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?


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.


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.


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.


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.

Budgeting & Saving

7 Places to Find Money for College

College can be a big expense. Unless you have parents who saved for your tuition and agree to pay, you will likely have to figure out how to finance your college education yourself. If you get creative with your financing, you can minimize your need to borrow funds for college.

1) Complete the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is your first step in looking for free money for college. Often, there are grant programs or scholarships that work in conjunction with this federal application. You may also be eligible for grants that you were not aware of. The FAFSA can help you automatically apply for these grants.

2) Win Scholarships via Alumni Clubs and Religious Organizations

Check for scholarships offered by alumni clubs or religious organizations that you or your parents belong to. I applied for a scholarship that was awarded by a club that my mother was a member of. It was a small scholarship of $500, but every little bit helps.

3) Apply for Grants via the Federal Government

One of the most popular places to get free money for college is the federal government. Yes, they supply funds for direct loan programs, but they also have grant programs. Grant money does not have to be repaid and can help you pay for tuition, fees and supplies.

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is awarded based on financial need. The grant is awarded to low­ income undergraduate students. In some cases, graduate students may qualify.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant

The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is also awarded by the federal government based on need. Priority is given to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need.

4) Ask the College

You may qualify for a scholarship directly from the college you plan to attend. Often the college will have donors that provide scholarship money. At my college, completing the FAFSA was the first step in applying for these scholarships. Some scholarships require a short essay or demonstration of interest in a particular major.

5) Serve with AmeriCorps

Serving for 12 months in AmeriCorps will qualify you for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. This award may be used to pay education costs at eligible post­secondary educational institutions (including many technical schools and GI­-Bill approved educational programs), as well as to repay qualified student loans.

6) Qualify for the GI Bill

Serving your country will qualify you for the Montgomery GI Bill. You can also qualify for funds if you have a parent or spouse in the military with unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. These funds do have to be repaid and can be used for tuition, fees and supplies, as well as housing.

7) Try Professional Organizations

There are professional organizations that offer monetary awards if you demonstrate interest in a particular career path. For example, the American Marketing Association Foundation awards several scholarships, and the National Association of Black Journalists awards scholarships to foreign or American-born students pursuing careers in journalism.

There are many ways to secure free money for college. It will take a little effort but it is worth it. Take the time to research these ways to finance your college education and chase the degree you’ve been dreaming about.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.

Originally posted 2014-10-30 13:00:23.

Budgeting & Saving

3 Ways to Save Money on College Expenses

There is no doubt that college is a large expense. It requires an investment of time and money. However, your college studies don’t have to break the bank. Here are three simple ways to save money on college expenses.

Shorten Time in College

Decreasing the number of semesters that you are in college is one of the best ways to save money on college expenses. Take more classes each semester or quarter. If you can take just one extra class, that could save you hundreds of dollars over the course of your college career.

If you are not able to take more classes, then choose to take classes during the summers or during mini­sessions. For example, my college offered courses during May­Mester. That is the two weeks between spring classes and fall classes. My brother’s college was set up a bit differently and he was able to take classes back-to-back in quarters.

Borrow Computer Time

These days, much of your coursework will be completed with some sort of online component. I remember a class where we met twice during the semester for a midterm and a final. The remaining class work had to be submitted via an online classroom. With that in mind, you should think about saving money on a desktop.

The most inexpensive way to complete online coursework is through your local public library. However, when the library closes, your access to the computer also ends. Look into inexpensive deals for laptops or desktops. An investment of 300 dollars is certainly worth it when you think about how it helps you to graduation!

Rent College Textbooks

On the first day of classes, the professor typically mentions the required course book. After I researched the price of the textbook, I almost popped a vein. Textbooks can be very expensive! However, I was able to cut costs by renting textbooks. There are many services that will allow you to rent a textbook for a fee. Then, when the semester is over, you simply return the book. You can also look into borrowing the textbook from a friend who has taken the course previously.

Learning to hack your expenses is an informal college class. It won’t be a grade listed on your transcripts, but you will certainly be tested on it in the real world. Figure out where you can trim expenses and make the most of your education dollar.

What about you? How did you hack your college expenses? Is there a suggestion that I missed?

Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.

Originally posted 2014-10-16 13:00:51.

Budgeting & Saving

Millennials & Money: Who does Gen Y Trust?

Picture this: you’re 26 years old and have just received the first significant bonus of your blossoming career. You’re trying to figure out how you might spend the money: should you travel or go on a shopping spree? Take in a weekend music festival with friends? On the other hand, you may be thinking about making a dent in the debt you’ve accumulated—or even considering putting a portion away to benefit your financial future. So, who can you turn to for solid financial advice?

According to Fidelity Investments’ first-ever Millennial Money Study, far too many Millennials (aka Gen Y, born 1980-1989) struggle to answer that question. When asked who they trust most for information on money matters, one third (33 percent) of Gen Y-ers identify their parents as the top choice, but almost one in four (23 percent) indicate they trust “no one” when it comes to advice about money, making it the second most common response. (Note: Watch a video of Millennials sharing their fears and tips on handling their finances.)

Looking for more information on managing your finances? After checking out the posts, videos, and resources offered here at, check out Fidelity’s MyMoney website. The web site has tools, videos and a wealth of resources targeted to people at the early stages of their investing lives, helping them tackle financial challenges and build plans for the future.

Millennials, do you really trust no one? Or are you just looking for a trustworthy institution?

Originally posted 2014-10-13 16:27:46.

Budgeting & Saving

Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? You Can’t. Here’s Why.

Is it really possible to spend one billion dollars?

I was listening to the latest GrowthEverywhere podcast (discovered earlier this morning via Growth Hackers) where they interviewed Emerson Spartz, a 27 year old middle school dropout. He homeschooled himself, started the number 1 fan site for Harry Potter fans, and today, across his various media properties, garners 160 million monthly page views.

In the interview, he mentions his financial goal. He wants to earn 1 billion dollars by the time he turns 30.

That’s right, 1 billion dollars.

That made me think. Does he want one billion dollars because he needs the money?

Of course not.

At some point, you earn enough money to support yourself, to give, and to buy a few toys.

I believe that his desire to reach one billion dollars is simply a ‘can I do it?‘ goal.

He likely wants to figure out if he has the mindset and mental capability required to earn one billion dollars. He’s already earned one million.

He has an above average mindset.

The mindset required to earn one million dollars is completely different than the mindset required to earn the average American household income of $51,000.

It has to be.

Otherwise, more Americans would be earning one million dollars, right?

But the mindset required to earn one billion dollars is not much different from the mindset to earn one million dollars.

It is simply a three zero difference.

If you think earning one million is impossible and earning one billion is impossible, then figuring out how to earn either one requires roughly the same mental effort, correct?

Impossible = Impossible

If you disagree then I would challenge you to search and find the definition of impossibler.

Exactly. It’s not a word.

So with that in mind, I tried to figure out what Emerson Spartz would do with one billion dollars.

We’ve already established that no one really needs one billion dollars. Heck, people survive everyday under the poverty level.

My fiancé and I agreed that it is not about the money. He even argued that no one could easily spend one billion dollars without wasting money.

I disagreed, stating that I could spend one billion dollars easily.

So he came up with a challenge.

How Would I Spend One Billion Dollars?

The challenge is this. Spend one billion dollars. Every single cent.

The conditions: I have to spend it on myself. No donating, no buying investments, none of that. I mean, if I made one billion dollars the first time, starting from zero, I could certainly make it again.

Donald Trump is living proof. He has been bankrupt and earned it all back and more.

Richard Pryor’s character in the movie Brewster’s Millions faced a similar challenge. He had to spend a $30 million inheritance in 30 days.



Faced with this challenge, someone who has never had that much money would find it difficult to figure out how to spend it.

I disagree. I think I could spend one billion.

Once I started looking for ways to spend one billion dollars, I realized that I had to dream big. Really big.

Here’s how I would spend one billion dollars.

1) Purchase a home ($125 million)

Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think. | Young Finances

The Maison de L’Amitie is a home in Palm Beach, Florida. I chose it because it is off the coast of Palm Beach, one of the most beautiful areas in Florida. The garage has space for 50 cars. However, I would only need enough space for one.

2) Purchase a diamond encrusted Mercedes Benz ($4 million)

Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think. | Young Finances
This car was rumored to be the possession of Saudi Prince Alwaleed. An article from Business Insider claims that the car is not his. Well, now that I’ve purchased it, it’s mine.

3) Purchase an island. Two to be exact. ($29.5 million + $43.3 million)


Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think. | Young Finances
This is a private island off the coast of Greece. It is non-devloped and only a 30 minute speed boat ride to Athens. The listing price is approximately $43.3 million USD. That seems reasonable.

Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think. | Young Finances
This is a private island in the Caribbean sea. It is also an undeveloped island and a part of the US Virgin Islands. The island is only five miles from Cyril E. King International Airport, making it accessible to commercial and private jet air service from around the world. Which brings me to my next purchase.

4) Purchase a jet ($100 million)

Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think. | Young Finances

This jet is on the more conservative side. I could have spent 600 million on an Airbus but I decided to budget my money for the islands. (budget, ha!) This Boeing 757 jet is one that Donald Trump is selling. Obviously I would have to get a new paint job.

5) Purchase a yacht ($263 million)

Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think. | Young Finances
This yacht is said to be owned by Russian billionaire, Alisher Usmanov. It is one of the largest yachts in the world and requires a crew of 47 people.

Whew! I’m exhausted. But I’ve only spent $564.8 million! It was really hard for me to figure out how to spend the remaining $435.2 million.

But here is how I would do it.

6) Develop two islands. ($36.5 million X 2)

Now that I have two islands, I have to develop them. I need roads and other infrastructure as well as a resort home to live in when I visit. I’ll also build private resort residences for friends or anyone that is willing to rent them out. This may break one of the rules because it would qualify as an investment property. However, as a condition of purchasing Necker Island, Richard Branson was required to develop a resort so I am going to assume that I have to do the same.
Richard Branson paid $10 million dollars to develop Necker Island. That was in 1978. Using this inflation calculator from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, I calculated that in today’s money, 10 million dollars is equal to roughly 36.5 million.

7) Hire a private pilot for a 10 year contract term. ($2.1 million) is a service matching pilots to job postings. One job posting listed the monthly compensation for a Boeing 757 pilot operator at $17,460. One year’s salary is really just a drop in the bucket so I extended the term over 10 years. This assumes that the entire compensation package is covered by the contract salary.

Ok, I’m almost tapped out by now. At this point, I’m just looking for ways to get rid of the remaining $360 million.

8) Buy a life for 12 million Candy Crush users ($207.8 million)

How many times have you gotten a request from a friend on Facebook asking you to send them a life in Candy Crush?

I’ve heard the game is addicting.


Could You Spend 1 Billion Dollars? It's Easier Than You Think | Young Finances
After the first few requests I blocked the app, but maybe I could finally give them a life. The company reports that approximately 12 million users spend an average of $17.32 a month. I’d be willing to buy a life or power up or whatever it’s called for each of them for one month.

9) Fritter away the remaining funds on unnecessary objects ($152.2 million)

Earlier this year, Oprah raised over $600 million auctioning off some of her most prized possessions. She decluttered and went back to the basics. Oprah is a billionaire but for her, less is more.

Now that I have completed this exercise, I can honestly say, I would have a hard time spending a billion dollars.

Yes, my fiancé was right.

Now I challenge you. Could you really spend one billion dollars? How would you do it?

Was it a fun exercise to try to find ways to spend money?

How are you spending the money you have now? Would your spending habits change if you had a billion dollars?

Originally posted 2014-10-12 15:52:33.