Home / WSSNEWS Bloggers (page 10)

WSSNEWS Bloggers

Financial Spring Cleaning

Vernell Taylor Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager Union Bank, N.A.

Vernell Taylor
Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager
Union Bank, N.A.

By Vernell Taylor

Spring is here and many of us are busy cleaning out closets and dusting the cobwebs that may have accumulated during the winter. While you are taking on spring cleaning projects, consider taking a fresh look at your finances.

Following are a few tips to help with your financial spring cleaning:

Revisit your budget

Review your household budget and look for areas where you might be spending more than you should, or budgeting more than you might need, and then adjust your budget accordingly. Use this time to revisit your short- and long-term goals for expenses, such as college, purchasing a home, or retirement, and make sure you are setting aside enough in savings. Look for ways to pay down debt and contribute more to savings and investments on a regular basis.

Automate
Talk to your banker about technology and services that your bank may offer to help simplify your finances. Take advantage of direct deposit, online banking, and automatic payments for recurring bills, and set up regular automatic transfers to savings, investment and retirement accounts.

Look for ways to cut expenses

If you carry a balance on your credit cards, call your credit card company and ask for a lower interest rate, or seek alternatives elsewhere. If you notice that mortgage rates have dropped two or more points than what you are paying, consider refinancing your home mortgage at a lower interest rate. Compare home and auto insurance plans and contact your insurance agent and ask if you can reduce your rate. Contact your utility company to inquire about possible ways to save on your bill.  Consider adjusting your withholding so you get as much money as possible in your paycheck versus a large refund when you file taxes.

Review important financial documents and policies

Pull copies of your will and/or living trust, and other important documents and review them to make sure they are up to date. Obtain a copy of your credit report and correct any errors. To get a free credit report from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus, go to annualcreditreport.com. Review insurance policies to make sure you have adequate coverage and a designated beneficiary of your choosing.

Consolidate accounts

If you have multiple 401k accounts, consider rolling them into a single IRA account to allow for streamlined control of your investments and to help reduce the paperwork of multiple accounts. Reduce your monthly bills by consolidating debts or loans into as few accounts as possible, and simplify even more by bundling services such as cable, internet and phone.

Control the clutter

Set up a simple filing system, and use it consistently.  Assign folders, binders, or other receptacles to gather pending bills, statements, receipts and important financial documents, and store them in a safe place. Shred unnecessary paper, such as old sales receipts that have no tax purpose, or utility bills that can be accessed online. Consider creating digital files by scanning documents and filing them on your computer, but be sure to have that information backed up on a CD, flash drive or back up service. Inquire about paperless billing options to reduce the amount of paper waste and clutter.

Update your calendar 
Set up a calendar to remind you when bills are due, policies are up for renewal, tax deadlines and other important financial dates to avoid late fees and penalties. Don’t forget to include reminders for things like year-end charitable contributions, and regular meetings with your banker or investment advisor to review your holdings and take into consideration any changing goals or circumstances.

The foregoing article is intended to provide general information about financial spring cleaning and is not considered financial or tax advice. Please consult your financial or tax advisor.

 

NHSA HEALTHY START FATHERS – REAL LIFE, REAL DADS

Black father carrying daughter on shoulders on beachBy Kenn Harris – National Healthy Start Association, Dads Matter Initiative, Armin Brott – Mr. Dad

We all know (or at least we should know) how important fathers are in their children’s lives. Children with involved fathers get better grades and are more likely to graduate high school. They’re less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol or to get involved in criminal activity. They’re more independent, manage their emotions better, are less violent, and have higher levels of empathy than kids whose dads aren’t involved. Boys with involved dads learn how to treat the women in their lives, and girls with involved dads learn what they should expect from the men in their lives.

However, none of this happens if dad isn’t around—a scenario that’s especially common in low-income communities where families tend to be younger, unmarried, less educated, and resource deprived. Most of the services available to these families (prenatal care, new parent classes, and so on) are actually targeted at mothers and for the most part, completely exclude fathers. Dads get the message that they have no role in their children’s lives. Too many take that message to heart and simply back away.

The National Healthy Start Association (NHSA) is committed to changing that dynamic and to giving men the tools and support they need to become the fathers they truly want to be—and their children need them to be.  We know from our research that men don’t access services in the same way as women do, and that men and fathers experience great challenges in navigating systems that weren’t designed for them, systems, which traditionally have ignored them.

Recognizing the need to help fathers overcome those obstacles, NHSA developed the Core Adaptive Model© (CAM©) to reach fathers across urban, rural, border, and tribal communities. Building on lessons we’ve learned after 20 years of implementing the federal Maternal Child Health (MCH) program, the goal of our fatherhood programs is to ensure the creation of father-friendly environments that respect the diverse needs (cultural, financial, emotional, and otherwise) of the men and fathers we serve.

One of the most important elements of NHSA Fatherhood programs is training providers and staff about how to approach, engage, and serve men and fathers. Putting a few sports or car magazines in the office waiting room helps but isn’t nearly enough.

Father and teenage son standing outdoors

NHSA Fatherhood programs are race- and culturally responsive and are designed to promote impactful engagement and focus on inclusion, involvement, investment, and integration. Most importantly, our programs view each father as a unique and valued member of a family, and emphasize his roles and responsibilities across the life-course (before, during, after, and beyond pregnancy).  One of our interventions, “Dads and Diamonds are Forever,” is an 11-week curriculum that aims to restore a man’s sense of value to himself, his child(ren), the mother of his child(ren), and his community.

But since fatherhood is just one facet of men’s identity, we also educate our fathers (and their partners) about “men’s health,” in the broadest sense, including mental, physical, social, emotional, and financial.  A man’s health influences his ability to successfully engage with his family, and we know that the healthiest fathers—the ones who take charge of their own health, who support their children and the mothers of their children—have the potential to be the best fathers, and to become the most positive contributors to their communities.

To help us achieve our goal of meeting the needs of at-risk fathers nationwide through best-practice and evidence-based programming, we often partner with other organizations that share similar goals and whose expertise complements our own. June is Men’s Health Month, and as men’s unique health needs become more widely known and documented, we’ve partnered with Men’s Health Network (the organization responsible for helping pass the legislation that created National Men’s Health Week) to increase the health literacy of the men NHSA serves and the health providers who deliver those services.

We also recently partnered with MrDad.com on a “Texting with Dads” program that delivers engaging, educational messages about pregnancy, infant and child development, family planning, age-appropriate activities, partner support, and men’s health directly to the dad’s cellphone.

So this week, the National Healthy Start Association and our partners wish each and every father a happy, healthy Father’s Day. We recognize that most dads today aren’t Jim Anderson (Father Knows Best), nor are they Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show), and we recognize that although many dads today face tremendous obstacles—cultural, educational, financial, and legal—to being as involved as they’d like to be, they care about their family and love their children just as passionately as those idealized TV fathers do, and all of us need to do everything we can to support them.

To learn more, go to:

National Healthy Start Association – www.nationalhealthystart.org

Mr. Dad – www.mrdad.com

Men’s Health Network – www.menshealthnetwork.org

Men’s Health Month – www.menshealthmonth.org

Men’s Health Resource Center – www.menshealthresourcecenter.org

An Arts & Civil Pioneer Called to Rest

Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier

Ruby Dee and Sidney Poitier

The greatest gift is not being afraid to question

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Husband and Wife, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee

Before there was Will and Jada Smith, there was Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis. The two of them were a formidable force within the performing arts and civil rights movement. They were the master and mistress of ceremonies at the 1963 March on Washington, and Mrs. Dee was friends with the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.  In rewards for her great achievements she was awarded with the Frederick Douglas Award in 1970 from the New York Urban League, and that’s just a little of all that she accomplished.

The arts and civil pioneer paved milestones for others who would soon follow in her footsteps, and for that she will always be remembered and acknowledged. She was called to rest peacefully at her New Rochelle, NY home on Wednesday, June 11 at 91-years-old.

The award-winning actress definitely lived a full and accomplished life. She had a seven-decade career which included several victories on stage and on screen. She was best known for co-starring in the film A Raisin in the Sun (1961) and the film American Gangster (2007), which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In addition to that nomination, she was also the recipient of Grammy, Emmy, Obie, Drama Desk, Screen Actors Guild, and Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Awards, as well as the National Media of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.

“I’m crushed by this bad news and I know Ruby has already been embraced in a warm loving hug from her life partner of 57 years — Mr. Ossie Davis. It has been one of my great blessings in life to work with two of the finest artist and activist — Ruby and Ossie… The both of you told us ‘to always do the right thing.’ — Spike Lee

Other entertainment achievements by Mrs. Ruby Dee included:

  • Joining the American Negro Theater as an apprentice where she worked with Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and Hilda Simms.
  • Her first onscreen role was in the That Man of Mine in 1946.
  • She received national recognition for her role in the 1950 film of The Jackie Robinson Story.
  • In 1965, she performed in lead roles at the American Shakespeare Festival as Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Cordelia in King Lear, becoming the first black actress to portray a lead role in the festival.
  • In the 1960s, she appeared in politically charged films such as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.
  • She was nominated for eight Emmy Awards, winning once for her role in the 1990 TV film Decoration Day. She was nominated for her television guest appearance in the China Beach episode, “Skylark”.
  •  She appeared in Spike Lee’s 1989 film Do the Right Thing, and his 1991 film Jungle Fever.
  • On February 12, 2009, Dee joined the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College orchestra and chorus, along with the Riverside Inspirational Choir and NYC Labor Choir, in honoring Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday at the Riverside Church in New York City. Under the direction of Maurice Peress, they performed Earl Robinson‘s The Lonesome Train: A Music Legend for Actors, Folk Singers, Choirs, and Orchestra, in which Dee was the Narrator.

Ruby Dee’s achievements within the civil rights movement included:

  • She was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
  • In 1963, Dee emceed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 
  • She was inducted into the New Rochelle Walk of Fame which honors the most notable residents from throughout the community’s 325 year history. She was also inducted into the Westchester County Women’s Hall of Fame on March 30, 2007.
  • In 2009 she received an Honorary Degree from Princeton University.

“Standing on the shoulders of your legend and Forever grateful for ur impact on this world and my life Miss #RubyDee. Rest on High.” — Tony winner Billy Porter.