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Here’s What to Ask When Saving for the Unexpected..

As your life changes, the amount you need in your emergency fund will change as well. It’s a good idea to revisit your emergency fund plan every six months or any time you experi-ence a life event that impacts your income. Marriage, starting or adding to your family, buying a home, and divorce are just a few examples of when you may need to increase your emer-gency fund. A good savings plan can roll with the punches right alongside you!

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Tracking your spending can help you estimate monthly expenses. Completing this exercise can also help you figure out how much you can afford to save toward your emergency fund each month.
Tracking your spending can help you estimate monthly expenses. Completing this exercise can also help you figure out how much you can afford to save toward your emergency fund each month.

 Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co. 

Finances are different for everyone, and so are the life events we all go through. An emergency fund is your financial line of defense against life’s lemons. Although there are many financial rules of thumb, there is no “normal” way to handle your emergency fund. 

The bottom line: saving money is the first line of defense to financial wellness, especially when the unexpected happens. While nobody can predict the future, everyone can prepare for it. 

Oakland Community Manager Myesha Brown.

Oakland Community Manager Myesha Brown.

What is the reason for my emergency fund? 

Your emergency fund is a safety net that can help you avoid getting into a difficult financial situation due to a loss of income or unexpected, one-time expenses. Having one in place can reduce stress, anxiety, and other emotions that could make handling the non-financial aspects of an emergency much more difficult. 

It may seem a little obvious that an emergency fund is for emergencies. However, one of the challenging aspects of an emergency fund is knowing what expenses qualify as an emergency. This fund’s sole purpose is to prepare you for costs that you cannot or would not typically plan out. For example, oil changes and new tires are predictable vehicle expenses you should plan for in your regular savings. However, you wouldn’t typically plan for costs that you could incur on the off chance that you need to make emergency home repairs or pay for emergency medical expenses. You would cover these from your emergency fund. 

How much do I need? 

How much would a new furnace cost? If you could not work, how much would you need to cover essential expenses until you could? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you set a goal amount for your emergency fund.

The general rule of thumb is three to six months of essential expenses. However, you can always start with a goal you find achievable. Say $1,000. Once you reach that goal, aim for three months of rent, then three months of essential expenses, and so on.

Tracking your spending can help you estimate monthly expenses. Completing this exercise can also help you figure out how much you can afford to save toward your emergency fund each month.

How do I save that much?

Start small: If you haven’t started, consider putting $25 from every paycheck into a savings account. Even a few dollars can make a big impact in the long run. Check your budget or spend-ing plan to see how much you can save after you’ve paid essential expenses and before budgeting for discretionary spending.

Keep it separate: Open a separate savings account to help you resist the temptation to dip into it. Remember, this account is for emergencies, so keep it away from your daily spending accounts and separate it from vacation and holiday savings. This method will help you stay organized, visualize your progress, and provide peace of mind.

Automate your savings: One way to automate is via direct de-posit. You may be able to instruct your employer to deposit a por-tion of your paycheck directly into your emergency savings ac-count every pay period. Alternatively, you can set up an automatic transfer from your primary checking account to your emergency savings account on payday. Both methods save you from adding a manual transfer to your to-do list that may be overlooked if things get busy! 

Will I ever need to change the amount?

As your life changes, the amount you need in your emergency fund will change as well. It’s a good idea to revisit your emergency fund plan every six months or any time you experi-ence a life event that impacts your income. Marriage, starting or adding to your family, buying a home, and divorce are just a few examples of when you may need to increase your emer-gency fund. A good savings plan can roll with the punches right alongside you!

How do I prioritize emergency savings against debt and other goals?

Deciding whether you should pay down debt, save for other goals, or grow your emergency fund is all about the big picture. Everyone has different financials, so that picture will vary person-to-person. What will impact you the most financially? Paying down debt and saving money long term or having a plan B that allows you to keep making minimum payments if you lose income? There is no right or wrong answer.

Your emergency fund is there to help you expense the un-expected. So, make a plan and be ready for whatever comes your way! 

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Advice

Buying a Home May Not Be as Out of Reach as You Think, Even in This Market

While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low levels of housing inventory and supply chain constraints have created an affordability squeeze for homebuyers. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months — from 3% in 2021 to close to 6% in 2022 — making it increasingly challenging for many Americans to purchase a home, especially for those with limited income.

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While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors
While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Here’s How You Can Achieve Homeownership

Buying a home is one of the most important purchases you will make in your lifetime. Pressure is mounting for those looking to buy right now, with home prices fluctuating and mortgage rates at their highest levels in over a decade.

While existing home sales have fallen month-over-month since the beginning of the year, prices hit a record high above $400,000 in May, according to the National Association of Realtors, as low levels of housing inventory and supply chain constraints have created an affordability squeeze for homebuyers. Mortgage rates have nearly doubled in the last six months — from 3% in 2021 to close to 6% in 2022 — making it increasingly challenging for many Americans to purchase a home, especially for those with limited income.

So, how do you know when you’re ready to buy a home? More importantly, how much home can you afford? We sat down with Denise Richardson, community home lending advisor at Chase, to answer those questions and discuss what the current state of the market means for you and your family’s home buying dreams.

Q: What are the main factors mortgage lenders look at when evaluating an application?

Richardson:

When it comes to homeownership, your credit score and debt-to-income ratio are major factors in the application process.

Your credit score is set based upon how you’ve used — or not used — credit in the past. Using credit responsibly, such as paying bills on time and having a low utilization rate will result in a higher score. Higher credit scores can help you qualify for the lowest interest rates. A score at 700 or above is generally considered good.

Additionally, lenders look at your debt-to-income ratio. This is a simple equation of how much debt you have relative to how much money you make. Borrowers with a higher debt-to-income ratio are considered more risky while a lower debt-to-income ratio may allow you to qualify for the best rates on your home loan.

Q: What are some tips for improving your credit score?

Richardson: There are a number of things you can do to improve your credit score, starting with reviewing your credit reports to understand what might be working against you. You can also pay down your revolving credit and dispute any inaccuracies.

Additionally, there are services like Chase Credit Journey to help monitor and improve your credit score. Credit Journey monitors all your accounts and alerts you to changes in your credit report that may impact your score. You’ll get an alert any time Chase sees new activity, including charges, account openings and credit inquiries. Chase will also notify you if there are changes in your credit usage, credit limits or balances. You don’t have to be a Chase customer to take advantage of Credit Journey.

Q: What are some factors that can affect the cost of a mortgage?

Richardson: There are several factors to consider when reviewing mortgage options including loan term, interest rate and loan type. Potential homebuyers should contact a home lending professional to understand and review the options available to them.

For example, there are two basic types of mortgage interest rates: fixed and adjustable. While adjustable rates are initially low, they can change over the course of a loan, so your mortgage payments may fluctuate. Loan term indicates how long you have to pay off the loan. Many homebuyers tend to opt for a 15-year or 30-year mortgage, though other terms are available. A longer loan term generally means you’ll have lower monthly payments, but you’ll pay more in interest over the life of the loan. A shorter loan term may come with higher monthly payments, but you’ll likely pay much less in interest over time.

Q: What are the costs of homeownership beyond the monthly mortgage payment?

Richardson: People often think of the down payment and monthly mortgage — but buying and owning a home carries additional costs. Closing costs, for example, can amount to up to 3% or more of the final purchase price. Other factors that could add on to your monthly payments are property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and homeowner’s association (HOA) fees. To get an idea of what this may look like for you, use an affordability calculator.

While there is no way for a buyer to completely avoid paying these fees, there are ways to save on them. Some banks offer financial assistance for homebuyers. As an example, Chase’s Homebuyer Grant offers up to $5,000 that can be used toward a down payment or closing costs in eligible neighborhoods across the country. There may also be homeowners’ or down payment assistance offered in your city or state. Contact a home lending advisor to learn about resources you may be eligible for.

For a deeper dive into this topic, our Beginner to Buyer podcast — episode three, “How Much Can I Afford?” is a great resource for prospective homebuyers to get answers to all their homebuying questions.

Learn more about the homebuying process, here.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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Advice

A Sampling of Dining Out Options for Thanksgiving Soul Food Around California

While many people enjoy preparing and eating that turkey dinner at home, some people prefer to outsource their feast. For those folks, here’s a small sampling of some soul food restaurants around the state that will be open on or around Thanksgiving.

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Minnie Bell’s sign and a pan of their typical fare: Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese. Facebook image and photo.
Minnie Bell’s sign and a pan of their typical fare: Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese. Facebook image and photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and with that comes greens, beans, candied yams, turkey (roasted and deep-fried), dressing, mac n’ cheese, sweet potato pie and all the other soul food “fixins” that make the holiday meal arguably the tastiest meal of the year for many African Americans. We can choose from a diverse menu of food options that we prepare at home, or we can try to enjoy those options dining out.

The city of Inglewood, for example, is hosting a drive-thru turkey giveaway on Nov. 23 with special guest Snoop Dogg.

The event will go from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and is located at Hollywood Park. The goal is to serve 2,500 Inglewood residents with free turkeys provided by Don Lee Farms.

While many people enjoy preparing and eating that turkey dinner at home, some people prefer to outsource their feast.

For those folks, here’s a small sampling of some soul food restaurants around the state that will be open on or around Thanksgiving.

Minnie Bell’s (Emeryville)

Minnie Bell’s — a soul food truck in Emeryville up north — may not be open Thanksgiving Day, it will be open on the 23rd for those who want to celebrate a little early.

Founded by Fernay McPherson in 2013, “Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement” is born out of legacy.

“Fernay learned to cook from her great aunt Minnie and late grandmother Lillie Bell,” the website reads. “Fernay’s family arrived in San Francisco during the Great Migration as part of the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North and West.”

Minnie Bell’s is located in the Emeryville Public Market at 5959 Shellmound St.

StreetCar (San Diego)

On Nov. 24, they will be hosting a Thanksgiving feast event.

“Bring your friends and family on Thanksgiving Day for a celebratory feast,” their flyer reads.

The event is located at 4002 30th St. and will go from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Founded by Ron Suel and RaVae Smith in 2014, StreetCar specializes in southern cuisine and features an all-day brunch menu.

“You will find classic southern dishes and Louisiana favorites,” their website reads.

ComfortLA (Los Angeles)

In Downtown Los Angeles, ComfortLA is an option for those who want to eat out this holiday as it’s open on Thanksgiving Day.

Located on 1110 E. 7th St., ComfortLA was once a pop-up restaurant founded by Jeremy McBryde and Mark E. Walker.

ComfortLA focuses on taking a clean approach to their menu, sporting a variety of all-natural soul food options.

“We use locally sourced, fresh and organic ingredients and healthier cooking methods to create top-notch, Southern cuisine including ‘Cousin Kina’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese,’ ‘Clean Mean Greens’ and our signature ‘Organic Not Your Average Fried Chicken’ with ‘That Sauce,’” it reads on their website.

They also have an Inglewood location, though that restaurant is not open on Thanksgiving.

Hotville Chicken (Los Angeles)

The last establishment on this list is Hotville Chicken in Los Angeles.

This restaurant is not open the day of Thanksgiving, but patrons can order ahead of time and pick their food up on the 24th.

Hotville, then known as the BBQ Hot Chicken Shack, was founded by Thornton Prince in 1936 in a segregated part of town.

Thornton’s great-great niece Kim Prince now runs the family business.

Their website boasts about how spicy their chicken is, as Thornton’s original recipe focused heavily on a fiery flavor.

“If you’ve never heard about Nashville-style hot chicken, it’s certainly time to get familiar,” it reads.

Prince’s focus is on community, as Thornton’s original chicken recipe “brought people together” even in a divided town.

Hotville is located at 4070 Marlton Ave.

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Advice

Michelle Obama’s New Book Gives Advice on Managing Difficult Times

Author Michelle Obama is a true storyteller, and she uses a “show, not tell” method of writing. Readers are lulled into an entertaining story of life in the White House, or a gossipy snip of Obama’s married life, or a shared memory from her childhood and BAM! the words seamlessly roll over to an easy, do-able tip to survive in hard times. Nice surprise.

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Life and children's games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.
Life and children's games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.

By Terri Schlichenmeyer | The Bookworm Sez

Your entire life is like a gigantic game of “Chutes and Ladders.”

Shake the dice, move two steps ahead, and you hit a ladder that takes you to higher places on the game board. Three more squares, and you hit a chute that sends you back to the bottom.

Life and children’s games are alike in this way: as in the new book “The Light We Carry” by Michelle Obama, the only way to win is to keep playing.

Pandemic, recession, political divide, market volatility. For many months, you’ve wondered every morning what fresh chaos you’ll deal with that day. So, what keeps you going? How do we overcome feelings of being “wobbly and unsettled?”

Michelle Obama says she ponders this “a lot.” She thinks about the things she uses to keep her “balanced and confident…moving forward even during times of high anxiety and stress.” She calls them her “personal toolbox” and she shares them in this book.

Most recently, she says, the pandemic taught her the value of having a hobby to relax into, to let her hands work, “my mind trailing behind.” Her early life taught her the value of seeing the difference between real fear and fear of newness and change, the latter of which is surprisingly easy to overcome. Newness offers us “chances to grow.”

“I’ve come to understand,” she says, “that sometimes the big stuff becomes easier to handle when you deliberately put something small alongside it.”

Listen to your body, Obama says, and “pay attention to how you’re feeling.” Collect small boosts and learn to look at yourself in a more positive way. Love your differences and be kind to yourself because it’s “everything.” Be open to connections with others; cultivate friendships you can count on. “Know your own light,” Obama says, and “Share it with another person.”

Be authentic.

And finally, she says, “Tell the truth, do your best by others, keep perspective, stay tough. That’s basically been our recipe for getting by.”

Chances are that at some point in the past nearly three years, you got out of bed one morning and you weren’t even sure why. It’s been a long haul and you’re tired but “The Light We Carry” can get you to the next goal, then the next.

At first glance, it doesn’t look like that kind of a book, though.

Author Michelle Obama is a true storyteller, and she uses a “show, not tell” method of writing. Readers are lulled into an entertaining story of life in the White House, or a gossipy snip of Obama’s married life, or a shared memory from her childhood and BAM! the words seamlessly roll over to an easy, do-able tip to survive in hard times. Nice surprise.

Readers will be further glad to know that this isn’t a cheerleading book. Instead of U-Rah-Rah, it’s U Can Do This, told in a calm, knowing manner. And if that’s what you need in this time of turmoil, let “The Light We Carry” help you back onto the ladder.

“The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times” by Michelle Obama

c.2022, Crown, $32.50, 319 pages.

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