Develop your financial know-how with Carebridge Financial Planner Lou Leyes



Campus and community

Earlier this year, a new series of financial wellness workshops, Develop Your Financial Literacy, was introduced to faculty and staff. The workshops were offered by Carebridge, the University’s Faculty and Staff Assistance Program.

Three separate workshops were offered virtually and facilitated by Lou Leyes, a financial planner with nearly 19 years of experience helping people achieve their financial goals. He offered practical advice to faculty and staff in the areas of personal finance management, debt control and developing a savings strategy.

In this Q&A, Leyes discusses how to engage and automate your savings, the importance of credit scores, and where to turn for help to make sure you’re saving enough for retirement. If you missed the Build Your Financial Literacy live offers, there are recorded webinars available on the HR website.

  • 01

    What should a person be looking at to start saving money or saving more money? What are the best ways to make saving money a habit?

    Successfully starting or growing your savings comes down to two basic things: engagement and automation.

    The commitment is your personal promise that you will add more money to the savings component of your financial plan. It helps to have a goal in mind and a way to celebrate milestones along the way. The commitment also comes from doing the work to build your savings plan. Understanding where your money is going is the first step in taking control of your personal finances.

    Automation prepares you for success by putting money into savings without your direct action. Use your direct deposits to send money to a separate account, maybe even a separate bank, if that helps you keep it there!

    Once you’ve built your savings plan, review your progress every month. See what adjustments are needed or what may have been left out of the plan. Adjust the plan and keep going!

    If you have a partner or spouse, be sure to talk to them about these plans. Get their help with accountability (or enlist the help of a “budget buddy!”)

  • 02

    Why should a person be concerned about their credit rating?

    Your credit score impacts a number of things beyond just getting a new credit card and / or a lower mortgage rate (which are important in and of themselves). Rightly or wrongly, insurance companies use credit scores as a measure of risk. The challenge with credit is that when you need it most, you may not be able to get it. Having a good credit rating makes it easier.

    Rebuilding your credit score, if necessary, begins with a spending plan. You need to know how much you will need to spend on your unpaid debts to make them disappear permanently. The best first step is to make sure that you are paying at least the minimum owed each month. Missed payments are the biggest contributor to a declining credit score.

  • 03

    How does someone start making a plan for retirement? How much should I save?

    There are “rules of thumb” that can help you set your financial goals for retirement. For example, many calculators assume that your retirement income “should” be about 80% of the income earned during your working years. However, I think it’s best to determine your desired budget… how much do you want to spend? How will life be for you? How are you going to spend your time? What costs will you no longer have? What are you going to add to your budget?

    As for how much to save for retirement, it depends on where you are now. The short answer is usually “more”. If you are starting your career, consider contributing 10% to 15% of your income to your retirement plan, not including the employer’s contribution. If you’ve been working for a while but haven’t had a chance to start saving, you may need to contribute more. Start where you can now, however. No need to procrastinate anymore!

    Financial wellness resources are available to you, including one-on-one financial advice through TIAA and Carebridge who can help you answer these questions and take steps to develop a savings plan.

  • 04

    Who can you turn to for help managing your money and saving for the future?

    As an employee of Syracuse University, you can find financial counseling resources posted on the University’s website. Financial Well-Being Webpage, including advisory services provided by TIAA and Carebridge.

    Apart from the resources provided by the University, you can work with an independent financial advisor. There are many different types of advisers, from insurance agents to financial fiduciary planners. The Chartered Financial Planner Council has a short list of 10 questions consider asking an investment or retirement professional.



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