Florida Saves Week starts Monday — how much do you have put away?

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida may be the sunshine state, but more Floridians should start saving for a rainy day, says a researcher with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Without an emergency fund, unexpected financial shocks might lead to a financial storm and a vicious cycle,” said Jorge Ruiz-Menjivar, assistant professor of consumer economics in the department of family, youth and community sciences.

Research shows that families without an emergency fund are more likely to have bank overdrafts, fall behind on their bills, have a hard time managing credit and may turn to subprime alternatives that have higher costs than conventional options, Ruiz-Menjivar explained.

To help more Floridians build wealth, not debt, UF/IFAS is urging residents to pledge to start saving during Florida Saves Week, Feb. 27 to March 4 at floridasaves.org. Part of the national America Saves program, this state-wide initiative has been officially endorsed by Jeff Atwater, chief financial officer for the state of Florida.

This year, Floridians who pledge can enter to win $50 to be put toward reaching their financial goals by completing a short survey after signing the Florida Saves pledge.

Scott Taylor, family and consumer sciences agent with UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County, is one of several faculty members who have planned programs around Florida Saves Week.

“One of our primary goals is increasing the basic money management skills of residents in Hernando County,” Taylor stated. “To reach this audience in 2017, we are again partnering with United Way of Hernando County, Career Source and Insight Credit Union to provide eight comprehensive programs during Florida Saves Week and continued programming monthly throughout the year.”

These program will cover topics such as financial goal setting, budgeting, and credit and debt management. “We’ll also challenge each participant to become a ‘long-term saver’ by putting money toward an emergency fund, retirement fund or 529 college savings plan,” Taylor said.

According to the America Saves web site, a 2013 survey revealed that when it comes to Americans’ saving habits, there is room for growth. For instance, only 41 percent said they have set automatic transfers from their checking to savings accounts, an effective strategy for making saving easier.

“We live busy lives, and it’s easy to forget to make that weekly or monthly deposit in our emergency fund,” Ruiz-Menjivar said. “Automatic saving requires virtually no effort after the initial set-up. It’s time effective, compensates for lack of discipline, and removes the temptation of using that extra money for something else.”

For those who aren’t sure how to start saving, many UF/IFAS Extension county offices offer free in-person or online financial education programs year-round. To find your local office go to sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu.

Learn how everyone in the family can make and contribute to financial goals such as education, independent living, or other future goals during a free webinar called Saving is a Family Affair on Feb. 28 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Register for this free webinar from the UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough and Seminole Counties. Open to all Florida residents.

Caption: Time to break out the old piggy bank. This year, Floridians who make the Florida Saves pledge can enter to win $50 to be put toward reaching their financial goals by completing a short survey after signing the pledge. UF/IFAS photo by Tyler Jones.

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By Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.