Establishing a strong financial future is important for many reasons: buying a home, planning for college, starting a business, saving for retirement and much more. From your credit score to setting a family budget, financial wellness is a crucial consideration.
But we also know that getting started with your financial goals can feel overwhelming. This page is designed to provide free resources to help you get started down the road to financial wellness.
Learn about the basics of financial wellness: banking services, your credit score, budgeting and more.
The basics of banking
- FDIC Money Smart Series – Use this series of podcasts from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to learn more about financial institutions and their services. The FDIC’s Money Smart podcasts are available online and include information on:
- The role of banks and how they work
- Managing a checking account
- Savings accounts and spending
- Borrowing money
- The Annual Percentage Rate (APR) and What it Means When You Borrow Money – It’s important to understand the APR before you go for a loan. Use this American Financial Services Association Education Foundation guide to understand APR, and its relationship to your credit score, so you can select the loan option that’s best for you.
- Making Smart Choices About Credit Cards – Credit cards are a convenient way to pay, but you need to understand the ins and outs of using them. Use this USA.gov site to learn more about credit cards and using them wisely.
- Thinking About a Personal Loan? – Find out more about how personal loans work and what you need to know before you apply. Use this American Financial Services Association Education Foundation guide to use loan options effectively to buy a car, fund home repairs, secure cash for an emergency, and more.
- Breaking Down Your Credit Score – Before you get started with any loan, read this article to understand what your credit score means, why it varies between credit reporting services and why it’s important to understand where you stand before you borrow money for a car, house or even a college education.
- Credit Score, Credit History and Credit Report – They all sound similar, but understanding the nuances of these separate, but related, credit components is critical. Use this overview from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau so you can develop a proactive approach to managing your overall credit picture.
- Spring Cleaning for Your Credit Report – Monitoring your credit score should be an active item on your “to do” list each year. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. Verify the accuracy of each item listed and report any incorrect items. Use this web page to find out how to get your free annual credit report.
- Credit Invisible: When Having Too Little Credit Actually Hurts You – More than 26 million people in the U.S. do not have any credit history with one of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. This makes it nearly impossible to borrow money for a home, car, college education or other vital needs. Read this article from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and use their resources to learn how to develop a favorable credit history.
- Product and Service Complaints – When a product or service fails to meet your expectations, you may have recourse. Use the Federal Trade Commission’s suggestions and resources to learn what to say to try and resolve your issues with an online or in-person business.
- Resources for Military Spouses – MilSpouse Money Mission™ was created by a team of financial professionals who understand military life because they have experienced military life. Use these tools to make smart money moves.
- mySocialSecurity – Use this online portal from the U.S. Social Security Administration to verify your work history, and understand your eligibility for certain benefits.
- Dealing with Debt – What are your options when debt becomes too overwhelming? This U.S. government-run online portal offers practical options for getting out of debt.
Buying a home
Buying a home is one of the best ways to secure wealth and invest in your future. Learn about the process, credit scoring and credit repair, as well as grant programs and special incentives for first-time homebuyers. Please note, some of these programs are geographically specific and our resources may only be available in Central and Western New York.
Credit scores & credit repair
Maintaining a favorable credit score ensures eligibility for better rates and terms for every lending situation, and especially home loans.
- Five Tips for Improving Your Credit Score – Sometimes it is the little things that matter most. This article from the U.S. Federal Reserve Board details the five things that make the most difference in raising your credit score.
- Common Credit Report Errors and How to Fix Them – Your credit report is only as accurate as the information being reported, and errors are not uncommon. Use this guide from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to identify and fix errors on your credit report.
- Debt Repayment and Credit Counseling – If you need help, call on one of our region’s best resources:
- Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester (CCCS). CCCS is a not-for-profit committed to helping individuals and families deal with financial challenges and promote financial wellness.
- You can also find a list of U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development-approved credit and housing counseling services on the agency’s website.
- Credit Xpert – GRB offers mortgage customers credit score repair assistance via Credit Xpert, a modeling program designed to provide customized recommendations for improving credit scores for those engaged in the home buying process. Contact the GRB Mortgage Team for more information.
Grants & discounts
- Homebuyer Dream ProgramTM – This special program from the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York offers significant grants (up to $15,000) for first-time homebuyers meeting certain income requirements. More information is available on our HDP page.
- Employer Grant Programs – Many employers in Central and Western New York support their employees’ home ownership goals with grants and special discounts available through preferred lenders. Visit our mortgage programs page to find out more about what is available to employees of the University of Rochester (see University Homeownership Incentive Program below), Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester General Hospital, and more.
- University Homeownership Incentive Program – In partnership, the University of Rochester, City of Rochester, and GRB provide matching grants of $3,000 each for qualifying homebuyers buying in select city neighborhoods. See our Blog post for more information for qualifying information and instructions on how to apply.
Financing a college education
- Resources for Parents and Students – It’s important that parents and students are on the same page when it comes to financing a college education. Use these National Endowment for Financial Education to plan. A complete curriculum for students and multiple tools for parents is available. A financial education curriculum is also available for teachers to use in their classrooms.
- Private Loans or Federal Loans? – Use this online comparison guide to understand the difference between these two loan options and decide which one (or which combination!) is better for you.
- What Does Your College Financial Aid Offer Really Mean? – Use this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau tool to analyze your college financial aid offer.
- Beyond Loans…Other Ways to Put Money Towards Your Education – Loans are just the beginning when it comes to financing your college education. Find out more from the U.S. Department of Education about supplemental programs like work study, grants, scholarships, loan repayment, and more.
- GRB Lending Options – Finance an education with a personal loan or home equity line of credit.
What does it take to buy a house? What is the payment for a new car? How much money would you have at retirement if you saved a certain amount of money every week? Use these calculators and models to see what it takes to accomplish your financial goals.
- Your Budget: The First Step to Financial Security – This simple online tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides the basics for understanding your income and expenses so you can make smart choices with your money.
- Demystify Your Federal Tax Withholding Selection – How many exemptions should you claim? It depends on many factors. Use this easy calculator from the IRS to make sure you don’t overpay or underpay your federal taxes.
- Create Your Savings Plan – Use the interactive U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission calculator to determine how much money you need to contribute each month in order to arrive at a specific savings goal.
- Become a Stock Market Investor Online Game – Use this fun online game to see how your favorite company stocks are doing. Use the additional lessons and resources to learn about investment terminology and different investment strategies. www.howthemarketworks.com/
- Retirement Distribution – Use the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission calculator to determine the Required Minimum Distribution you are required by IRS regulations to withdraw from your retirement fund at various ages.
Resources for kids
Financial wellness isn’t just for adults. Children can learn valuable lessons about money starting at a young age. Use these resources to guide your conversations with young children and teens alike.
- The Terminology of Taxes – The tax code has a language all its own, but there is an Internal Revenue Service glossary available to help improve your understanding of tax-related language. Great for research and reports, or understanding where your money goes when you receive your first paycheck!
- Age Appropriate Techniques for Learning the Value of Money – What can kids grasp about money — and when? A great article on when it’s time to start talking about money with your kids, and how those conversations can evolve as they get older.
- So, You Want to Chair the Fed – This online simulation game from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco gives you the power to set U.S. monetary policy as the Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Raise and lower rates and see what happens to unemployment, inflation and other key economic indicators.
- Fun and Games from the U.S. Mint – The U.S. Mint has a website dedicated to money-based games and activities for younger kids. Lots of options from word searches and puzzles to memory games and counting coins, this site has hours of fun.
- Money Apps for Kids – There are great apps for kids in any age range to help teach them about finances with practical lessons including managing an allowance, setting savings goals, earning money for doing chores, etc. A couple of the more highly rated options are Bankaroo, MoneyOrc and RoosterMoney.
- American Bankers Association Resources for Kids of All Ages – The ABA provides great financial wellness and career materials for kids ages kindergarten through young adult.
Financial fraud protection
Fraud. Scams. Identify Theft. They can take away everything you’ve worked so hard to build for your financial future. Find out more about how to prevent scammers from using both technology and old-fashioned confidence schemes to make you a victim.
- Using Monitoring Services for a Credit Freeze and Fraud Alerts – If you think your financial or personal information may have been compromised, you may consider additional, temporary protection in the form of a Credit Freeze or Fraud Alert. Use the Consumer Financial Protection website to find out how to implement these measures,
- Recovering from Identity Fraud – This guide from the Federal Trade Commission helps you develop a plan for dealing with the fallout from identity theft.
- Is Your Investment Professional Legit? – Find out if you’re dealing with a registered investment professional with a free simple search on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s Investor.gov homepage.
- Investment Opportunities that are Too Good to be True – “Can’t miss!” “Guaranteed!” “We’re going to make some serious money!” Promises like these are often a red flag for investment fraud. Use the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s fraud alert resources to find out more and protect yourself from financial scams.
- Avoid Financial Scams – The Federal Trade Commission actively works to educate consumers about common scams targeting individuals. Be aware, fraud is widespread. Visit the FTC’s website or sign up for its free fraud prevention email alerts.
- The Free Credit Report that Can Cost You Plenty – Yes, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. But beware of imposter websites and “credit monitoring” scams that can steal your personal information or sign you up for expensive services you don’t need. Only one website is authorized to provide the free credit report: AnnualCreditReport.com.
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