bank Accounts

If you’ve got a child who just started college — or one who will start soon — here’s a heads up. You may receive an official-looking document from your school encouraging your child to open a bank account with a particular institution. Read the fine print. About 40 percent of college students attend schools that have an agreement with a financial institution to promote certain accounts to students, according the CFPB. And the fees for these sponsored accounts vary significantly, reports The New York Times. Weigh all the options before they sign their name on the dotted line. Know that your child doesn’t necessarily need a “student”-marketed account, compare accounts based on both interest and fees and don’t be afraid to ask about “hidden” costs. A good place to start is NerdWallet’s list of the best checking accounts and savings accounts for 2017.

Minimalism Vs. Frugality

Finally, I wanted to take a second to talk about minimalism vs. frugality. Minimalism is about ridding your space (and your life) of things you don’t really care about or that don’t “spark joy” (see: Kondo, Marie). Frugality focuses on being thrifty and spending less. If either one sounds appealing and you want to learn more, check out the new Netflix documentary,  “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” Or, take a moment to read financial blogger Natalie Bacon’s post on the subject. Bacon, also a CFP, writes that it’s possible to be both a minimalist and frugal (although she’s more of a minimalist at heart) and offers 10 suggestions for embracing each philosophy. As for me, I’m working on cleaning out the basement. I may not be a minimalist in my entire house — but at least I can be one in that room.

Have a great week,

Jean

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