Finance, Goals, Money Management, Saving

Rebuilding toward a Brighter Future with Emergency Savings

By: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

This year, for many Americans who experienced financial challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, preparedness means taking small steps toward rebuilding and resilience.

If you are ready to think about your bigger financial picture for the first time in months, what’s the first step?

Consider – or start – your emergency saving fund. As you build it over time, it will help cover unexpected expenses that may come, whether that be a natural disaster, unexpected illness, car trouble, or other financial downfalls. It can become an important means for avoiding unwanted debt and help you more quickly realize your dreams. In short, it can become a strong foundation for your financial future.

There are different strategies to get your savings started. These strategies cover a range of situations, including if you have a limited ability to save or if your pay tends to fluctuate. It may be that you could use all of these strategies, but if you have a limited ability to save, managing your cash flow or putting away a portion of your tax refund are the easiest ways to get started.

Strategy #1: Create a savings habit

Building savings of any size is easier when you’re able to consistently put money away. It’s one of the fastest ways to see it grow. If you’re not in a regular practice of saving, there are a few key principles to creating and sticking to a savings habit:

  • Set a goal. Having a specific goal for your savings can help you stay motivated. Establishing your emergency fund may be that achievable goal that helps you stay on track, especially when you’re initially getting started. Use our savings planning tool to calculate how long it’ll take you to reach your goal, based on how much and how often you’re able to put money away.
  • Create a system for making consistent contributions. There are a number of different ways to save, and as you’ll read below, setting up automatic recurring transfers is often one of the easiest. It may also be that you put a specific amount of cash aside each day, week, or payday period. Aim to make it a specific amount, and if you can occasionally afford to do more, you’ll watch your savings grow even faster.
  • Regularly monitor your progress. Find a way to regularly check your savings. Whether it’s an automatic notification of your account balance or writing down a running total of your contributions, finding a way to watch your progress can offer gratification and encouragement to keep going.
  • Celebrate your successes. If you’re sticking with your savings habit, don’t miss the opportunity to recognize what you’ve accomplished. Find a few ways that you can treat yourself, and if you’ve reached your goal, set your next one.

Who is this helpful for: Anyone, but particularly those with consistent income. If you know you have a regular paycheck or money consistently coming in, you can create a habit to put some of that money towards an emergency savings fund.

Strategy #2: Manage your cash flow

Your cash flow is essentially the timing of when your money is coming in (your income) and going out (your expenses and spending). If the timing is off, you can find yourself running short at the end of the week or month, but if you’re actively tracking it, you’ll start to see opportunities to adjust your spending and savings.

For example, you may be able to work with your creditors (like your landlord, utility companies, or credit card companies) to adjust the due dates for your bills, or you can use the weeks when you have more money available to move a little extra into savings.

Who is this helpful for: Anyone. This is one important first step in managing your money, regardless of whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck or have a tendency to spend more than your budget allows.

Strategy #3: Take advantage of one-time opportunities to save

There may also be certain times during the year when you get an influx of money. For many Americans, a tax refund can be one of the largest checks they receive all year. There may be other times of the year, like a holiday or birthday, that you receive a cash gift.

While it’s tempting to spend it, saving all or a portion of that money could help you quickly set up your emergency fund.

Who is this helpful for: Anyone but particularly those with irregular income. If you receive a large check from a tax refund or for some other reason, it’s always good to consider putting all or a portion of it away into savings.

Strategy #4: Make your saving automatic

Saving automatically is one of the easiest ways to make your savings consistent so you start to see it build over time. One common way to do this is to set up recurring transfers through your bank or credit union so money is moved automatically from your checking account to your savings account. You get to decide how much and how often, but once you have it set up, you’ll be making consistent contributions to your savings.

It’s a good idea to be mindful of your balances, however, so you don’t incur overdraft fees if there’s not enough money in your checking account at the time of the automatic transaction. To help you stay mindful, consider setting up automatic notifications or calendar reminders to check your balance.

Who is this helpful for: Anyone, but particularly those with consistent income. Again, you can determine how much and how often to have money transferred between accounts, but you want to make sure you have money coming in. If your situation changes or your income changes, you can always adjust it.

Strategy #5: Save through work

Another way to save automatically is through your employer. In addition to employer-based contributions for retirement, you may have an option to split your paycheck between your checking and savings accounts. If you receive your paycheck through direct deposit, check with your employer to see if it’s possible to divide it between two accounts. If you’re tempted to spend your paycheck when you get it, this is an easy way to put money aside without having to think twice.

Who is this helpful for: Those with consistent income. Again, if you’re getting a check from your employer on a regular basis, pay yourself first by putting a portion of it automatically into savings.

It might seem impossible to save enough to get you and your family through something like a furlough, job loss, or reduced hours. But any amount can make a difference and it’s never too late to start. The more you can save, the better you can weather the worst, and the faster you can recover when it is over.

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Kids & Money, Money Management, Saving

Saving as a Family

By: America Saves

In most circumstances, we build our financial foundation from experiences that we go through as children and youth. Sometimes when children hear their parents or other adults in their lives talking about cutting spending or saving money, they assume that the family is going through a rough patch. As appropriate based on children’s ages, family conversations about money goals, including saving and spending plans, reassure children. It is also a great way to introduce (or remind) children about the reasons we save.

Talking about family saving goals helps children understand that putting money aside for the future – whether to be prepared for unexpected expenses, for short-term goals such as summer vacation, or for longer-term goals such as paying for college – is important to you. They will also likely be interested in knowing how they can help. They may even want to set their own savings goals and be motivated to work toward achieving them!

Make Saving a Family Affair

Get your family involved with your saving plan by brainstorming ways to cut expenses in order to free up money to put toward your saving goals. Explore low- and no-cost activities you can do together as a family. Consider selling rarely used books, toys, clothes, and other items in a garage sale or other marketplace.

Here are four easy ways to make saving a priority for everyone under your roof:

1. Have a conversation

Get the whole family together, make some popcorn or hot chocolate and make talking about money fun. Keep it positive by talking about ways the family can work together to lower expenses, increase income and save money.

2. Involve everyone

Take time to explain how things that everyone in your household uses comes with a cost, like the utilities, internet, and cable. Make it an activity for everyone to review your local grocery store circular/app and identify products that you can save on that week.

3. Set a goal

Decide as a family what your financial goals should be. These could be household goals and individual goals. Is it saving for college? Is it saving for a family vacation? A car? Having a financial cushion for unexpected emergencies? Whatever you decide, make a commitment to save. Jumpstart that commitment by taking the America Saves Pledge, and we’ll help keep you on track by sending goal-based emails and texts.

4. Make a plan

Setting a goal is a great start, but how will you reach it without a plan? Making a plan to reach a savings goal requires establishing a plan for how you will spend and save your money. Savers with a plan are twice as likely to accomplish their savings goals. Get some tips and tricks about making a plan with our Save with a Plan Toolkit.

Encouraging Children to Save

Everyone in your household can play a role in the financial success of your home. A lesson all kids can learn early: the pride that comes with saving for something they want! Encouraging your child to sell toys they no longer play with, or even having a bake sale or lemonade stand puts them on the path to smart money habits. Involve children by:

  1. Encouraging them to be aware of their energy and water use by turning off lights and electronics when not needed and by turning off the water when brushing teeth and taking showers.
  2. Thinking about things that the family regularly spends money on and talking about if the family stills want or need the items or if they can select cheaper alternatives or perhaps do without them.
  3. Teaching them to comparison shop and choose generics or use coupons when it makes sense.
  4. Challenging them to suggest ways to enjoy time together as a family for less. Not sure where to start? Check out these suggestions!
  5. Including children in trips to your financial institution (or an ATM) to deposit or transfer money into a saving account make the process real. Consider posting a running total of the dollar amount of deposits and the progress made toward a family saving goal on the refrigerator or bulletin board.

Saving money is a habit that is developed over time. In addition to letting children know that you save, help them begin to develop their own saving habit. Money as You Grow, a framework that links money-related activities to children’s developmental stages, is a great resource for conversation starters and activities for children of all ages at consumerfinance.gov.

America Saves can help you save money so you can feel confident about your finances. It all starts when you make a commitment to yourself to save. Take the first step today and take the America Saves pledge to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth over time. And it doesn’t stop there. America Saves will keep you motivated with information, advice, tips, and reminders to help you reach your goal. Think of them as your own personal support system.

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Budgeting, Credit Counseling, Debt, Finance, Money Management, Taxes, Uncategorized

Tackling the Fear of Filing Taxes

Tackling the Fear of Filing Taxes

The holidays are over, a new year has begun, and now we are rolling into February: a month that brings Valentine’s Day to mind. Some people look forward to receiving candy hearts while others dread spending Valentine’s Day alone. However, getting snubbed by Cupid isn’t the only thing people dread in February. They also are very apprehensive about filing their taxes. How do you get started? How much money will you get back? How much will you owe? It’s enough to cause your stress level to skyrocket. Luckily, there are some things you can do to take the sting out of filing your taxes:

 

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  • File your taxes as soon as you can. The due date for filing this year is April 18th. It is usually April 15th but that falls on a federal holiday and a Friday, thus, the due date is moved to the next normal business day on Monday the 18th which gives you a few extra days to file. Now that January is over, you should have received most of your information, such as your W-2s, in the mail. If you absolutely cannot file by the due date, you may want to go to the IRS website to see if you can file for an extension.[/column]

 

  • Look at all of your preparation options. It’s not a bad idea to research national organizations with locations near you that may offer free tax preparation for individuals with certain income limits. For example, United Way Worldwide has a program available during tax season called  Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) that is sponsored by the IRS. Volunteers (such as retired CPAs) help families with a household income of under $53,000 prepare taxes for free, while another program helps you prepare your own taxes if your income is below $60,000 per year.
  • Research credits and deductions. There are some that could save you money which you may not know existed. For example, if you are eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Credit you would be able to claim a credit for expenses that you paid for child care so that you could work or look for work.
  • Make a plan for your tax refund or payment by creating/using a budget. Planning can drastically decrease stress and eliminate the temptation of unnecessary spending. If you get a refund, budget your money so you can tithe and achieve the priority of paying down debt. If you do not get a refund and you owe money, it is even more crucial to create a budget plan to pay the IRS. You have payment options. The best option, of course, is to budget and pay before the due date. If you cannot pay by the due date, there are options for payment plans. You may be eligible for an online payment agreement with the IRS. If not, you can still pay in installments by filing for an installment agreement (Form 9465). It is important to note that you must file all tax returns before applying for any payment agreement with the IRS. Also, keep in mind that if you do not pay by the due date you will be subject to penalties and interest. For more information on this and other payment options, visit www.irs.gov or contact the IRS directly.

 

Learning helpful tips like these, researching your options, and making a plan will help reduce the fear of filing your taxes, thus, allowing you to focus more on positivity, tranquility and love, no matter what month of the year it is.

 

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Uncategorized

Financial Planning – A Fresh Start for the New Year

Finances and the New Year

With the New Year approaching, it is the perfect time to evaluate your current financial situation, set new financial goals, and establish budgeting strategies. Whether your credit is in great shape or you are struggling to maintain or improve your credit, it is important to pull your credit reports at least annually and review them for errors.

Click below for instructions on how to pull your credit for free from www.annualcreditreport.com

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In addition to reviewing your credit, review your assets and take the time to think about your short, mid, and long term financial goals. The only way to make those goals a reality is to setup a plan to save money every month.

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    Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Settlement, Finance, Holiday Tips, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving

    Credit Card – Avoiding the Debt Trap this Holiday Season

    Gift Giving on Credit

    Staying out of debt can be almost as difficult as paying it off especially when our emotions take over. After all, buying gifts for our loved ones during the holiday season is a very emotional purchase.

    Preparing for gifting should begin way before the holiday season. In a survey conducted by The American Research Group, Inc., 2014 Christmas gift spending was up 8% over 2013 with an average of $861 spent per adult consumer. So what is the most efficient and painless way to save money for the holidays each year?

    Budgeting for Gift Giving

    Creating a management budget at the beginning of each year will ensure you achieve your financial goals, establish a savings, and have funds set aside for gifts and holidays throughout the year. First, calculate how much money you spend on the holidays annually and divide that by 12 months. This is how much money you will need to set aside in your monthly budget for holiday spending. There are many spending trackers and saving tools out there but sometimes its easiest to just create an envelope labeled holidays and put cash in it each month. This might seem like a tedious task, however when the time comes to buy gifts and holiday items throughout the year it will be nice to already have the cash available and not have to worry about denting your budget.

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      Debt Consolidations
      Debt Consolidation

      Debt Consolidation – Combating Holiday Credit Card Debt

      Setting Financial Goals

      By planning ahead, it’s easy to combat holiday credit card debt that puts you behind with New Year’s resolutions and financial goals. According to an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the best approach is to plan ahead to avoid holiday binge buying. By talking to a Christian credit counselor, you learn about debt consolidation. Whether you sign up for a debt management plan before or after the holidays, you will have a strategy in place. Experts say paying off credit card debt is an important step to financial freedom and balance. Depending on your personality, financial habits and goals, the payoff date will differ. Thirty-eight percent of households deal with credit card debt, according to statics by Nerdwallet.com.

      Paying off Credit Card Debt

      One decision to make is whether you want to move around your credit card debt or get it paid off. Balance transfers buy you time if you want to take debt from a high interest credit card and move it to a zero percent card. The downside is the introductory interest rate doesn’t last. Most people get stuck paying an extremely high rate. A better option is debt consolidation through a reputable credit counseling agency such as Christian Credit Counselors. Because holiday shopping occurs typically at the end of the year, you will likely run up an old credit card if you transfer the balance.

      Debt Management and Gift Giving

      When you sign up for a debt management plan before the holidays, you stop using your credit cards. Although it is likely too late in the year to save up a holiday gift fund so you can buy gifts with cash, you can save money by making homemade gifts or providing gift certificates for services such as mowing a loved one’s lawn or back rubs. Your loved ones will likely appreciate a crocheted blanket more than a cash gift because it represents time spent and effort.

      Listening to Financial Experts

      If you accumulated a lot of debt throughout the year, it’s good to step back and evaluate where you have been. Before you get carried away with the holidays, talk to debt consolidation experts. In addition to consolidating debt, you find out how to budget, save, plan, improve your credit score and organize financial matters. Instead of leaning on your own understanding of financial matters, take the bold step to ask for help. A trained credit counselor doesn’t leave it to you to contact your creditors. Instead, the experienced credit counselors contact your creditors and work out a plan so you can pay back your debt. The holiday gift for you is a lower interest rate on what you owe as well as the peace of mind and joy of having a payoff date and realistic monthly payment.

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        At Christian Credit Counselors, we help our clients with debt consolidation so they get out of debt 80 percent faster than other strategies. For more information on how to financially plan ahead for the holidays, please contact us.

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        Christian Credit Counselors, Consumer, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Debt Settlement, Goals, Holiday Tips, Home, Kids & Money, Money Management, Personal Goals, Uncategorized

        Your Spending Habits and Your Holiday Spirit

        The Average American’s Holiday Spending Habits

        Already thinking about everything you have to do for the holiday season? Does the thought of holiday preparation stress you out? According to the National Retail Federation, it was estimated that the average American spent $77.52 on candy, costumes and decorations for Halloween in 2014. According to a CNBC report, the average American planned to spend $765 on Christmas for the holiday season as well. Is this how much you will spend this year? To avoid answering yes to this question, start planning ways to save money now.

        Holiday Money Saving Tips

        Shop with a Gratitude Attitude

        The first, and possibly greatest, thing that you can do to save money this season is to adjust the way you THINK about the holidays. Rather than getting caught up in the commercials, products, and social pressures, concentrate on the things you already have in your life that you can use or recycle and the people you already have in your life to whom you can show love and appreciation. Concentrate more on the FEELING that you can give someone else rather than the MATERIALS you can give them. For Halloween, get creative and make your own costumes during a Family Craft Night. Change your spending habits by making it about the experience rather than shopping. Can’t afford to make or host a big dinner? Plan a family movie night, rent scary movies, and gorge on popcorn and pizza.

        Make Random Acts of Kindness a Holiday Norm

        Instead of buying gifts, clean the car or house for your spouse, make a collage of old photos for a friend or family member, call a distant friend or relative and leave a Christmas Carol voicemail to spread cheer over the phone, make a list of reasons why you love someone or appreciate someone, write a song or poem for them, and make decorations using household items such as a string of popcorn. Use this new mentality to set the tone for your entire family. For any other holiday necessities, you can financially prepare to save money by creating a budget and setting aside a small amount every week or paycheck. Just remember though, gratitude, love, and the right mentality can save you and your family A ton of money this holiday season, especially if you are all on the same page.

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          Activities, Budgeting, Car, Christian Credit Counselors, Consumer, Coupons, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Credit Score, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Consolidation, Economy, Finance, Gas, Gas, Holiday Tips, Kids & Money, Money Management, Repairs, Saving, Technology

          Fall Money Saving Tips

          Cutting Costs at Home

          There are many ways you can save money and have fun doing it this holiday season. Falling leaves and decomposing Jack-o-Lanterns are the perfect way to start a compost pile this fall. Starting now means you’ll be one step ahead when spring arrives.

          Make sure your roof is free of holes, destruction and critters; if it isn’t, repair the damage or shoo the animals away. Assess the gutters as well as the chimney. Nothing is worse than a cold, rainy winter inside the home without a fireplace. Repairing now helps ensure you don’t have any last minute problems during the winter.

          It’s also very important to weatherproof your home. Chances are, you’ll be using your heater this winter. Rather than lose all of that precious heat, weatherproof your windows, doors and anything else you can think of.

          Restock on winter essentials before they’re all snatched up. Coats, food, gloves and boots are some important winter items that disappear as it gets closer to December.

          Shopping on a Budget

          The holidays are almost upon us, and that means holiday shopping is close at hand. If you start shopping around in October and November, it will be a lot easier to pick up the perfect present than if you were to wait closer to Christmas time.

          So many fruits and vegetables come into season in the fall, so don’t forget to stock up. Not only will you get cheaper produce, but it will be nice and fresh. And as always, use coupons to save even more.

          Look out for fall and holiday deals and coupons. There’s something about the festive, fall season that puts stores in such a great mood. So many places are offering seasonal items for super cheap; it’d be a shame if you didn’t partake.

          Lowering Travel Expenses

          If you’ll be flying at some point during fall, purchase tickets in the middle of the week. Most sales occur Tuesday through Thursday, so when planning a trip buy on the less busy days.

          Compare round-trip flights to one-way flights. Sometimes flying round-trip isn’t necessarily the best deal. If you can save more on two tickets, take that deal.

          Luggage and travel accessories are going on sale during this time of the year. If you’re in need of a new suitcase, now’s the time to buy one for that vacation coming up.

          Your Entertainment Costs

          Bike riding is a great way to let off steam in the cool air, while also getting where you want to go! Exercising and saving money never felt so good.

          Take a walk with the family. Play board games with your kids and significant other by the fireplace instead of sitting in front of the TV. Find new and fun ways to spend time with those you love. Parks are also a great place to go; they’re usually free and offer many great family-friendly amusements.

          Harvest festivals, farmers markets, and city events are a super fun and cheap way to get outside as well. Pumpkin patches offer a great time for you and your kids, and spending time together is always a beautiful fall activity.

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            Debt Counseling
            Debt

            Surviving the Holiday Spending Trap With Debt Counseling

            After the school season starts, many people start getting ready for the holidays. Following Labor Day, the major holidays that often run up debt for the average American include Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. By receiving debt counseling in the fall, you gain valuable insights and information about how to pay off debt, budget, and set financial goals. You may decide to enroll in a debt management program so you can get a fresh start. A debt management plan is an agreement to pay back creditors, but typically with better terms. In most cases, you pay less money toward interest and pay off your debt much faster by consolidating the debt. To save money for the holiday season, consider consolidating old debt while resisting the temptation to take on any new debt. According to an article by marketwatch.com, one of the best way to tackle holiday credit card debt is to lower your interest rate. Talk to a credit counselor about how you can pay a lower interest rate by consolidating debt.

            Living below your Financial Means

            One of the lessons you learn with debt counseling is to live below your means. By having a budget, you know exactly what you owe to creditors, what you owe to the mortgage company or your landlord as well as how much you have for discretionary spending. Buying holiday gifts or costumes for Halloween and other parties is not a necessity. However, you can put aside money for gifts as long as you save some money for discretionary purchases. Living below your means does not mean you can’t spend money on others, but it’s about spending less than you earn.

            Figuring out how much your time is worth

            Another way to improve your financial situation is figuring out when you should do something yourself or when you should hire another person. If you can earn more money working at your career, it could make financial sense to pay someone else to clean your house, mow your lawn or cook for you. On other hand, you also have to think about your core values as well as hobbies. If you get exercise from mowing and love the outdoors, it’s more than a financial decision. When it comes to the holidays, save money by making your own costumes if it makes sense. If you earn a lot by working, consider hiring someone else to put up your holiday lights or deliver your Christmas tree.

            Spending time and not money with family

            If you are having trouble balancing your budget, avoid hosting holiday parties or buying a lot of gifts for others. Taking holiday trips also tends to run up credit cards. On the other hand, if you consolidate your debt prior to the holidays, you will have a firm grasp on how much money you have leftover in your monthly budget after paying on your debt management plan.

            Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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              Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Consumer, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Finance, Money Management, Personal Goals

              Budget Boss

              Budget Boss: Command Your Finances by Creating and Monitoring a Budget

              Looking for a way to improve your financial situation and set yourself up for financial success in the future? Christian Credit Counselors, a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) with a mission to provide free financial education to individuals and families both locally and nationwide, is now offering a free, online webinar entitled Budget Boss: Command Your Finances by Creating and Monitoring a Budget. Christian Credit Counselors is committed not just to helping people get out of debt, but providing them with free resources and education to STAY out of debt and live a life of financial freedom.

              The Budget Boss webinar will teach you the importance and benefits of a budget. It will walk you through the steps of the budgeting process including setting goals, evaluating assets and expenses, creating a budget, and monitoring a budget. In addition, it will show you how to use a budget to create wealth by decreasing spending and increasing income. Finally, it will give you suggestions on how to avoid common roadblocks as well as helpful budgeting resources. Whether you feel like you are drowning in debt and don’t know where to start in finding a solution or you simply want to set up a budget to save for your first car out of college, this webinar will serve as a great tool in creating and monitoring a budget so you have the knowledge and skills to make the best financial decisions for your future.

              Click on the video below to view the webinar.

              Click here to download the free handout:

              When you are done with the webinar video you can also take a quick survey by clicking the button below:

              If you have questions or would like more information, email education@christiancreditcounselors.org or call 1-800-557-1985 ext. 131.

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                credit card debt

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