Categories
Investing

How Can a College Student Invest? Easy Tips

In my opinion college students are the best investors. They are constantly learning and not afraid to make mistakes. As you get a college education, you should be getting an education in building wealth. You don’t need tons of capital to start your investing journey: you just have to know how to do it.

This article will focus on the most popular option for college investors: online investing. If you are wondering how can a college student invest here are some tips to get you started.
If you want to get started investing the process is so much easier than you think. Great guide for beginners!

How Can a College Student Invest Starting with Stocks?

When you first start investing you will most likely want to start with stocks. The reason most first time investors start with stocks is that they are easy to relate to and they are widely discussed. You can start up a conversation about stocks with almost anyone and they should be able to voice at least an opinion. While some believe that there are certain best stocks for college students, I believe a general education on how to invest is important.

Establishing Your Online Investment Portfolio

According to financial experts, college investors have a significant advantage over other types of investors. They have time – lots of it. Considering the amazing powers of compound interest (i.e. a type of interest that earns additional interest), we can say that time IS money.

Experienced investors state that even a small amount of money, if invested properly, can reap huge profits in the future. That means you really have to think about building your personal investment portfolio while you are still in college.

Here are the things you have to do to jumpstart your career as an investor:

  1. If you are beginning with small capital (e.g. $25 to $50), find a broker that will accept the small account. Then, you can increase your overall capital by investing more money on a regular basis.
  1. You should calculate the total amount of money you are willing to risk. As a college investor, you have to keep in mind that investment always involves risk. Your personality and available funds are two of the most important factors that determine your "risk tolerance."
  1. If you like to take risks, the possibility of earning large profits probably outweighs your fears of losing money. If you are risk-averse, on the other hand, you have to perform serious calculations regarding the exact amount that you are willing to risk.
  1. There are savings vehicles that guarantee profits and offer minimal risks. Here are some examples: certificate of deposits, federal savings bonds, student savings accounts approved by the FDIC, etc. Yep, I'm talking about saving accounts, CDs and other bank saving products. In general, these financial instruments provide the best protection against risks. However, they also involve the lowest potential for getting large profits. If you will invest in these instruments, your earning potential will be severely limited.
  1. If you can shoulder more risk and invest your money for a longer time period, you may try investing your capital in mutual funds or exchange traded funds (ETFs). These funds are composed of various securities such as bonds, stocks and commodities. Mutual fund corporations collect and manage the money of other people for investment purposes. Since these corporations employ financial experts, lots of college investors opt to put their money in mutual funds or ETFs.
  1. Prior to investing your hard-earned money in these mutual funds, you have to perform your own background research. Some mutual fund companies focus on particular industries (e.g. pharmaceutical, telecommunications, banking, etc.) while others use diversified portfolios (i.e. they make investments in different industries). You should research about the past performance of the company you will be investing on and the industries they work with. Remember: The past performance can in no way guarantee future results.

How Can a College Student Invest in Stocks?

As a college investor, once you become familiar with how the financial market works, you can start to invest in individual bonds or stocks. You can do this through the help of online brokerage firms. Individual investments, as the name implies, require the investor to personally manage all of the securities that he/she owns.

This might sound a bit scary.

However, there are lots of tools that you can use to simplify your investment decisions.

Almost all online brokerage firms provide their clients with reliable tools to monitor their investments. These days, lots of investment companies offer free accounts and minimal balance requirements. That means you can start your personal investment portfolio today.

You may think that investing is difficult or that it is hard to get started. That is not the case. Beginning your investing journey is as easy as opening an investing account. I used to have a few accounts with different brokers because I liked them for different reasons. Now I just have a few ETFs and stocks.

For example, I can buy stocks with an Ally Invest account. But I also like them because I can invest automatically without choosing stocks; you can open an account here with no minimum.

Lesson 1: What is a Stock?

A stock or a share, is an ownership interest in a business. A publicly traded business will use stocks, also called equity, to raise capital. As a stockholder, you own a piece of a business. You have the right to vote on certain changes, and you should be involved in the process. Figuring out what stocks to choose is the tough part. I remember when I made my first investments. I bought stocks based on what reporters were discussing on tv. And I lost horribly. After a few years, I learned how to research stocks and invest with the markets, not against them. I was a college student investing with extra cash and I enjoyed the process.

Lesson 2: How to REALLY Trade Stocks

Once you’ve placed a few trades and are confident in your abilities, it’s time to put some muscle behind your trades. You can beat the stock market if you make the choice to research your trades and take the time to follow the markets carefully.

Lesson 2b: Technical Analysis vs. Fundamental Analysis

This is where you have to do your homework and it’s really not that hard. Fundamental analysis is looking at the story behind the price changes whereas technical analysis is looking at the previous price changes to determine a future.

4 Tips for College Students Who Want to Invest

The following tips are recommended by financial experts. You should consider these before or while investing your money in the markets.

  1. Learn as much as you can – You can acquire investing knowledge and techniques just by reading reliable investing books and articles. The pieces of information you can gain from these resources can help you become a successful investor.
  2. Eliminate high interest debts – Debts (especially those with high interest rates) should be paid off first before making any investment. Risking your money in investments while having high interest loans can greatly worsen your financial condition.
  3. Select a brokerage firm - If you really want to make investments, you have to create a brokerage account. You have two options here: online firms and traditional firms. Online brokerage firms offer easy and computerized investment systems. However, traditional firms may provide personal advice and services.
  4. Diversify your portfolio – Investing all of your funds in a single company can result in financial disaster. Consider putting your money in various industries and investment vehicles. This strategy is called “portfolio diversification.” Even if you think an investment is a "sure thing" never put all of your eggs in one basket. A diversified portfolio is recommended.

6 Fears That Prevent You From Investing

It’s hopefully no secret that investing is the way to build wealth. Stock piling your money in a savings account won’t help you become a millionaire, or even help you achieve your financial goals. Unfortunately, there are a lot of concerns and excuses that young professionals like to throw around that keep them from investing. I hope to dispel a couple of them in this post and to help motivate you to look at investing!

1) Investing is for rich people.

How do you think most of those people got rich? Not by sitting around and working their 9-5 job! It only takes a little bit of money to get into investing, and anyone can start trading stocks online!

2) I just don’t have enough money to make it worthwhile.

It’s the principle of the matter; if you can learn to make a little bit of money, you can learn to make a lot of money!

3) I just don’t have time.

Let’s face it; what young professional does? The fact is, if you don’t purposefully make time for your finances, they’ll easily slip out of control for you. It actually doesn't take all that much time to research and invest your money, plus there are now more and more affordable services online (Ally Invest, Learnvest) for you to pay a nominal fee to have your money invested.

4) There are too many options out there to invest in.

Well, you've gotta start somewhere. Try picking one good mutual fund or an index fund. This is a quick way to diversify your money and lessens the risk of just picking one stock.

5) I’m afraid I’ll lose my money.

That’s a fair point. Firstly, never put more money in than you could see decline. You should always keep an emergency fund as well as a nice pile of cash in the bank before you start investing. Secondly; no risk, no reward. You have to be willing to take a risk with your money in order to get the reward of actually making money. Thirdly; start small and safe with your investing. Don’t go investing in high tech companies that you don’t even understand their business model. Although you won’t ever eliminate the risk, you can certainly learn to mitigate it.

6) I already have a retirement fund, why should I invest more money?

Firstly, good for you for having a retirement fund! Take a look at your savings account right now, how much interest is it paying? I’d be surprised if you said more than 1%. Inflation in 2013 here in the US was 1.5% last year. That means that your money essentially lost some of its value just sitting in the bank.

Although you shouldn't go out and invest all of your money in the market, investing more than $0 would be a good start.

By investing early, you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy years of compounding interest and will see you total net worth grow!

How did you start investing?

Originally posted 2019-04-20 08:00:27.

Categories
Investing

Review of Betterment How to Invest the Easy Way

Let's face it, most people are lazy including me and you.

Yeah, we work at what is interesting to us, but otherwise, we'd rather keep things simple.

Here at Young Finances I've been trying to teach how to research stocks, build a portfolio and invest for retirement, but some people just hate finance.

And many Americans invest too little.

An Easy Way to Invest

I recently stumbled across a simple way to invest.

It's called Betterment.com. Betterment.com was founded in 2008 as a simpler, smarter, safer way to invest.

The CEO and Founder John Stein said "I created Betterment because after years working in financial services I was amazed that no one made saving and investing money as simple as it ought to be.".

How Does Betterment.com Work?

When you open a Betterment.com account, you will deposit or set up recurring deposits from a checking or savings account.

Then the folks at Betterment will invest on your behalf into ETFs based on your portfolio allocation. Portfolio allocation just means where you want your money to go.

There are two options, stocks and bonds.

You don't have to do any research or constant monitoring of your portfolio. They manage your everything for you.

The only thing you have to do is decide whether you want a low risk portfolio or high return.

What Does it Cost?

I think this is my favorite feature of Betterment.

There are no hidden costs, fees, or minimum balances.

They simply charge a small percentage of funds under management. If you are familiar with hedge funds, you know that they charge 2% and 20% fees for funds under management and performance.

Betterment.com charges anywhere from 0.15% to 0.35% based on how much you have deposited and how often you deposit.

This one fee covers everything. At most that's 35 cents a year for every 100 dollars deposited and you can open a trading account with as little as $250 dollars.

Trading in a traditional brokerage account, even if you only made one trade a year, would cost you at least 5 bucks.

Is it Safe?

Betterment LLC is a Registered Investment Advisor with the SEC.

They have to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission and maintain fair dealings within the rules of the SEC.

Remember that it is an investment account not a savings account so your funds are not protected by FDIC insurance.

However, your investments are protected with SIPC (Securities Investor Protection Corporation) just like with any broker-dealer.

And Betterment.com has a systems and security team that works around the clock to protect your account from fraud or malicious activity. If you already have an account that you actively trade stocks in, then this is a great way for you to supercharge your long-term savings.

A good way to use this account is to set up automatic transfers each month.

Making investing automatic and inexpensive will allow you to keep more money in your pocket.

I plan to use Betterment for my travel fund. It's money that I would have sitting in a savings account earning a risk-free rate of pennies a day.

I am no stranger to risk, so I would rather have the opportunity to earn more for my money.

And because I can withdraw funds at anytime without fees, it will give me nice flexibility.

Have you tried Betterment.com yet? Click here to open an account today!


Review of Betterment Easy Investing Account

5
LaTisha Styles
September 2018
"Easy way for young adults to invest in 5 minutes…"
"The Betterment brokerage account is an easy way to immediately build a diverse portfolio. Young adults can open an account in 5 minutes."

Originally posted 2019-04-14 06:00:59.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

How to Fix Bad Credit?

Wondering how to fix my credit myself? Or how to fix bad credit? There's no doubt that living in the modern world requires credit. Yes, you can live without a credit card and survive on cash or cashback debit cards.

I know because I did it for over two years as I paid off credit card debt. But what I really wanted to do was improve my credit score immediately.

However, when you are ready to buy a house, you'll need to get your credit straightened out. In this post I'll discuss getting a credit repair service as well as what steps you need to take if you decide you want to fix your credit score yourself. You might even be able to fix your credit in just 6 months.

These steps are so easy. Perfect guide for do it yourself credit repair.

Related articles from our approved partners:

How Can I Fix Bad Credit Myself? - 6 MonthCredit Repair Guide

First, watch this video from my friend Dominique over at Your Finances Simplified. He's going to tell you exactly how to fix your credit.

Watched the video? Good.
Feeling overwhelmed at the next steps?
Yep. I understand.
Let's take this step by step.

Take a deep breath. People think that having bad credit is the worse thing that can happen. But just calm down. You are taking the first steps which puts you on the right track.

Remember, it's just money.

No one is going to die. Take control and get back in the driver's seat!

Fix 1: Check Bad Credit

The first thing you'll need is your creditor information. Get the most recent credit card statements, loan balances, and installment loan reports along with addresses and phone numbers. I recommend printing everything old-school style. It's going to come in handy later.

Fix 2: Get a Free Credit Report

Then, take a second to get your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Each year you are able to pull your credit report for free from the three providers Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.

Optional: Get Your Free Credit Score

You can check an approximation of your credit score for free at Credit Sesame one of our approved partners, but if you are trying to fix your credit, you probably already know your credit score looks a little like this....

bad credit personified

But that's ok. We're going to put you on the good foot.

Fix 3: Review your credit report for errors (highlight each error).

You're getting ready to take charge and stop being a victim. Most people don't even realize what they could get removed from their credit just because of errors.

What should you look for?

Wait a minute. So, you're telling me you didn't watch the video above?

Scroll back up for me right quick and you'll find out exactly what you should look for.

Or keep reading...

Dispute incorrect names, addresses, SSN, and date of birth via the certified mail.

You will need supporting documentation and letters. You will have to write a dispute letter and include the specifics of the inaccuracies. You want to dispute inaccurate, erroneous, outdated, misleading, and unverifiable information in your credit reports.

Tired of being harassed by your creditors? Maybe you'd prefer that someone else handle all of this for you?

In that case, you might was to work with a credit repair company to improve your credit.


Are you ready to...

  • Remove bankruptcies to rebuild credit?
  • Permanently delete foreclosures and repossessions?
  • Erase debts that were in collection?
  • Completely get credit cards under control?
  • Get approved for loans?
  • Get the best financing on cars and homes?

In that case, check out our partner Lexington Law for more details on how they can help you clean up your credit report.

Finally, fixing your credit permanently also means creating good habits and getting out of debt.

How getting out of debt is like the MTV show, I Used to Be Fat.

I used to watch this TV show on MTV called I Used to Be Fat. The show documents young adults, usually high school seniors and high school graduates who want to lose weight before they start college. Each episode features a different teen. I absolutely LOVE this show. I like seeing the determination and perseverance of these kids, they are really focused on their goals. Most of them thought about quitting along the way but each one makes it to the end and they usually reach their goal.

I was thinking the other day about how the TV show is very similar to a battle with debt. When you're in debt, it can feel like you're carrying around a second person, experiencing frugal fatigue, or that you have a spare tire of bills around your waist. I know because I'm working on getting out of debt myself. I realized that there are 3 major points we can learn from the MTV show I Used to Be Fat when trying to take control of our debt.
debt

Improve Your Credit Step 1 - Give Yourself a Deadline

Before the teens even begin a weight loss program, their coach/personal trainer gives them a large tear off number calendar to place on their wall. It has the total number of days until their program completion date, and every day they rip off the next number.

It is a good idea, when you are paying off debt, to set a deadline for your debt-free date, like 6 months. Setting a deadline is a way of making your goal specific. Every time you look at that calendar or see that date it will push your brain consciously and subconsciously to make it to your ultimate goal, to reduce spending and get out of debt.

Improve Your Credit Step 2 - Check in Regularly with a Coach

Every week, the kids had a weigh in. Their personal trainer was making sure that they were on track with how much weight they were supposed to be losing at each stage in the process. Sometimes they were attempting to lose one pound a day! I never thought that was possible or healthy, but most of the teens actually accomplished it under the supervision of their coach.

If you really want to prioritize your goal of becoming debt free then you really have to give yourself check points. You can enlist the help of a friend or even a debt counselor to help you along the way. Having a good support system can make all the difference.

Improve Your Credit Step 3 - Get Rid of Old Habits and Create New Ones

When one of the teens was at a restaurant with her friends, she ordered a lean meal instead of the greasy french fries that her friends had. The personal trainer also taught her how to cook healthier meals so that she would be able to maintain her new lifestyle change.

Becoming debt-free is not a one-time goal. It has to be a lifestyle change. When I decided to start getting out of debt, I had to first evaluate why I was in debt in the first place. I had to eliminate my habit of impulse spending and replace that habit with a good habit. Now I impulse buy stocks and my portfolio loves it! It's not easy to change a habit that took years to cultivate, but with a good support system, it is entirely possible.

Are you ready to make a change?

Some of you may be thinking, I’m still young, so why should I care about my credit score? Lots of people have debt and less than stellar credit, but they’re still enjoying a cushy lifestyle. As long as I’m able to buy the things that I want, why should I be concerned? The answer is simple. Life is easier when you have good credit.

Take a look at it this way. Landlords, employers, and lenders need to determine whether they can trust you, and they look at your credit score as an indicator of your financial reputation. You may not think credit affects you greatly, but it does. When you ruin your financial reputation (a.k.a. credit score), it will take you a long time to restore it.

Poor credit affects your ability to rent, buy a car, get a home loan, and even open up accounts. Creditors don’t want to work with people with bad credit because the risk of not getting paid is very high. How can they trust that you will pay them back if you haven’t even paid others? If you’ve already tarnished your credit, here are some tips to help you fix your credit score and reestablish your life.

Improve Your Credit Step 4 - Make Your Payments on Time

This may sound trivial, but we all know that money can be tight, and skipping payments on one bill can help pay for other expenses. But, timely payments are the biggest factor affecting your credit score. Keep a budget, and make sure you have sufficient funds to make your credit card and loan payments on time.

Improve Your Credit Step 5 - Consider Getting a Secured Credit Card

Obviously, it will be very hard to get a regular credit card if you have bad credit. If you don’t qualify for a credit card, you can get a secured card instead. This is when the bank gives you a credit line equal to the deposit you make. If used wisely, a secured card can help nurse your poor credit to better health.

Improve Your Credit Step 4 - Add an Installment Loan

You can improve your score quickly if you show that you can be responsible for both major kinds of credit: revolving (credit cards) and installment (mortgages, auto, student loans, etc.). If you don’t have an installment loan and feel you are ready to handle one, consider adding a small personal loan. Stay away from expensive finance companies and “teaser” deals, and use a company that reports the loan to all three credit bureaus.

Improve Your Credit Step 5 - Avoid the Minimum Payment Trap

Credit cards come with high interest rates. We all know how our $2,000 computer ended up costing $8,168 because we only made the minimum payments at 20% on our credit card. Ouch, that hurts! Keep constant payments on your credit card (and don’t run them up again) and your balances will drop.

Improve Your Credit Step 6 - Use Your Credit Cards Lightly and Check Your Limits

Even if you pay your bills on time and in full each month, having big balances can hurt your score. Try to limit charges to 30% or less of your card’s limit. Lenders typically like to see a big gap between how much you’re charging and your available credit limit.

Improve Your Credit Step 7 - Keep Old Credit Cards

Don’t close out old credit cards. The longer your credit history, the better. Leave the accounts open but once you pay them off, stop using them. Closed accounts tend to bring down your score.

Improve Your Credit Step 8 - Suspend Credit Inquiries

The more credit inquiries you have, the more your credit score drops. Fix your credit and wait a while before allowing your credit to be pulled again.

Improve Your Credit Step 9 - Get a Goodwill Adjustment

If you have been responsible about paying your credit cards on time, the lender may agree to erase a late payment from your credit history. For more troubled accounts, communicate with your lender about possible options to erase previous delinquencies. If the lender agrees, it will improve your overall record.

Improve Your Credit Step 10 - Check Your Credit Report for Errors

You can check your credit report without negative scoring (once per year, for free) with the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. Make sure to look for any mistakes that could be hurting your score. If you see something wrong, make the effort to have it corrected.

Improve Your Credit Step 11 - Seek Professional Help

If you are overwhelmed with debt and don’t feel you can handle the problem on your own, consider working with a professional debt relief agent. They can help you explore your options and give you guidance on this post

It’s very easy to ruin your credit, but it takes time to build it back up. No matter how bad your credit is, you can take steps to make it better.

Sometimes we mishandle our budget, and we spend more than we should. (You know that you shouldn’t have bought that expensive flat screen TV). And, sometimes we end up in tough financial situations because of things beyond our control. Whether you have experienced job loss, illness, or another type of financial disruption, it’s important to know that you can turn things around.

It may not be easy, but step by step, you will be able to fix your financial situation. Just don’t delay facing the issue. The longer you wait, the harder it is for you to recover.

Categories
Young Finances

5 Easy Ways to Minimize Student Loans

It's likely that you will have to take on some type of debt to complete a college degree. According to the U.S. Department of Education,

"The average total cost of attendance in 2011-12 for first-time, full-time students living on campus and paying in-state tuition was $21,000 at public 4-year institutions..."

That means that a 4 year degree at a state college would end up costing you over 80,000 dollars!

With those costs in mind, its no wonder that you may be considering taking on student debt to cover your college costs. However, there is no need to use student loans for the full cost. Here are 5 ways you can minimize student loans.

1) Only Borrow What You Need

If you know your major and you decide to take out a loan, only borrow what you can expect to make in your first year. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the starting salary in 2012 for a communications major is around 43,000 dollars. Your total student loans for all four years of college should be less than or equal to this. If you make a commitment to save half of your income each year, you can pay off your student loans in less than three years!

2) Use Parental Support

While you're in high school and have the benefit of free food and housing, you can work and save money for college. Learn to live within your means now so you can minimize the amount of student loans you will need.

Living at home while in college is a great way to save money. This option will not apply to everyone but if you live close enough to your college then you can live at home and save money.

3) Community College first, then University

Living at home is much easier if you are going to a community college. You can earn the college credits that you need in the first two years at a much cheaper rate than a full 4 year university. Once you have your two years completed, then you can complete your full degree at a University and enjoy the benefit of a degree from a big name school without the added cost. You just saved over forty thousand dollars! Good job!

4) Work During College

You can work full time while you are in school. While you won’t get to participate in the ‘College Lifestyle’, you can start paying off any student loan debt that you had to borrow. Paying off the debt while in college will help you avoid unnecessary fees and interest that has been accruing while you are in school.

5 Easy Ways to Minimize Student Loans | Young Finances

5) Apply for Scholarships and Grants

All financial aid is not created equal.
The most valuable financial aid comes in the form of grants, scholarships and work-study programs. These are considered the most valuable aid because essentially you are getting “free” money that does not have to be repaid.

Grants typically come in the form of federal financial aid such as: Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, and Academic Competitiveness Grant.

Individual states also have grant programs such as a Lottery Tuition Assistance.

Scholarships can come in many forms. There are many state supported scholarships and then there are literally millions of private local organizations from all over the country, that provide funding for scholarships.

Also, consider applying for scholarships at the school you plan to attend. Many private schools have large endowments that are awarded through scholarships to deserving students. And public colleges often have alumni that provide scholarships.

There are also athletic, academic, and ROTC scholarships available at most colleges. The top tier of financial aid also includes the federal work-study program, although it is important to note that a work-study position is a part time job. You are paid a weekly or monthly salary based on the hours you worked, and your per-hour rate.

What if I Don't Have a Major?

DO NOT BORROW MONEY.

If you are not sure what you want to do when you graduate, chances are you will be in school a long time, changing majors and racking up a big bill. If you are not sure what you want to do, start working full-time.

You’ll at least find out what you don’t want to do, and it will put you closer to deciding what you do want to do.

How do you plan to minimize your need for student loans?

This post was originally published as a part of the PNC Achievement Sessions helping you get smarter about money. Click here for more articles.

Originally posted 2014-11-22 10:00:04.

Categories
Young Finances

4 Ways I’m Investing in My Future

Investing has never been an easy subject for me to understand. It took me one time to go on the E*Trade website, and I was so lost, I just closed the browser window. I knew that investing money was important, but I had no idea where to begin, and no real interest in doing so. Even with me being surrounded by people who knew their stuff in personal finance, I just figured investing would have to come at another time.

However, there are other ways to invest in my future besides trying to become the next Wolf of Wall Street. Here are 4 ways I'm investing in my future without getting caught up in the stock market:

I Read Regularly

Readers are leaders, or haven't you heard? I am always reading a book, and some of my favorite genres include business and self-help. I've read biographies of leaders, company profiles, memoirs of regular people, and personal development books. I attribute reading to my growth as a person, because I'm always learning something from the books I read. I have over 300 books on my Kindle, over 100 audiobooks on Audible, and who knows how many "real books" at home. Every book I buy expands my view on a subject, and allows me to be a better me for the future.

I Attend Conferences

Have you ever been a conference? For one, it's a great place to learn information on different topics, depending on the field or niche it's in. It's also a great way to network and meet new people with similar interests. My first blogging conference was the first annual Financial Bloggers Conference in Illinois, and it was so much fun. I'm going to 2 more conferences in the next two weeks, but they're not free. In many cases, some of the bigger, well known conferences can cost you a pretty penny. But it's an investment in your future because of the people you meet and the content you learn. Setting up a conference fund is on my to-do list, so I can always ensure I have the money to cover my ticket, airfare, and accommodations.

I Contribute to my 401(k)

One of the first things I learned in the personal finance world is that I need a retirement plan. While I'm still not 100% confident that I know the intricate details of a 401(k) vs. an IRA, I do contribute to my job's plan. 3% of my income goes to my 401(k) account, and the balance goes up or down depending on how my "shares" do in my mutual fund. Again, stuff I don't fully understand, but there is an adviser who makes those investment decisions for me. The money comes out automatically, so it's set it and forget it. This is a literal investment in my future, as I'll be living off that money when I retire.

I'm Finishing School

I went to college immediately after high school, and dropped out two years later. I was burned out and was conflicted about just how much a college degree would help me. Now, though, I know a BA is about equivalent to what a high school diploma was, so I have one more year until I get my undergraduate degree. This investment is hefty, with a 5 figure price tag. I do regret not finishing school straight through, because I wouldn't have gone into debt. However, these are the breaks, and an investment I still think will pay off in the end.

So while the stock market isn't a big deal to me, I do still make investments that will end up paying off in my future. I'm excited about reaping the benefits of all of these, and I hope you consider doing them too.

What ways do you invest in your future?

Originally posted 2014-11-21 06:00:38.

Categories
Investing

E-Trade Stock Broker Review

When seeking personal finance solutions, E-Trade is one of the first companies that comes to mind, thanks to a national ad campaign and lengthy track record (the company was formed in 1982). E-Trade was one of the first online brokerage services, initially aimed at more lucrative investors willing to pay high fees to be one of the first to access online investing tools. Today, it is an option for investors large and small.

Pricing and Services

E-Trade still caters to premium investors, while also offering accessible low-cost packages to young professionals seeking to hone their personal finance abilities. E-Trade's $9.99 standard commission per stock trade is average compared to competitors. Where E-Trade separates from the pack is via its several exclusive services, including 1,300 no-fee mutual funds, nearly 100 commission-free ETFs and a variety of banking services, which is ideal for convenient fund transfers.

Some E-Trade services are lower in cost compared to competitors, such as a commission-associated mutual fund of choice being priced at $19.99 instead of the more common $50 fee at other sites. Also, E-Trade ranks among the most accessible in terms of the minimum deposit required to open an account at just $500. A margin-enabled account requires a $2000 minimum deposit.

E-Trade's cost is particularly attractive for active traders; investors who make between 150 and 1,500 trades per quarter qualify for a reduced commission rate of $7.99, which is a substantial $2.00 off the normal fee. If you make more than 1,500 trades per quarter, you can also negotiate an even bigger discount.

Strengths

In addition to providing convenient banking services and having low initial minimum deposits, E-Trade has various research tools, which include:

  • Investing Insights - provides investing ideas influenced by trends such as relevant investing topics and market trends.
  • Analyst Research - Commentary from respected sources like Credit Suisse, S&P and Thomson Reuters are provided, with in-depth analysis and comparisons of stock options.
  • Community Activity - E-Trade users can directly ask financial pros questions on current trends or recent market events.
  • Stock Screener Tools - the ability to screen stocks via E-Trade allows users to discover stocks worth investing in based on their personal criteria.

 

In addition, E-Trade offers access to foreign markets – Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK, in particular. It's a nice perk for anyone more specialized in foreign markets.

Weaknesses

Although there are certainly users who have no issues with E-Trade’s customer service, a one-star rating on Consumer Affairs after over 240 reviews suggests there are some issues, mostly citing poor communication by customer service. Still, it’s worth keeping in mind that most banking institutions have poor reviews online, so E-Trade is not too different than its major competitors in this regard.

Another potential criticism of E-Trade is that it is not accessible to every type of trader, in terms of frequency. Those who trade very infrequently or rarely may find lower fees elsewhere, but for average or above-average traders, E-Trade offers a great platform where you can lower commission rates through increased activity. Some fees – like broker-assisted market orders being an extra $25 per trade – are irritating, but for the large part E-Trade is very fair in terms of pricing.

Overall, E-Trade is a recommended option with a variety of tools and platforms that make up for some higher costs.

Originally posted 2014-11-20 13:00:00.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

When an Engagement Ring is a Bad Investment

Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, everyone I know is getting engaged. In 2012 the average engagement ring cost $4,000, according to a 2013 report from Jewelers of America. That same year, the median salary of a twenty-something with a bachelor’s degree was $46,900. That means that if you were 25 years old and getting engaged, you’d spend about 10% of your salary on a ring.

I don’t think most people I know are contributing 10% of their salary to a retirement account, but somehow it’s considered normal to spend that amount on a diamond? I hope it’ll be keeping you warm when you’re collecting social security.

But no matter what I think about engagement rings, there are still ways to get one AND be financially responsible. So here are four examples of when not to buy an engagement ring.

You don’t have an emergency fund

Traditional ring-shopping guidelines say you should spend two-month’s salary on a ring. Most personal finance experts recommend you have three to six month’s worth of expenses as an emergency fund. So in between all this saving (which can take years to do) how are you supposed to prioritize? What’s the point of having a two-carat diamond on your finger when you can’t afford to fix the transmission on your car? Before you buy the ring, have three month’s worth of expenses in your bank account. And if your partner isn’t financially savvy, figure out their assets. You don’t want to drop $5,000 on a ring to find out that your future wife has $20,000 in credit card debt.

You aren’t contributing enough to retirement

Most experts recommend putting 10-15% of your gross salary toward your retirement. At the very least, you should put away enough to get whatever match your employer might offer. So before you head to your local jeweler, check that your contributions are on par. If you’ve switched jobs lately or gotten a promotion, confirm that your 401k has increased as well.

You don’t have the cash to pay for it

If I had to list the worst personal finance decisions I’ve heard of, taking a loan out to pay for an engagement ring would be right up there with getting furniture on layaway or trying your hand at day trading. Loans are sometimes necessary. I wouldn’t have been able to go to the college I chose without taking loans. And sometimes it makes more to take out a loan if the interest rate is super low. But I doubt whatever loan you get for a ring would be better than saving the money yourself. Plus once you get the ring, you can start saving that money for your wedding, honeymoon or down payment. Creating a habit of saving can also make you think twice before you buy that diamond. Once you see it’s taken you months to save for something, you’ll have more of an appreciation for your money.

You’re in debt

When you spend thousands on a ring when you have thousands (or more) in debt, you’re only continuing the notion that it’s ok to buy what you want when you can’t pay for it. Why start your married life with a loan? There’s no rule that says the ring you get at the beginning of your marriage should be the final one. Maybe you get a placeholder rock until it makes sense to buy a diamond. Maybe you get a pre-owned ring for 50% off or scour vintage stores for unique ideas. Be honest with your fiance. Most people prefer to marry someone that is thinking about their future instead of buying something just because society tells him to.

If you want an engagement ring, then get one. Discuss your budget, pick it out together and make sure it’s what you both want. But before you do, make sure that you can truly afford it.

Originally posted 2014-11-17 06:00:47.

Categories
Budgeting & Saving

Credit Card Use for a Good Credit Score Looks Like This

Young people graduating from college have a lot of things on their minds.  The usual suspects are student loans, finding a job and eating food.  And not necessarily in that order.  One thing many graduates don't think about is their credit score, and this can end up costing them a lot of money in the long run.  All it takes is using a credit card responsibly and appropriately to start a long term history of great credit.

Most people will end up buying a house or a car in their lifetime.  They might also rent an apartment or sign up for a credit card.  In most of these cases, the company will want to know what kind of borrower you are.  Instead of taking the time to look through all of your transactions, the company will look at your credit score.

Fair or not, it is essentially a summary of your credit worthiness boiled down to one single number.

How Can I Get a Good Credit Score?

The most widely used credit score is the one by FICO, which calculates your score on a scale from 300-850.  While the exact algorithm the company uses to calculate your score is not known, they do make it known what factors make up your score.  This way, you can easily figure out what you need to do to improve your score.

According to the chart on their website, 80% of your credit score is determined by your payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%) and length of credit history (10%).

 

Want to check your credit score? Sign up for Score Watch from MyFICO.com.

All three of these factors can be optimized by simply signing up for a credit card early in your career and using it wisely.  Here's how.

Payment history

This looks at your history of on time payments.  You obviously want a long history of on time and, ideally, in full payments on your credit card.  That means paying off the total amount of your bill before the due date.

Every.

Single.

Time.

Amounts owed

This mainly looks at the amount you owe versus your credit limit, typically referred to as your credit ratio.  If the limit on your card is $1,000 and you routinely spend $999 every month, that doesn't look good at all.  You want to have a low ratio, meaning if your limit is around $1,000 you want to spend around $200.  This means that increasing your credit limit is actually a good thing, as long as you don't increase your spending.

Length of credit history

There's nothing you can really do about this except to get a time machine and zip 10 years into the future.  Lenders want to see that you have an established history of paying your debts on time, so that's why it's important to get a card early on and use it wisely.  Getting a card in freshman year and listening to the words of wisdom in this post will already give you a solid 4 years of good credit history.

Looking at the FICO chart can also tell you what NOT to do with that credit card.  Doing things like being late with bills and maxing out your credit limit will throw up numerous red flags and will cause your score to plummet.  While it's good to acknowledge your mistakes and learn from them, it's even better to recognize them beforehand and never make them in the first place.

Having a great credit score will give you favorable interest rates on your car loan, mortgage or any other loan you may have to take.  This can lead to savings of thousands of dollars over one's lifetime.  Starting your credit history with responsible credit card use can go a long way to make this happen.

Are you ready to build credit wisely? Click here to see the card I recommend as the best credit card for young adults. The card allows you to get your credit score free each month.

Originally posted 2014-11-14 06:00:04.