Money-saving tips for newlyweds

 Elli and Tony Dai on their wedding day and today

Elli and Tony on their wedding day (left) and today.

’Tis the wedding season, and I remember my big day ― now nearly 25 years ago ― as well as the financial challenges and lessons that followed.

While my job for Wells Fargo involves helping people save for retirement, I can tell you that my early married years were tough financially. We married fairly young (by today’s standards) and started our family early. My husband, Tony, delayed college while serving in the Army, so I worked while he earned his undergraduate degree. Then I went to night school for my master’s degree when he was done.

One child became two, and finally three.

Like many young families, we had a lot of financial goals to work toward. Money was tight. There were many weeks when we really weren’t sure how we were going to make it to the next paycheck. But we found our footing, figured out a plan that worked for us, and made it through.

Looking back, there were principles that helped us get our financial footing and build a solid foundation. What follows are five money-saving tips that have served us well. I hope they’ll do the same for other couples who are beginning their lives together.

  • Limit the number of credit cards. We came into our marriage with a bunch of smaller balances on different credit cards. It masked the true amount of debt that we had and also stressed me out to see all of the bills roll in each month. Our first joint task as a married couple was to pay off the cards one by one and get down to a single card that we paid off every month.
  • Save a little at a time. After our bills were paid each month, we’d see what was left over and if we could eke out an extra $50. Then, we started an automatic savings program to deduct that from our checking account every month, or add to one that we’d already set up. I’ll admit it was hard to commit to save those dollars, when we’d have rather had a nice dinner out. And we didn’t always follow through! But over time, this strategy helped us get into the savings habit. We were able to establish one account for every main goal that we had and were soon seeing our savings build every month. We also committed to save 85 percent of any raises or bonuses and took advantage of our 401(k) plans at work to squeeze out extra savings.
  • Focus on staying healthy. Simply put, we couldn’t afford to get sick. I had very little vacation time, and Tony had a job where if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid. Paying for a gym membership was out of the question. Fortunately, I knew how to cook inexpensive, healthy meals (thank you, Mom!), so we kept our grocery bills low and ate well. Tony would play in community sports leagues, which was a key source of exercise and inexpensive social outings for us. Thankfully, we made it through those years without any major medical issues.
  • Underspend on housing. Once things started to stabilize for us, we still chose to rent a tiny apartment for several years. We were constantly asked why we didn’t move to a nicer place now that we could afford to. In hindsight, those few extra years in the apartment were one of the best financial decisions we ever made. It freed up hundreds of dollars each month that we could sock away towards a down payment on our first house — and allowed us to finally establish a substantial emergency savings account.
  • Avoid the lure ― and prolonged payments ― of new cars. We’re not “car people,” so we buy mostly used cars and drive them until they die. We have a van that has more than 200,000 miles and could tell some great stories if only it could talk. Even avoiding having car payments for a few months (and saving the difference) can add up over the years.

While those are the basics that have served my husband and me well over the years, we’re always learning and adding to the list. (There are so many retirement planning calculators and tools available that can help you plan.) Example: That old “take your coffee to work to save money” cliché? Well, it’s true. I started doing that about nine months ago when I realized how much I was spending for my favorite chai latte every morning. I still enjoy a visit to the local barista occasionally with my teammates. But, I have racked up the savings and am living proof that sometimes even the most trite advice has merit!

Things are different for us now. Twenty-plus years of (mostly) good habits have allowed us to raise our kids and enjoy life without too many financial detours. But we hope to have a lot of years ahead of us, and so we also hope to continue to stay disciplined in reaching our next set of goals.

We’ll never be “the Joneses,” and we’re perfectly OK with that. Having lived on the financial edge, we treasure the peace of mind that comes from living within our means while continuing to save for the future.

What tips would you add to my list? Use the comments feature below to continue the conversation and help other young couples wisely move forward financially together.

About Elli

Dai leads the Participant Services group at Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust, where she oversees the education, communication, and call centers for retirement plan participants.

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The secret to saving for retirement: Life-stage planning

Top three reasons infographicMy family has been reaching a lot of important milestones lately. One of our daughters just graduated from college and got a job. My son just bought his first home, and my youngest daughter is entering her junior year in college — only two more years of tuition! Now empty nesters, my wife and I are contemplating downsizing.

All of these are major life changes that require guidance (whether from family, friends, or a professional) and planning, because they definitely affect saving for retirement.

So you can imagine how interested I was in this quarter’s Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index, which included a question about when investors would want to seek professional advice.

At the top of the list were creating a long-term financial plan, nearing retirement, and buying a house. At the bottom? Making a major purchase like buying a car, starting a new job, and getting married.

While that might surprise some, it doesn’t surprise those of us in the retirement industry. It also shows the considerable gap we’re still working to close as we help people realize retirement is something you have to plan for and work toward throughout life.

I like to think about it in four life stages:

  • Early savers, like my daughter, the new college grad with a new job.
  • Mid-career folks who have competing financial priorities – kids in college, aging parents, etc.
  • Near-retirees who have complex questions: When can I retire? How long should I plan on being retired? When do I begin collecting Social Security?
  • Retirees, who need to know how much monthly income they have to work with.

Because each life stage brings its own set of retirement-planning needs, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are some things to keep in mind as you move through each of them:

Early savers. If you have access to a workplace retirement plan, start using it as soon as you’re eligible, and make sure to save enough at least to get the company’s 401(k) match. You have the power of time on your side, and can make the most of compounding at this stage. If you don’t have a workplace plan, set up auto contributions to an IRA. Get in the habit of saving, and create a budget to help you stick to it as you’re just starting out. I always told my kids: Enroll in a workplace retirement plan, get the match, diversify your investments, contribute at least 10 percent, and come back to talk to me in 10 years about how your money has grown.

Mid-career f0lks. This is the time when your financial life becomes more complex. Maybe you have a family and a home and are starting to realize that retirement will one day arrive so you want to save more. But maybe you’re also trying to save for kids’ college or are caring for aging parents. It’s hard to balance these priorities. Step back and take a personal financial inventory. Look at monthly income and expenses (this can be done in minutes with most financial websites), and I am confident you can find discretionary expenses to shift to retirement savings. Even if it’s only a little now, it can make a difference later.

Near-retirees. By now, the light at the end of the professional tunnel is clearer, and you know retirement is just around the corner. This is when catch-up contributions can really help, so take advantage of them when you become eligible at age 50. Also, this is a time many begin thinking about how to make that retirement nest egg last through retirement. This can be a good time to seek professional financial help to figure that out – because it’s not only about figuring out your own longevity, but also how to manage risk so that your savings are protected as you’re reaching the end of your working years.

Retirees. You’ve crossed the finish line, but this can actually be an incredibly complex time with your money as you determine when to start collecting Social Security, where your income will come from (taxable accounts or tax deferred accounts?), how much to withdraw from your retirement savings each month, and how to address healthcare costs, and estimate how long you’ll live (and subsequently how long you need your money to last). Shifting from a regular salary to spending your retirement savings can be a scary transition given the complexity of decisions and options. Seek out the advice of financial professionals well in advance of your actual retirement date. Research and explore a number of potential strategies including optimization of Social Security choices, use of guaranteed income, longevity insurance, lifetime care options, and investment strategies that optimize income and manage risk. Active engagement and planning for your retirement income phase will make sure all your years of hard work and savings are maximized to help enjoy life in retirement – you’ve earned it!

Life does come at us fast, but when it comes to retirement saving, foresight always pays off.

About Joe
Ready is the director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, overseeing the company’s employer-sponsored retirement plan business as well as institutional trust and custody services to help America’s diverse workforce prepare for a better retirement.

full 2Q2015 Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index infographic

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Nail it! 9 ways to hone your startup’s pitch to a prospect

My job is to help tweak the evolution of technology at Wells Fargo by working with young companies that have innovations to offer us — and to influence the success of these young companies by exposing them to the scale of a large and complex corporation.

Too often, though, I feel like I’m at a “speed dating” exercise: Startup leaders, I find, seldom are expert at pitching their solutions to corporate executives.

For technology companies to be successful, you need to know how to navigate the labyrinth of stakeholders, incentives, concerns, and the accompanying risk, compliance, and business drivers of a company with scale and complexity.

In advance of Wells Fargo’s 2015 Technology Partnership Summit in San Francisco, we asked leaders from across Wells Fargo* for pointers they would give to tech companies pitching to larger clients.

  1. Acknowledge the obvious challenges
    Large, complex companies can challenge the best of technologies both in terms of size and architecture. Be prepared to constructively respond to this challenge with agility, differentiation, and speed-to-market. Your product, platform, and pitch should reflect this reality.
  2. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate
    You are potentially displacing or otherwise disrupting incumbent vendors. Be crisp on how you differentiate and fact-based on how your solution is unique. You can also explore partnering with a larger technology company for navigating enterprise scale.
  3. Get specific
    What can your technology do now versus what is in the roadmap ahead? At some stage in the pitching process, you’ll need to review your financials, funding, staffing, and sales pipeline. Be prepared with details for evaluation of things like what your cost model is and how you are positioned to compete and defend against copycats.
  4. Work your contacts
    Avoid the urge to send an email blast to everybody you can get to via LinkedIn. This has a counterproductive effect on a company’s appetite to engage and is a colossal waste of resources for all. A more effective method is to approach a company through a referral from your investor partner, a board member, or a key business or technology executive.
  5. Do your homework!
    Most larger companies have a wealth of public information in print, online, and social media. Understand the company’s scale, business imperatives, risk appetite, and more by doing your research ahead of time. Also know who you’re meeting with. Is it senior technology leaders? Their staffs? The receptionist? Know who they are, and tailor your message for the audience.
  6. Mute the sales pitch
    Most companies are acutely aware of the problems or opportunities for which you’re trying to solve. Avoid obvious and absolute superlatives and “market speak.” Instead, compare and contrast with obvious and not-so-obvious competitors and technically proven facts.
  7. Crawl before you run
    If feasible, start with smaller institutions before pitching to a larger company, which allows you to position more credibly to solve for the opportunity.
  8. Place the geeks front and center
    Bring your senior technical and executive leaders to deep-dive meetings so they can participate. Sales pitches are a dime a dozen. Large companies have armies of sales consultants. Differentiate your company by being technical, visionary, precise, and brief.
  9. Be pragmatic, not dogmatic
    Although you’re certain you can solve every problem — and your ideas are technically sound — be pragmatic in how it integrates in a cost-effective and risk-neutral way with existing technologies. Avoid getting into philosophical debates on what the possibilities are.

What tips would you share? What questions do you have? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


*Important disclaimer: These pointers are a synthesis of suggestions from several leaders at Wells Fargo who provided counsel: Phil Little of Wells Fargo Securities, Avi Avivi of Cybersecurity Architecture, Brian Pearce of Wells Fargo Virtual Channels, Jeff Peckham and Eric Altman of Enterprise Data/Analytics Architecture, Bipin Sahni of Wholesale Services and the Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator, and Vas Kodali of Advanced Technology and Partnerships.


About Manoj

Govindan works in Alliances for Advanced Technology & Partnerships at Wells Fargo, strengthening the company’s exposure to emerging technologies and supporting technology investment.

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A business plan: An essential part of small business success

Wells Fargo infographic showing only one in three businesses have a business plan. upon click, make this call up larger one provided here in attachmentsAs the former owner of a strategic marketing and communications agency in San Francisco, I can’t stress enough the importance of a written business plan. My small business didn’t have a documented plan, but if my partners (also good friends) and I were ever asked, we’d have said we had one in our heads.

This rings true for a lot of small business owners today. In fact, only one in three in our January 2015 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index said they had a formal, written plan. But those who told us they did have plans reported greater optimism for 2015, including plans to: add jobs, increase capital spending, and generate higher sales during the next 12 months.

Why are business plans important?

Today, I have the opportunity to be part of a team at Wells Fargo that is doing everything we can to help small businesses meet today’s demands and prepare for tomorrow. We know business owners in general are very busy and mainly focused on day-to-day activities. So it’s not surprising to see that creating a written business plan isn’t top-of-mind for most entrepreneurs. However, we believe that creating a formal business plan is an important step for a successful business — which is why we recently launched Wells Fargo’s Business Plan Center as the latest Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM offering.

The primary purpose of a business plan, in addition to defining what your business is and where you’re headed, is also to clarify what needs to be done to move ahead. A business plan is a living document that should be updated as goals are met and needs change. It doesn’t last forever, so modifying your plan is an important annual or quarterly exercise to help you focus on the future as well as the day-to-day.

In looking back at my experience as a small business owner, I wish my two partners and I had created a formal plan. We ran a successful operation and the constant demands of steady work created its own positive momentum. But with a plan on paper, we could have built a more-sustainable business model to prepare for changes and challenges. Experience and instinct guided our decisions along the way, but had we gone through a planning process that included scenarios, outcomes, and potential next steps, we’d have had more clarity and been better aligned about where we were taking the business.

What we’re doing to help

Our new Business Plan Center is a free online resource available on WellsFargoWorks.com. It features a Business Plan Tool that guides you step by step through the process of developing a written business plan. It also offers a Competitive Intelligence Tool you can use to gain insights about your competition, such as maps and lists of competitors or how they compare to your business in areas like revenue, annual average worker salary, number of employees, and more.

The Business Plan Center recommends that each of these components are part of your plan to ensure long-term success:

  1. Company Overview: A description of the business, products, or services you’re selling today and enhanced offerings you’d like to bring to market.
  2. Analysis: A thorough analysis of the market and competition.
  3. Marketing Plan: A strategic plan to set your business apart from competitors and reach your prospective audience.
  4. Financial Data: Your starting balances, plans for generating revenue, and sales forecasts. Our Business Plan Tool allows you to generate financial statements – such as a detailed cash flow statement, profit and loss statement, and balance sheet.
  5. Executive Summary: A business recap – who you are, what you sell, who you sell to, and financial summary.

As I reflect on my former business, having access to an online tool like this would have made a huge difference. With a better view of the future, we might have expanded into new markets, differentiated our business model, and established formal succession plans to help with the evolution of the business. Of course in hindsight, it’s easy to identify steps we could have taken, but the message is clear: Creating a business plan is an important step for any business.

About Doug

Case is Wells Fargo’s Small Business Segment manager responsible for the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s focus on small business, which includes the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business initiative, and the online resource WellsFargoWorks.com. Today, Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business customers across the United States and loans more money to America’s small businesses than any other bank (2002-2013 CRA government data).

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Six tips to teach your children how to save

Child puts coin in piggy bank This Friday, April 24, Wells Fargo joins community banks around the U.S. to mark Teach Children to Save® Day, which focuses on the importance of developing lifelong saving habits.

To teach your kids how to save, consider these six tips I used to help my own children (now 19 and 21) start early:

  • Set up a savings account. While piggy banks are great for young children saving small amounts of money, savings accounts are a safer place for your children to keep their money. Wells Fargo’s Way2Save® Savings account has no monthly service fees for primary account holders under 18 (19 in Alabama), and can be opened with a deposit of as little as $25. Whether you open a savings account with Wells Fargo or with another bank, consider having your child participate in the Junior Agent® Savers Club, which has fun games and educational tools to help children ages 5 to 12 learn about savings.
  • Save a specific part of each allowance or paycheck. When my kids were 7 or 8, I started giving them a weekly allowance (for chores around the house) and required that they save a specific amount each week. When they were in their teens and got jobs, we continued that habit, and they deposited a portion of each paycheck into a savings account.
  • Automate savings. If you have an account with Wells Fargo, you can automatically transfer part of your child’s allowance to their savings account, or even create a matching savings program to encourage your child to save more. And when your child is ready for a job, she will likely be able to set up direct deposit, and automatically direct a certain amount of each paycheck to a savings account. Their money will start to add up before they know it.
  • Make children accountable for decisions involving their money. While long-term savings are important, it’s also important for children to understand the value of saving for a purchase. When my kids were younger, they wanted to pick out a toy every time we went shopping. If those purchase decisions were made instead with their own spending money — their saved allowance, birthday money, or money specifically intended for the shopping trip — they often decided to keep their money to save for something more significant. If it was using my money, they simply couldn’t live without that new item!
  • Make sure kids’ accounts keep up with their lives. Most kids ages 3-12 don’t have complex spending habits, so a savings account is probably all they need. But as your kids become teenagers, get jobs, and have their own expenses, you should consider opening a checking account to help them manage their money. The Wells Fargo Teen Checking account comes with a debit card and no monthly service fee with online-only statements. Parents can set spending and ATM withdrawal limits, so I think of it as a checking account with “training wheels.”
  • Personalize your approach. Some kids are interested in saving their money from the moment they earn their first dollar, but some will need more encouragement and guidance. You know your kids better than anyone else. Talk to them about strategies that worked for you – and ones that didn’t – and don’t necessarily expect all of your kids to have the same rules. Managing money and building good savings habits are lifelong skills — finding a personalized approach that can work for their personality is a good way to set them up for success.

Of course, these tips are only a starting point, and you may find other ways to help your children learn healthy financial skills. For more tools that will help you and your children as you learn to save, please visit our Hands on Banking® website.

Teaching Children to Save Early Infographic

About Erin
Constantine is head of Consumer Checking and Saving for Wells Fargo’s Deposit Products Group.

Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC.

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Parents, it’s also time for us to get college ready

Mother and daughter on laptop talking about collegeWhen I attended the University of Wisconsin Whitewater from 1984 to 1988, tuition and room and board cost about $3,000 a year. Fast forward to today, when the financial tab to get college ready has risen dramatically. One example: According to an economic letter the Federal Reserve Bank published in 2014, the average college graduate who paid $20,000 in tuition each year would need until age 40 to begin to recoup that sum through earnings.

Surprisingly, the soaring cost of tuition hasn’t kept college-bound students from applying. In fact, the opposite is true. The percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college rose from 36 percent in 2001 to 42 percent in 2011, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

With one of my children attending college and another soon to leave the family nest, I want to see them succeed financially — and that means making sure that I get college ready, too.

If a family or college-bound student builds a financial plan early enough, managing college expenses can be more, well, manageable.

As a parent, I believe it is important that my child fully understand three important fundamentals: paying for college, managing expenses, and managing money/building credit.

Paying for College: Parents may not realize that many colleges offer a calculator to determine total costs, including housing, books, and meal plans. The  total cost might be more than what was expected or planned. When that happens, a parent or family can discuss with their child how best to offset some of those costs – like scholarships, other forms of financial aid, or working part time on campus.

Managing Expenses: Your child might be diligent about turning in homework assignments on time and scoring well on tests, but for many, college may be the first time your children will have to actively manage their own money and pay bills. For that reason, it’s important to spend time with them to help build positive financial habits. Some suggestions to help your child keep their college career on the right path:

  • Help them set up a student or college checking account: Once the account is open, provide guidance on how to monitor the account and share best practices for identifying fraudulent activity.
  • Create a budget: A budget can help students manage spending to save for short-term needs – like books for the upcoming semester – and future goals, such as a spring break vacation with friends. The key to budgeting is being honest with your children about how they’re spending and the true value of their purchases.

Managing Money and Building Credit: As a parent, we’ve learned – sometimes the hard way – that good money management makes sense. It’s helpful to think back to what you didn’t know then that you know now and educate your children how improper money management can negatively impact their credit, which is important because it impacts so many areas of life. For example, having a good credit score can help your son or daughter qualify for a better interest rate for credit products, or save on common necessities like car insurance premiums, cell phone contracts, and apartment rentals when they graduate. A few items worth discussing with your child:

  • Establish credit: Your child’s credit history will exist in one report that tells lenders about his financial history — why it’s a best practice to reinforce the importance of paying bills on time, every time.
  • Manage college debt: Borrow only what is needed. Most experts recommend keeping total loan payments to no more than 10-15 percent of anticipated post-college income. And, look into discounts like enrolling in automatic payments or banking relationship discounts.
  • Plan for the future: Once a graduate has an income, experts recommend putting aside 20 percent of annual salary. To grow savings, encourage your child to set a goal, and then build a plan around it. If she landed her first job, remind her to find out if her employer offers a 401(k) plan that they can contribute to regularly. Even a small contribution towards retirement at the beginning of one’s career can make a big difference later in life.

Luckily there are many free online resources to help us as parents and help our children prepare for college, including Wells Fargo’s interactive website Get College Ready℠. The site brings together the information a family might need to help its college-bound student learn financial basics and become more fiscally responsible. It offers quizzes, calculators, videos, checklists, educational articles, and more.

Regardless of which resource you use, take the time and start getting college ready today.

Wells Fargo What College Costs and What You'll Earn infographic

About John
Rasmussen is head of Education Financial Services, a division of Wells Fargo’s Consumer Lending Group and the second-largest provider of private student loans in the U.S.

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Volunteer for perspective, experiences, and to nurture the soul

Kevin and Nancy Rhein at HeartWalk

Rhein with wife Nancy (and Wells Fargo’s Jack the Dog) at the 2014 Twin Cities Heart Walk.

When you live in Minneapolis, there are a few things you have to accept. Snow is your friend. It will be with you much of the year. There are really only two seasons: winter and road construction. Our sports teams try really hard, but don’t often make it to the postseason. And the state fair has amazing food booths and more things fried and “on a stick” than you can possibly imagine.

But I believe one of the most important things about living here is embracing the community’s commitment to help each other. Volunteering and philanthropy is the rule, not the exception, in Minneapolis.

That sense of duty and compassion is important to the health of the community and a big reason why I love living here. I have always been involved in the communities where I lived — serving on boards, participating in fundraisers, supporting organizations dedicated to helping others.

I believe that community service is part of your responsibility as a citizen. That’s a value my parents taught me, and one I hope my children will embrace, as well. But community service does something else for you, too. It broadens your horizons, deepens your experience — and frankly, it nurtures your soul.

I have learned so much from the people I have worked with on projects and boards. That exposure — to different people and ways of thinking — has made me the father, husband, leader, and citizen I am.

Today, I serve on the board of directors and as a committee chair of the United Negro College Fund and the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. And every year I participate in the Twin Cities Heart Walk raising funds for the American Heart Association. This year’s event is Saturday, April 25.

I get asked a lot why I am so passionate about the Heart Walk. It’s because the American Heart Association does a tremendous amount of good for thousands of people in our community. The Heart Walk provides a terrific opportunity to impact the lives of our friends, neighbors, and family.

In my family, both my father and mother have experienced heart-related challenges, so my interest in advancing our knowledge and capabilities to help people live heart-healthy lives is personal. Last year, thanks to the generosity of our friends and family, my wife Nancy and I collected more than $18,000 in contributions, and we are hoping to equal or top that amount this year.

I am always in awe of our team and how they embody our vision and values, not just at community events like the Heart Walk or during our Community Support Campaign, but every day because community involvement is one of the key pillars of our company culture.

April may be National Volunteer Month, but I want to encourage you to make every month a volunteer experience. Every little bit you do helps your communities and you grow stronger.

About Kevin

Rhein, a 38-year veteran of the financial services industry, is chief information officer for Wells Fargo. He is a committed civic volunteer who actively promotes financial literacy.

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Traveling soon? Use credit card rewards to avoid a ‘break the bank’ vacation

Use your credit card to avoid break the bank situations

A good friend of mine and his family consistently take interesting and exciting trips, with much of the airfare and lodging financed from credit card rewards. By studying the terms of his card’s rewards program, he has become an expert on getting the most out of his loyalty program and optimizing points for personal satisfaction.

With high travel season looming, and with more than one-third of Americans expecting their vacation1 to be one of their largest expenses of 2015, credit card rewards and benefits can help.

Using a credit card on a regular basis can earn you points exchangeable for the rewards that work best for you. And from gas to groceries to paying bills, rewards are easy to earn. If you want to be an expert like my friend, read your rewards program terms and conditions carefully as well as your credit card agreement. These two documents will help you understand how you can earn and redeem rewards, as well as know when they expire. Some cards offer cash back while others offer points.

Learn the ins-and-outs of your program to get the most from it, and use these tips to help turn your vacation dreams into reality:

  1. You’ve earned rewards – use them!

Some consumers track rewards and redeem them regularly. Others rarely think about them. If you fall into the second category, check your rewards balance. You may be surprised to find that you’ve earned enough to offset vacation costs like airfare or hotel stays or to redeem the points for gift cards to restaurants or merchants where you’re headed. Alternatively, many programs offer the option to redeem rewards as an account credit, so you can essentially take the money with you on vacation.

  1. Earn rewards for the money you’ll spend on vacation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average vacationing consumer spends just over $1,300 for travel, including food, lodging, and transportation. If you’re going to spend that money anyway — and especially if you’re going to use your credit card — why not earn rewards while doing it? By responsibly using your rewards credit card for everyday purchases as well as vacation costs, rewards can add up quickly.

  1. Understand travel-related benefits that come with your credit card.

If your card is lost or stolen while traveling, a quick call to your bank or card issuer can stop charges to your account. In addition to rewards programs, many credit cards offer benefits that are often overlooked. For example, some credit cards may offer 24/7 concierge service to help you plan your trip or even make dinner reservations. Your credit card may also offer rental car insurance, low or no currency-conversion fees, competitive currency conversion rates, and travel protections like insurance for lost or damaged luggage. To learn more about these benefits, read your credit card agreement (which is likely a different document than the rewards program terms and conditions referenced above and is often available online through your credit card issuer).

  1. Look for special travel offers from your rewards program.

Check to see if your credit card offers special travel deals that come with additional rewards from specific retailers. To learn more about the available offers, cardholders can typically check their rewards program website, for example, like My Wells Fargo Rewards and the Earn More Mall®.

Finally, as you plan your vacation, keep budgeting and money management basics in mind. Obviously, if you have major expenses ahead and can’t really afford to travel, it’s best to stay at home. But if you can travel, travel smart. Be sure to let your bank know you’re going out of town and consider using free tools — like online banking, or your bank’s mobile app — to stay on top of your finances and avoid overspending. That way you’ll come home refreshed and stay that way with fewer worries about derailing your financial goals.

Happy travels!

About David
Patron is the head of rewards and offers for Wells Fargo’s Consumer Financial Services team — leading the strategy, innovation, customer experience, and delivery of the Wells Fargo Rewards program.

1 According to a recent Wells Fargo survey.

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Construction industry contributing to job growth

The construction industry continues to be an attractive place to work. Over the past five years we’ve seen slow and steady improvement that has contributed to job growth and that is making this industry more and more appealing. Our recent survey of construction industry executives reveals a sense of optimism that we’re confident will continue for the foreseeable future.

This is the 39th year that we’ve been surveying contractors, manufacturers, and dealers of construction equipment, and gauging their confidence about the year ahead. Our primary metric for measuring that confidence – the Optimism Quotient – is similar to the Consumer Confidence Index and points to whether the outlook for the coming year is better or worse than last year.

The timing of this year’s survey is particularly significant. We polled industry executives throughout January 2015 at a time when the price of crude oil was declining rapidly. Many began to wonder how this development in the energy sector would affect confidence in the construction industry, especially since the equipment types used in these complementary industries can be similar.

Although a sizable number of survey responses came from executives in states with a significant energy presence, we didn’t notice dips in confidence in those states. We see an expanding economy and increased confidence in other growing sectors as contributing factors to the optimism about the nonresidential construction industry.

Four takeaways from our 2015 Construction Industry Forecast, which was released Feb. 25:

  1. The construction industry is even more optimistic about growth than it was a year ago. The Optimism Quotient from 2014 was at an all-time high, so to surpass that for 2015 reveals the broad expectation for continued growth in construction.
  2. Contractors and equipment distributors are bullish about equipment acquisition. Executives told us they’re expecting to buy more new and used equipment to meet increased construction activity.
  3. Equipment rental is also expected to increase. Contractors continue to see the need for short-term rentals that fill job-specific requirements. Distributors said they plan to increase their rental equipment inventory.
  4. Respondents are most concerned about employee wages and benefits, healthcare costs, equipment costs, and taxes.

This year we started surveying contractors about how they attract and retain qualified workers. It’s a topic of concern in the industry, and contractors told us they wanted to hear what others are doing to address the issue. We discovered that many contractors rely on referrals from their current employees to build their workforce. Executives also told us what benefits are most important in their employee-retention efforts. The top three benefit strategies fell into these categories: 1) compensation and bonus, 2) health insurance and 3) overall company culture.

We have created a web page that serves as the hub for information – current and historical – about our annual survey and forecast for ease of use for readers. The page is optimized so you can view it on a desktop, tablet, or handheld device. Take a look at www.wellsfargo.com/constructionforecast and then feel free to share it.

Video

Watch a video of the highlights of the survey.

About John

Crum has worked in the construction equipment finance industry for the past 20 years, holding a variety of positions in sales and credit management. He joined Wells Fargo Equipment Finance in May 2006 and currently serves as national sales manager of its Construction Group.

About Wells Fargo Equipment Finance

Wells Fargo Equipment Finance provides a wide range of capital equipment financing and leasing services for core U.S. industries such as construction, commercial vehicles, health care, and manufacturing.

What do you think?

Are you in the construction industry? How are you feeling about the year ahead? Share your comments below.construction industry optimism quotient

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Women in technology: Leaders weigh in on value, challenges

Clockwise: Robin Beers, Jennifer Spratley, Diana Macias, and Sarah E. Bellrichard

Clockwise: Robin Beers, Jennifer Spratley, Diana Macias, and Sarah Bellrichard

Editor’s note: The status of women in technology continues to spark discussion in the popular press and social media, even as the numbers reflect a continuing industry underrepresentation. Wells Fargo asked four women leaders in Wholesale Banking — who primarily are focused on Wells Fargo’s proprietary Commercial Electronic Office® (CEO®) portal and CEO Mobile® experience — about the situation. An edited version of their conversation follows.

The leaders are: Robin Beers, Customer Experience Insights; Sarah Bellrichard, Wholesale User Experience; Diana Macias, Front-end and Mobile Development; and Jennifer Spratley, Fraud Prevention & Authentication.

Q: In a corporate environment, what are the benefits of a diverse operation?

Sarah: Any organization benefits from its employees’ multiple perspectives that come from diverse experiences. Women bring a thoughtful and considered perspective to an environment; however, it’s really about diversity of voice. In a perfect situation, that leads to a balanced approach or solution.

Jennifer: Having women in leadership roles in technology helps dispel the notion that technology-oriented roles are made for men. It helps other women see it is not only a male-dominated field.

Diana: I want to add to what Jennifer and Sarah are saying: it’s not just female diversity, but all types of diversity. I always look to be in environments with a diverse population. Everybody brings a different perspective, and the magic happens when people have different voices and see things from a different angle. That leads to some pretty dynamic work environments.

Robin: Diverse perspectives and a focus on human relationships are necessary in complex environments where change is the only constant.

Wells Fargo is a company that nurtures and grows leadership capabilities in women. Our environment and projects are complex and require a great deal of coordination and alignment to execute. Women leaders tend to see complexity in terms of whole systems, networks of relationships, and people. This orientation helps shape Wells Fargo’s culture of caring — the quality of the work and the relationships that are fostered to deliver excellent products, services, and experiences. Conceptually speaking, women leaders in technology help everyone to balance the what, the people who make it happen, and the how.

Q: How do you inspire or help women pursue technology careers?

Jennifer: This question really resonates with me because I’m fresh off a trip to Boston. I took my daughter to visit MIT. I support her passion for science, math, and technology one hundred percent, and I am her biggest advocate in helping her pursue what she loves.

Outside of my home, I try to mentor other women and young professionals of any gender. I help them understand their strengths and aspirations and how they can fulfill their personal and professional goals. Regardless of how busy I am, I enjoy the time I spend working with people who are young in their careers. I get so much out of the shared experience.

Sarah: I’m a member of the XX+UX (user experience) group, which is a women’s community of UX professionals. The goal of the group is to create an online environment that reaches this broad social community, and holds events such as meet-ups, hackathons, protothons, and mentoring events. There were three or four mentoring events these past few years where senior professionals met with individuals just entering their careers. In this setting, established UX practitioners reviewed resumes and portfolios, provided feedback, and gave advice on what employers were looking for. I think it’s important to meet with professionals at all levels. I try to be as available as I can to the larger UX community.

Robin: I work with some amazingly talented women who are at the beginning of their careers. I encourage them to take advantage of the wide array of opportunities afforded to them and to try new things. Each role in a company is a piece in the puzzle that makes up the whole company’s success. For example, a product manager in the channel group might transition to my user experience research team. I know her ability to get projects through technology development and out to customers will bring value, as well as how she filters and hears customer feedback in the design phase. Cross-pollination develops capabilities of both the individual and company.

Q: Research suggests that young girls often excel in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects, but their attitudes changes as they get older. How can this be addressed?

Diana: I have two daughters in college now, and when they were both in high school, they had a high aptitude for math and science, but the institutional support wasn’t necessarily there. I’ve always been a strong advocate and told my kids they can do whatever they want. One of my girls went on to get a computer and electric engineering degree, and she was the only woman who graduated in her program that year.

Attitude changes are not always impacted by one’s gender. I’ve encountered barriers being Hispanic. Throughout a woman’s life, it’s important she not make anything an obstacle to pursue a career in technology.

Jennifer: My answer is partially speculation: Do women think this is a man’s space, and I should pursue something else? Perhaps traditional gender-based biases have an influence; however, I primarily think the love of STEM subjects is partially hard wired and can be learned. My daughter in high school, for example, has a hard-wired passion for STEM subjects and is considering studying them in college.

Robin: I was one of the girls who thought I was bad at math and science, so I don’t know if I’ve figured out the answer!

Q: Work-life balance is often a topic of conversation among working women. How do you approach this balance?

Robin: I tend to think in terms of work and personal identities being blended together. One of the reasons I love Wells Fargo is because team members are able to bring their whole selves to work, and part of that means acknowledging that we have lives outside of our jobs. This became even more critical to me when I decided to become a single mother and had a son on my own five years ago. In fact, I’m trying to get him to put his shoes on for school as we talk! And, that’s what I mean by blend instead of balance. Nothing these days can or needs to stay neatly compartmentalized. By enabling fluidity, everything that needs to be accomplished gets done.

Jennifer: Work/life balance is a challenge. For me, I’ve come to learn that sometimes work gets more of my time than home and vice versa; things sort of even out over time. My success in creating balance depends on staying super organized and always looking ahead two or three weeks on both the home and work fronts. This helps prevent surprises that impact either one. And, of course, sometimes you just have to take a little time for yourself away from work, family, and other obligations to clear your head and recharge, so you can continue to effectively contribute.

Q: What advice would you give to other women interested in careers in technology?

Robin: My advice is that nearly every career will have a technology component, so don’t be afraid of this aspect. Realize that technology is an enabler that allows people to do something in the world. No one on a complex, multifunctional team has the entire answer.  Focus on the part that excites you and what you can bring to the holistic solution. For me, that means ensuring that technology works for people. For another woman, she could be excited about database coding or owning a product from inception to launch. Go to where your interests lie because that’s where your contributions will flourish.

Jennifer: I’m frankly not an innately technical person. I don’t have a STEM educational background, and the bulk of my career has not been in technology roles. I’m a good example of someone who didn’t feel afraid to step into a technical field. I say go for it.  You can do it. You don’t have to be wildly technical to be a leader and successful in this field. I run a very technical business, and many of my direct reports have told me repeatedly that it is an advantage that I’m not as technical as perhaps they are, because I bring a different lens. You definitely have to have some technical aptitude, but you can be successful without being a math superstar or a technical wizard by simply applying basic fundamental skills to your role. It can be advantageous for your business to have a balance of technical and non-technical team members with a range of skill sets.

Sarah: It’s about not giving up. Diana’s example about her daughter being the only woman to graduate from her engineering program is telling. It really is about following your passion and not being intimidated. There is a self-confidence that girls and young women need to hang on to. Regardless of what may feel like a barrier, it’s only there if you let it stop you. That means reaching out if you are finding dead ends and then finding communities that offer support and guidance. Seek out mentors. They will help knock those barriers down and build your confidence up.

Jennifer: After listening to Sarah I feel grateful for not being held back from taking on a technical role, because I didn’t have the right background. It’s evident one can learn and do it. You can bring your other skills to the table and be successful. Don’t let someone tell you that you can’t do it if you have an interest.

Diana: I agree with Sarah’s point about having self-confidence. It’s also important to have folks who can support you throughout your journey.

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