6 Steps to Dig Out of Holiday Debt

Tuesday, January 03 at 09:45 AM
Category: Personal Finance

It's a holiday leftover many of us carry around for months. It's not Aunt Edna's fruitcake or even those few extra pounds amassed from all the holiday treats. It's the excess debt that comes from spending more than you can afford during the holiday season. Unfortunately, for many Americans, a few festive days of the year can result in mounds of depressing debt that can take months to shed.

If you find yourself with leftover holiday debt, here are some steps you can take:
  1. Stop the credit storm. If you can't purchase something with cash or your debit card, don't buy it. While it's important to have credit cards for emergencies, it's a good idea to put them on ice until you pay down your debt.
  2. Start digging out. On your credit card statement is the minimum payment amount you must make each month to cover finance charges. Always pay more than that amount. The more you pay, the faster you will pay down your balance. If you have multiple credit card accounts, focus on paying off the ones with the highest interest rates first.
  3. Consolidate higher-interest debt. Many credit card companies offer attractive balance transfer offers that come with low teaser rates and sometimes there are no fees to activate this benefit, allowing you to transfer higher-interest balances to save on interest. Be sure to read the fine print so you know when the introductory rate expires and what the prevailing rate will be. It's also critical to close the accounts from which you transferred the debt. Many people make the mistake of keeping those cards and running up new balances, creating even more debt.
  4. Take advantage of rewards. Competitive credit cards offer rewards points for each dollar you spend. You can often use your points as statement credits to help you pay toward your card balance.
  5. Minimize your other spending. Take a close look at your monthly budget and see if you can cut your spending in other areas in order to pay more on your credit card debt. If you have the opportunity to make more money, either by picking up more hours at work or getting a second job, consider putting excess funds on your credit card debt.
  6. Stay the course. While it can be overwhelming to look at the debt you owe, the most important thing you can do is keep making payments. If you keep digging, you're sure to see a clear path toward credit card debt freedom.
With some conscious effort, you can relieve yourself of holiday debt, so you’re not paying for your festivities for the rest of the New Year. 

Tags: Debt, Financial Education
 

Regional Consumers Made Major Purchases, Planning More

Friday, November 25 at 08:30 AM
Category: Arvest News

Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey shows spending plans continue to rise.

 FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Consumers in the Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma region said they have made major household purchases in the last six months and plan to make at least one more major purchase in the next six months, according to final information released today from the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey. 

Those are among the more noticeable findings from the third installment of the Fall 2016 Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released today. This installment is the final piece of the survey, conducted in March and including Greater Kansas City, and focuses on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors concerning spending, saving and debt.

Most notably, 35 percent of regional respondents indicate that they plan to make major purchases in the next six months, compared with 34 percent in March. The percentage of respondents who report they had made a major household purchase in the past six months rose from 39 percent to 40 percent. Among the remaining 65 percent who do not plan such major purchases in the next six months, 20 percent reported they were waiting for the right time to buy, while 80 percent said they had no plans to buy at all. Major household purchases were defined as furniture, televisions, refrigerators and other large items.

“Consumers may be looking forward to the holiday season with an eye toward buying presents, while continuing household updates they may have been putting off from early in the economic recovery,” Arvest Marketing Director Jason Kincy said. “They seem to be feeling a bit more confident in their personal economies, as their increasing spending plans and slight decrease in current savings rates seem to indicate.”

This was particularly noticeable in Arkansas and Missouri.

“This is the highest level of purchase expectations (in Arkansas) since the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey began,” said Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and lead economist for the survey.

David Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University, said households in his state “are more optimistic about long-run prospects than they were at this point last year.”

Those feelings were more tempered in Oklahoma, which has been dealing with the effects of a lingering slump in the energy sector.

“As we move into the holiday season, both retailers and governments that rely on the sales tax base for general revenue funds will be watching Oklahoma consumers closely to see just how large of a purchase they will make and just how long they intend to wait before doing so,” said Russell Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University.

The percent of respondents who reported having no current consumer debt was 28 percent, up from 22 percent in March. Consumer debt within the region was divided among several categories – mortgage, home equity, auto, credit cards and student loans. In the region overall, more consumers reported having consumer debt in particular categories, with increases in auto loans, which grew from 33 to 35 percent, and credit cards, up from 41 to 44 percent. Student loans remained steady at 21 percent.

When looking at the current savings rate, consumers within the region reported they are saving 13.9 percent of their earnings, which is lower than the 15.8 percent from the previous survey. The overall savings rate for Arkansas is 13.4 percent, while Missouri is at 16.3 percent and Oklahoma 14.1 percent.

The percent of respondents across the region who plan on increasing their rate of savings has risen from 22 to 26 percent since the spring survey.

The Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey is conducted by the Center for Business and Economic Research in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. The University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory conducted the 1,200 random online and telephone surveys.

With each study, the Consumer Sentiment Survey Index score will be released first, followed by a second release on consumer outlook, including the Current Conditions Index and the Consumer Expectations Index, which are sub-indexes of the Consumer Sentiment Survey Index.

Arvest Bank’s sponsorship of this survey is due to its desire to provide beneficial data for its customers and communities. The data provides a reading of how consumers are feeling about the economy in the states where the bank operates. Because consumers drive the majority of economic activity, it is important to simply know where people in the state stand in their views. 

Information about the survey and research partners, copies of this release, summary documents and print-ready logos can be found at www.arvestconsumersurvey.com.

Data released as part of the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, summary and news releases is free for broadcast, publication or use in presentations. Please cite “Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey” as the source each time information is referenced.

Tags: Arkansas, Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, Debt, Missouri, Oklahoma, Press Release, Savings
 

6 Financial Traps New College Graduates Should Avoid

Wednesday, July 13 at 10:25 AM
Category: Personal Finance

As recent college graduates start their careers, their financial lifestyle should be top of mind, says the American Bankers Association. ABA has highlighted six traps new college graduates should avoid to fortify their finances as they transition from the dorm to the office.

“Now is the time for college grads to get their financial life started on the right foot,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “When it comes to managing your finances in the real world, pulling an all-nighter isn’t the best strategy. Forming positive financial habits today will set you up for lifelong success.”

According to ABA, new college graduates should avoid the following financial traps:
 
  • Not having a budget. Don’t spend more than you make. Calculate the amount of money you’re taking home after taxes, then figure out how much money you can afford to spend each month while contributing to your savings. Be sure to factor in recurring expenses such as student loans, monthly rent, utilities, groceries, transportation expenses and car loans.  
  • Forgoing an emergency fund. Make it a priority to set aside the equivalent of three to six months’ worth of living expenses. Start putting some money away immediately, no matter how small the amount. A bank savings account is a smart place to stash your cash for a rainy day. Use your tax refund for this instead of an impulse buy.
  • Paying bills late – or not at all. Each missed payment can hurt your credit history for up to seven years, and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay and your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Consider setting up automatic payments for regular expenses like student loans, car payments and phone bills.
  • Racking up debt. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs, and spend only what you can afford to pay back. Credit is a great tool, but only if you use it responsibly. 
  • Not thinking about the future. It may seem odd since you’re just beginning your career, but now is the best time to start planning for your retirement. Contribute to your employer’s 401(k) or similar account, especially if there is a company match. Invest enough to qualify for your company’s full match – it’s free money that adds up to a significant chunk of change over the years.  
  • Ignoring help from your bank. Most banks offer online, mobile and text banking tools to manage your account night and day. Use these tools to check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, monitor transaction history and track budgets. 
For more tips and resources on a variety of personal finance topics such as mortgages, credit cards, protecting your identity and saving for college, visit aba.com/Consumers.*
 
The American Bankers Association is the voice of the nation’s $16 trillion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional and large banks that together employ more than 2 million people, safeguard $12 trillion in deposits and extend more than $8 trillion in loans.
 
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Budgeting, College, Debt, Financial Education, Retirement, Savings
 

Regional Consumers Planning Major Purchases, Increase Savings

Thursday, June 30 at 09:00 AM
Category: Arvest News

Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey measures respondents' spending and savings.

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Consumers in the Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma region said they have plans to both make major household purchases in the next six months and to increase their household savings rate, according to final information released today from the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey. 

Those are among the more noticeable findings from the third installment of the Spring 2016 Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey released today. This installment is the final piece of the survey, conducted in March and including Greater Kansas City, and focuses on consumers’ attitudes and behaviors concerning spending, saving and debt.

“It appears consumers are continuing a trend that started last year, that of small increases in making major purchases and taking on slightly more consumer debt,” Arvest Marketing Director Jason Kincy said. “But an increasing percentage of consumers have expressed a desire to increase their savings rate even after we have seen savings rates steadily going up over the past two years. So although consumers are feeling confident enough to start spending and accumulate more consumer debt, they are keeping an eye on the future by building a savings cushion between themselves and changes in the economy.”

Most notably, 34 percent of regional respondents indicate they plan to make major purchases in the next six months, compared with 28 percent in September. The percentage of respondents who report they made a major household purchase in the past six months rose from 38 to 39 percent. Among the remaining 66 percent who do not plan such major purchases in the next six months, 19 percent of those reported they were waiting for the right time to buy while 81 percent said they had no plans to buy at all. Major household purchases were defined as furniture, a television, refrigerator or other large items.

In Arkansas, Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER) in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and lead economist for the survey, said, “With gas prices and interest rates remaining low and incomes rising, Arkansans were most positive about the idea that buying conditions are at an attractive level right now.”

David Mitchell, director of the Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University, said similar things about Missourians.

“Although consumers’ outlook for the economy in the very near term might have appeared somewhat ambiguous,” Mitchell said, “they clearly see a brighter picture in the long term as evidenced by their desire to make purchases and acquire credit.”

Consumer debt within the region was divided among several categories – mortgage, home equity, auto, credit cards and student loans. In the region overall, more consumers reported having consumer debt of some kind, with increases in auto loans (from 32 percent in September to 33 percent in March), credit cards (from 40 percent to 41 percent), and student loans (from 14 percent to 21 percent). The percent of respondents who reported having no current consumer debt dropped from 27 percent to 22 percent. 

When looking at the savings rate, regional consumers reported they are saving 15.8 percent of their earnings, up from 13.6 percent in the previous survey. The overall savings rate for Arkansas is 16.4 percent, while Missouri is at 16.0 percent and Oklahoma 15.1 percent.

The majority of regional respondents, 68 percent, expect to maintain their current savings rate over the next six months and 22 percent expect to increase their savings rate. Only 10 percent expect to decrease their savings rate over the same time period.

In Oklahoma, a state largely dependent on the energy industry, economist Russell Evans said increased savings rates make sense.

“A hesitance to spend and notion to save are consistent with expressed expectations for a challenging present and uncertain future,” said Evans, executive director of the Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University.

The Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey is conducted by the CBER, which also evaluates the Arkansas data, with the University of Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Learning Laboratory conducting 1,200 random phone and online surveys.

The survey is conducted twice a year, with the next results expected to be released in October. With each study, the Consumer Sentiment Survey Index score will be released first, followed by a second release on consumer outlook, including the Current Conditions Index and the Consumer Expectations Index, which are sub-indexes of the Consumer Sentiment Survey Index.

Arvest Bank’s sponsorship of this survey, which follows the model of the national Survey of Consumers produced by the University of Michigan, is due to its desire to provide beneficial data for its customers and communities. The data provides a reading of how consumers are feeling about the economy in the states where the bank operates. Additionally, with future results, consumers, as well as the business community, will be able to see how sentiment is trending.

The Bureau of Economic Research at Missouri State University provides state analysis of the Missouri data. The Steven C. Agee Economic Research & Policy Institute, Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University, evaluates the data for Oklahoma.

Information about the survey and research partners, copies of this release, summary documents and print-ready logos can be found at www.arvestconsumersurvey.com.

Data released as part of the Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, summary and news releases is free for broadcast, publication or use in presentations. Please cite “Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey” as the source each time information is referenced.

Tags: Arkansas, Arvest Consumer Sentiment Survey, Debt, Missouri, Oklahoma, Press Release, Savings
 

6 Tips to Spring Clean Your Finances

Monday, April 25 at 09:50 AM
Category: Personal Finance

For many Americans, spring is a time to clean, sort and tidy up around the house. As you dust your shelves and rid your home of clutter, consider setting aside some time to organize your finances.

“The arrival of spring motivates people to renew their surroundings, and what better way to focus that momentum than to check off everything on your financial to-do list?” asked Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Taking stock of your finances and planting the seeds of new saving habits today will go a long way toward alleviating pressures on your pocket throughout the year.”

The American Bankers Association* recommends these six tips to help you refresh your finances:
  • Evaluate and pay down debt. Take a look at how much you owe and what you are paying in interest. If there are better rates available now, consider requesting a lower credit card interest rate or refinancing your mortgage. Begin paying off existing debt, whether that’s by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first. 
  • Review your budget. A lot can change in a year. If you’ve been promoted, had a child, or become a new homeowner or renter, be sure to update your budget. Determine what expenses demand the most money and identify areas where you can realistically cut back. Develop a strategy for spending and saving and stick to it.   
  • Check your credit report. Every year, you are guaranteed one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports by requesting them at annualcreditreport.com* and check them for any possible errors. Mistakes can drag down your score and prevent you from getting a loan, or cause you to pay a higher than necessary interest rate.  
  • Download your bank's mobile app. Manage your finances from the palm of your hand. With the click of a few buttons, you can make a deposit or access a record of recent transactions. Be sure to download the latest updates when they are available.
  • Sign up for e.Statements and mobile alerts. Converting to paperless billing will help keep your house — physically and financially — more clean and organized.
  • Set up automatic BillPay. By signing up for automatic bill pay, you won’t have to worry about a missed payment. You can set it so money is withdrawn from your checking account on the same day each month.
As you spring clean your finances, you’ll receive that same satisfaction you get after doing a thorough cleaning of your home!
 
Information courtesy American Bankers Association.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Debt, Financial Education, Mobile Banking, Technology
 

5 Ways to Make Your Tax Refund Count

Friday, April 22 at 11:15 AM
Category: Personal Finance

According to the Internal Revenue Service*, the nation’s taxpayers received an average tax refund of nearly $3,000 in 2015. This year, with more than 70 percent of taxpayers receiving a refund, the American Bankers Association* is highlighting five tips to help them make the most out of their windfall.

“Tax season is a great time for consumers to reassess how they allocate extra cash,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “It’s wise to take steps toward securing your financial well-being like storing your refund for rainy days or using it to get a jumpstart on saving for retirement.”
 
To help consumers make the most out of their money, the American Bankers Association has highlighted the following tips:
  • Save for emergencies. Open or add to a high-yield savings account that serves as an “emergency fund.” Ideally, it should hold about three to six months of living expenses in case of sudden financial hardships like losing your job or having to replace your car.   
  • Pay off debt. Pay down existing balances either by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
  • Save for retirement. Open or increase contributions to a tax-deferred savings plan like a 401(k) or an IRA. Where can you get one? Your bank can help set up an IRA, while a 401(k) is employer-sponsored.
  • Put it toward a down payment. The biggest challenge that most first-time home buyers face is coming up with enough money for a down payment. If you intend to buy a new home in the near future, putting your tax refund toward the down payment is a smart move.
  • Invest in your current home. Use your refund to invest in home improvements that will pay you back in the long run by increasing the value of your home. This can include small, cost-effective upgrades like energy-efficient appliances that will pay off in both the short and long term. If you have more substantial renovations in mind, your bank can help with a home equity line of credit.
Make your tax refund count so you can enjoy the long-term benefits by planning ahead how you’re going to use it. 

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Debt, Financial Education, Retirement, Tax

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