Financial Literacy Blog

April 2024: Traveling on a Budget

By: Emily Castillo-Langley

In a post-2020 historic rate of inflation, we have all experienced moments of “I think this used to cost less!”. This has become especially true for travelers: where tourist prices used to be steep, now, the cost to travel has become a tad outrageous. How can a college student drop $1000 or more on a spring break or summer trip, for that amount to only cover the price of a flight and hotel room?

Let’s organize some tips to make traveling more realistic and affordable to prepare for the upcoming spring and summer vacation season.

  • Do research to see when the most convenient off-season time to travel to your location would be. There are really helpful seasonal price trackers on GoogleFlights and Hopper!
  • If you’re looking on AirBnb, sometimes you can negotiate prices based on length of stay
  • Try to look for booking deals; If you purchase a flight from Expedia or on an airline credit card, sometimes you can get bonus points for future travel or a discount for also booking a hotel through that same source.
  • Make sure that you know the age that you can check into your hotel/AirBnb! Sometimes 18, sometimes 21 or older
  • Check out StudentUniverse! It is a platform that provides student discounts on all different travel and lifestyle needs.

Flights

  • Hopper
  • Google Flights
  • Cheapoair.com
  • Southwest (for domestic travel)
  • If you are booking on a discount airline, make sure you know what you need for your trip! Might charge you extra for carry-on luggage, etc.

Hotels

  • Hostels (Depending on where you’re going, this could be a safe and affordable option! Also good to consider if you are traveling with other people)
  • Expedia, Kayak, Trivago
  • Booking.com
  • Student prices on hotels (Student Universe)
  • Save70.com

Other strategies that are helpful is creating a spreadsheet, PowerPoint, or organized document to budget and plan your financial itinerary!

You can do this by using Excel, Google Sheets, or one of your preferred platforms. This will be helpful because you can easily track your fixed expenses versus your budget that you have available to spend on variable expenses (e.i. amenities, activities, entertainment).

Making an appointment with a peer counselor can also be a great resource to help make the expenses that come with travel more approachable, predictable, and less scary. As an out-of-state student with three jobs and a full course-load, I understand how difficult it can be to afford flights and hotels, let alone all the travel costs that incur after just getting there! I have found the key is being honest about your budget, as well as prioritizing balance between working hard and also having fun in college. Also, if you are traveling with friends, communicate this with them as well! A fun trip is a trip that everyone can enjoy without fear of overspending and dealing with its consequences.

Happy traveling and please contact the Office of Financial Literacy with any questions or needs!

March 2024: A Guide to Leveraging AI for Financially Friendly Meal Planning

By: Alexis Taliento

A Guide to Leveraging AI for Financially Friendly Meal Planning

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become an integral part of our daily lives and is only going to become more influential as time goes on. Although this concept may seem scary, knowing how to utilize AI to its fullest potential can help contribute to an optimized lifestyle – especially as a college student!

Imagine having a free personalized nutritionist 25/8 who suggests delicious recipes based on the ingredients available in your fridge and consistently helps you achieve your wellness goals. Well… you don’t have to imagine because the resource is right at your fingertips!

AI tools such as ChatGPT can analyze the contents of your refrigerator when prompted and provide you with recipe ideas no matter what your dietary restrictions may be. This not only reduces impulsive purchases but also makes grocery shopping less stressful. I personally struggle with knowing what to buy when going to the grocery store so knowing I have a reliable tool that can assist me through the process makes the task a lot less daunting.

Additionally, with inflation increasing to 3.1% as of January 2024, everyone can use a little help from AI to ensure that meals are not only easy and delicious but also easy on the pockets. AI can suggest recipes that align with your financial goals while still helping you achieve a healthier and more balanced diet. It considers the prices of ingredients and helps you prioritize cost-effective options that you maybe didn’t even know existed before.

For example, if I have a budget of $80 this week to spend at the grocery store, want to increase my protein, and won’t have time to cook every day, I can generate a phrase like this in ChatGPT:

“Please make me a grocery list for meal prep this week (5 days) that is high in protein, can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, and will cost under $80”

Following the response to the prompt, you can respond in real time and make any adjustments if there’s something you would like to change.

Cost-effective meal planning is a great strategy and habit to get into when learning how to manage a budget and can influence future behaviors and money-spending habits.

This resourceful approach to meal planning is great for not only your budget but also your planet. College students are reportedly responsible for generating 142 pounds of food waste per year with that number increasing annually. Especially as a generation with growing attention toward sustainability and environmentally friendly habits, this is a great one to implement that can contribute to making a big difference.

By harnessing the power of AI, we not only make smarter, cost-effective choices but also contribute to a healthier planet, fostering a future where technology aligns seamlessly with our well-being and environmental consciousness.

Sources:

  1. Colleges have high rates of food insecurity and food waste. Students are helping address both
  2. January 2024 CPI report: Inflation ticks up in unwelcome surprise

March 2024: Interview with Astrid

Senior Counselor, Astrid Gedeon, answers a few questions on her experience as a Smart Money Peer Counselor, how it has been beneficial to her, and her experience as a young black professional in finance.

February 2022: Financial Literacy and Race 

Financial Literacy and Race 

Young people are already disadvantaged by a lack of knowledge when it comes to making financially literate decisions. Although financial literacy is critical to setting yourself up for success in the future, personal finance is not present in the curriculums of many U.S. schools. According to Next Gen’s Personal Finance 2022 Report, 1 in 4 high school students will take a personal finance course before graduation. Although this number is on the rise, it still leaves 75% of students to rely on their parents and relatives to learn the ropes in the financial sphere (and that doesn’t consider the larger number of recent high school graduates who were never offered a course in personal finance).  

The glaring problem with young people learning personal finance from their social circles is misinformation. How does one rely on adults to properly educate them on personal finance if the adults themselves also struggle to make financially sound decisions? Many people get caught in the same cycles of debt as their parents because no one has taught them otherwise. It doesn’t help that many loan servicers and credit card companies prey on their customer’s lack of knowledge with incredibly high-interest rates and fees.  

Although these problems affect many Americans, they are magnified for marginalized groups for whom systems have worked against for decades. Levels of financial literacy among Black and Hispanic Americans are lower than White and Asian Americans. This is at the forefront of an ongoing problem in the United States referred to as the racial gap in financial literacy. 

According to a 2018 national study conducted by FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority), Asian and White Americans answered an average of 3.2 out of six questions correctly in an assessment of basic of financial literacy. Hispanic Americans correctly answered 2.6, and Black Americans correctly answered 2.3.   

The same survey suggests that household income and education are the two primary indicators of financial literacy, and there is a significant racial wealth gap within the United States. A 2015 Pew Charitable Trusts report concluded that “that the racial wealth gap has more to do with a lack of assets for Black and Latino families than racial variation in debt or an abundance of debt… evidence suggests that inheritance and other intergenerational wealth transfers benefit Whites to a much larger extent.” The same report found that income among White Americans is higher than Black Americans, regardless of education level. It stated: “Black families whose head earned a college degree is only about two-thirds of the median wealth of White families whose head dropped out of high school.” With household income being a primary factor in determining a person’s level of financial literacy, Black Americans are bound to fall behind due to the social and political barriers that perpetually disvalue  

Although saying that financial literacy is a problem for all Americans is true, it is a statement that overshadows the unique challenges of the many groups who fall under the category “American”. Acknowledging the different barriers that Black Americans face in becoming financially literate is a crucial step in remedying the problem.  

The race gap in financial literacy is a topic that cannot be properly covered in a short blog post. If you would like to learn more about the race gap and how to challenge it, I am linking a few articles that can further your research and understanding.  

 

In honor of Black History Month, we are focusing on topics related to Black Americans and personal finance. Throughout the month of February, we will be publishing blog articles weekly covering financial literacy and the Black experience in America.  

 

More Articles: 

Tackling Disparities in Finance for Black and African Americans 

The Racial Gap in Financial Literacy 

Financial Literacy in the Black Community 

 

 

Sources: 

https://d3f7q2msm2165u.cloudfront.net/aaa-content/user/files/Files/NGPFAnnualReport_2022.pdf 

https://www.investopedia.com/the-racial-gap-in-financial-literacy-5119258 

https://socialequity.duke.edu/portfolio-item/the-political-economy-of-education-financial-literacy-and-the-racial-wealth-gap/ 

 

November 2022: Identifying Financial Abuse in Romantic Relationships

Financial abuse is a very deceitful form of domestic violence within relationships. Because of this, it often goes undetected by the victim, especially in its earliest stages. However, identifying financial abuse in romantic relationships is imperative as it can be one of the first signs of dating violence.

For those of you who do not know, financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, occurs when “one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s ability to access, acquire, use, or maintain economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support themselves and forces intentioned dependence.”

The perpetrators of financial abuse seek to trap their victims in the relationship. They may take complete control of the victim’s income or forbid them from working. They may ruin the victim’s credit score by taking cards out in their name and acquiring loads of debt. The longer a victim stays in a financially abusive relationship, the more financially dependent they may come on their abuser.

Many victims of financial abuse feel that they cannot leave their partner because they will not be able to financially support themselves or their families alone. If they leave their abusive relationships, they may face difficulty finding affordable housing, food, or transportation. Victims with children face even larger financial obstacles. After years of abuse, those who do leave these relationships are highly likely to return to their abuser because establishing financial independence after years of financial abuse can be extremely difficult and may feel impossible.

According to Forbes Magazine, there are four common types of financial abuse that can occur within romantic relationships:

  1. Abuser “Takes Care” of Finances

It may be normal to have one person in charge of managing the finances in a relationship. However, when only one person is in complete control and refuses to allow the other to access information or money in joint accounts, this turns into financial abuse. Victims will not have access to money for basic resources or spending unless their abuser specifically lets them.

  1. Employment Sabotage

When the abuser does not want their victim to have access to their own income, they will intentionally sabotage their job so the victim either quits or is fired. Examples of this include harassing the victim at their workplace or intentionally distracting or abusing victims before important work events to interfere with their work performance. Additionally, abusers will not permit the victim to find a new job to ensure the victim remains dependent.

  1. Economic Exploitation

As mentioned before, some abusers will intentionally ruin victims’ credit scores to trap them in abusive relationships. This is a form of economic exploitation that can often occur without the victim even knowing. Refusing to pay bills under the victim’s name can affect them years down the line because victims may be unable to take out loans or mortgages due to bad credit history.

  1. Coerced Debt

Coerced debt is similar to economic exploitation. However, the difference is that the abuser threatens or manipulates the victim into taking on debt themselves. This is a more complicated form of abuse because victims will have a hard time proving that they did not consent to the debt they’ve found themselves in since they made the transactions themselves.

If you feel that you are facing one or more of the forms of financial abuse above, there are methods and resources available to safely remove yourself from the situation. Please contact either the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or the local Vera House Foundation in Syracuse, NY at 315-468-3260.

By: Julianna Rae Porrier

 

References

https://www.forbes.com/advisor/personal-finance/signs-of-financial-abuse-domestic-violence-awareness/

https://www.verywellmind.com/financial-abuse-4155224

November 2022: The Importance of Financial Independence

 What is financial independence?

Throughout the month of October, we have been discussing financial dependence and financial abuse. While these are important topics, understanding the implications associated with taking personal control of and responsibility for your finances is equally as important, but what does it mean to be financially independent? According to Research Financial Strategies, financial independence means three things:¹

  1. You control your finances and can make independent, money-related decisions without relying on or being limited by someone else.
  2. You can support yourself financially, meaning that your income, savings, or investments allow you to rely on yourself instead of outside sources for assistance.
  3. You have a working-level knowledge about how to manage your finances so that you can make informed financial decisions.

Why does financial independence matter?

Financial independence is the gateway to living your best life. Having control of your finances, the ability to support yourself financially and knowledge about how to manage your finances give you the freedom to make choices that are best for you. To some, this concept may not seem revolutionary. However, this ideal should not be taken for granted. Not everyone is afforded the privilege of financial independence. Women, for example, have been historically marginalized in the western, economic system. As discussed in previous posts, the consequences can be detrimental.

What are the benefits of financial independence?

Securing and investing in a lifestyle rooted in financial dependence has many payoffs. When we have the freedom to make decisions, we can set and work towards goals enriching our lives. Here are just a few tangible benefits associated with financial independence:

Foster and Maintain a Sense of Security: knowing that you have the means and tools to support yourself financially can help foster a sense of stability and peace. With financial independence, you are in control of your own narrative and there is security that comes with that.

Get and Stay Out of Harmful Situations: according to the Women’s Law Center of Maryland, “[b]attered women report that the cycle of violence often beings with controlling of money, relationships, and other personal freedoms.”² Financial independence can help provide a way out of harmful situations and prevent them from happening in the future.

Maintain Healthy Relationships: being in control of your finances allows you to approach personal and professional relations on equal ground. Interactions rooted in equality and mutual respect will help foster healthy relationships.

Ability to Give Back to Others: living a financially independent lifestyle puts you in a position to give back to your community and those around you. When you take care of yourself, you have the capacity to support those around you.

In conclusion, financial independence is a powerful tool with many benefits. Having control of your finances, the ability to support yourself financially and knowledge about how to manage your finances give you the freedom to make choices that are best for you. To learn more about how you can start striving towards financial independence today, reach out to Syracuse University’s Office of Financial Literacy at finlit@syr.edu.

By: Kayla Johnson

 

¹“Financial Independence for Women of All Ages,” Research Financial Strategies, July 11, 2021, https://www.rfsadvisors.com/six-steps-to-financial-independence-for-women/.

² “Your Money Matters – the Women’s Law Center of Maryland,” 2023, http://wlcmd.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Your-Money-Matters-A-Guide-to-Financial-Independence-for-Women.pdf.

October 2022: Financial Abuse in a Child/Parent Relationship

Financial abuse in a child/parent relationship

Parental financial abuse is a common form of child abuse. This is a complex issue where the parent uses money as a weapon to take advantage of a minor. This can be done by stealing a child’s money or by using their personal information for economic gain. It is important to know the warning signs so you can help prevent or stop the abuse. Sometimes parents will use a child’s information to apply for credit cards, take out loans, or to make big purchases they cannot afford. This leaves the child with damaged credit and severe debt before they even hit adulthood. This can leave the victim in a constant poverty struggle once they get older. Credit scores are looked at by employers, landlords, and banks. This can make it difficult for them to get a loan for college, a mortgage on a house, or a loan for a car. Financial abuse can cause lifelong damage to a child’s future.

Financial abuse can be hard to identify because it is invisible compared to physical abuse. Children most likely won’t know they have been financially abused until it is too late, and the damage is done. Some parents do not realize the negative consequences of exploiting their child’s money. Since it is hard for a child to know what is going on, it is important for adults close to the children to be aware of red flags for financial abuse. This form of abuse may be happening if a child has a credit report, receives credit or bank information in their name, a parent consistently takes the child’s gifted/earned money and never allows them to have access to it, a parent demands all money given to the child to be placed in the parent’s name, or if the child is punished for spending their own money.

If financial abuse is suspected, there are a few steps you can take. First, have a conversation with the parents if it is safe to do so. Some parents do not think through the consequences of these actions. Educating them can help put a stop to this abusive behavior. You can also obtain a credit report using the child’s name to see if there is any damage. This will also act as proof in any legal matters. The next step would be to contact the lenders to cancel and come up with a payment plan.

By: Rachel Salmon

Oct. 2022

 

Reference: What is financial child abuse? (n.d.). ENDCAN. Retrieved October 10, 2022, from

https://endcan.org/2021/10/21/3-forms-of-financial-child-abuse/

 

 

 

October 2022: Why Shame Resilience is Important in Finances

Why Shame Resilience is Important in Finances

It can be hard to admit to or proclaim the things we don’t know – we may feel embarrassed, less than, or at a disadvantage to our peers when we speak up and let those around us know we are experiencing confusion or uncertainty. This fear of vulnerability can steam from feeling shame and utilizing shame and insecurity can be a vital tool when we are in an abusive or coercive situation, including when we may be subject to financial abuse.

Building up shame resilience can lead to a healthy sense of self and allow you to see the warning signs of financial abuse and plan to step away from those abusive behaviors if necessary.

You can start with a few actionable and immediate measures:

Ask for help.

In the Office of Financial Literacy, we refer to asking for help as exercising a skill or muscle. Often, we learn that asking for help may put a burden on others and this can make us self-conscious in doing so, we must learn and utilize this skill regularly so as to not get rusty and stop reaching out. Lean into asking for assistance in small tasks and around your schoolwork, and keep track of how often and how often you are greeted with kindness and grace.

 Give a sincere apology.

Saying sorry can feel shameful and humiliating because we must admit to being wrong. But accountability is important, both in others and ourselves. The better we are at providing sincere apologies that can be held to actionable change, the more equipped we are to fight off the immediate shame that follows. This increases self-awareness and helps identify when we might be OVER-apologizing, too.

Adjust for accuracy.

Changing your language to help reality check instead of allowing negative self-talk and internal criticism to push you toward shame is an actionable step you can take today and will improve your relationship with personal finances almost immediately. Not everyone will prioritize or value the same things you might, nor will their version of success, joy or livelihood look like your own and verbally recognizing this will help you quell the impulsive purchasing habits that might come with wanting material things others have or feeling left out or left behind because certain opportunities do not fit your financial scope right now. Although those moments can be frustrating and should be acknowledged as such, often it can feel less damaging and hurtful if you put into words why you might be feeling that way and if this is truly a priority for yourself.

 Pass along your knowledge.

Sharing is caring and connecting. Connection fosters belonging and is the antithesis of shame. The more you learn and share with your peers and those around you, the more you are able to learn and grow into yourself. You can set goals without being influenced by other’s success but instead inspired by their knowledge and sense of know-how. The exchange of information allows you to better understand how other’s might see the world and their own personal finances and creates opportunities for shared vulnerability, which helps fight back and resist shame when we understand where one another is coming from.

By: Karina Anderson McNary

Oct. 2022

October 2022: Welcome Letter

October Welcome Letter:

Financial Abuse

Hello and welcome to the Office of Financial Literacy’s blog. Each month, our office will be writing and publishing articles covering a specific topic related to financial literacy. The purpose of this blog is to act as a resource for SU students so they can equip themselves with the knowledge to take control of their finances.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and financial abuse is an insidious version of domestic violence that occurs in 98% of abusive relationships (PCADV). Financial abuse is extremely widespread, yet it goes unidentified by many. The Office of Financial Literacy believes awareness of financial abuse is imperative to protecting yourself or others financially. Therefore, we will be covering many topics related to financial abuse awareness throughout the month of October.

Financial abuse, also known as economic abuse, occurs when “one intimate partner has control over the other partner’s ability to access, acquire, use, or maintain economic resources, which diminishes the victim’s capacity to support themselves and forces intentioned dependence.”

People who find themselves in financially abusive relationships are stripped of their financial independence. Victims are manipulated into situations where they don’t have the money or resources to support themselves or their children without the abuser. Financial abuse is the number one reason victims stay in or return to their abusive relationships (PCADV). Therefore, it is crucial to understand the signs of financial abuse so you can recognize and prevent it from happening to you or someone you love.

According to the NNED (National Network to End Domestic Violence), the signs of financial abuse include:

  • Forbidding the victim to work.
  • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace or causing the victim to lose her/his job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews.
  • Forbidding the victim from attending job training or advancement opportunities.
  • Controlling how all of the money is spent.
  • Not including the victim in investment or banking decisions.
  • Not allowing the victim access to bank accounts.
  • Withholding money or giving “an allowance.”
  • Forcing the victim to write bad checks or file fraudulent tax returns.
  • Running up large amounts of debt on joint accounts.
  • Refusing to work or contribute to the family income.
  • Withholding funds for the victim or children to obtain basic needs such as food and medicine.
  • Hiding assets.
  • Stealing the victim’s identity, property, or inheritance.
  • Forcing the victim to work in a family business without pay.
  • Refusing to pay bills and ruining the victims’ credit scores.
  • Forcing the victim to turn over public benefits or threatening to turn the victim in for “cheating or misusing benefits.”
  • Filing false insurance claims.
  • Refusing to pay or evading child support or manipulating the divorce process by drawing it out by hiding or not disclosing assets

It is important to note that financial abuse does not occur only in romantic relationships. Financial abuse can also take place in familial relationships (ex. parent/child relationships).

For more information on financial abuse and other important financial literacy topics, subscribe to our newsletter and check out our blog which will be updated throughout the week. If you think that you or someone you know may be a victim of financial abuse, please go check out this link.

References:

https://nnedv.org/content/about-financial-abuse/

https://www.pcadv.org/financial-abuse/