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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.

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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.

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Young Finances

How to Look Chic and Stay Cozy This Winter

When winter weather hits, it can be so tempting to throw on warm and bulky clothes, like hoodies and Ugg boots, with a disregard to your appearance. But if you are a millennial trying to gain some respect in the work place, finding a balance between looking chic and staying warm is important. Here are just a few ways you can do double duty with your winter wardrobe.

How to Look Chic and Stay Cozy This Winter | Young Finances

Recreate This Look!
Plaid Skirt (Option 2)
Winter Jacket (Option 2, Option 3)
Winter Scarf
Over-the-knee boots

Try Thin Layers

Layering is the key to your wardrobe from fall through spring, and it is essential to layer in winter so you can go from freezing temperatures outside to the furnace regulated environment in your workplace. The trick to layering without building bulk is to opt for the thinnest layers possible, and this starts with undergarments and base layers that often go unnoticed. Silk is a great base layer – it’s thin and unnoticeable, doesn’t create unflattering lines, and holds body heat in to create more warmth. You can also layer tights under thicker, more winter-friendly dresses and skirts for winter days.

Choose a Figure-Flattering Coat

Wearing a warm and cozy puffer style coat may be okay for casual occasions, and though it’s not the most figure flattering choice, it will certainly keep you warm. But in the workplace a chic, warm, and flattering coat is a necessity. Choosing something that is tailored to your body style, like a flared or A-line pea coat or something with a belt to accentuate your waistline, is best. Color is also an important consideration when looking for a coat. Neutrals are usually the best choice because they never go out of style. They look classic and can be worn for many years, plus they can be dressed up for work, or down for weekends depending on your accessories.

How to Look Chic and Stay Cozy This Winter | Young Finances
via Mattieologie.com

Recreate This Look!
Plaid Pattern Wrap Shawl Poncho Cape (Option 2)
Jumpsuit (Option 2, Option 3, Option 4)
Shoes

Accessorize, Accessorize, Accessorize!

Speaking of accessories, adding a hat or headband, gloves, and a scarf are great ways to add color, personality, and warmth to your outfit. I particularly love the knitted hats and headbands with extra touches, like some bling or a headband to dress up my outerwear. These accessories will hold in warmth and are a cheaper way to update your outerwear to keep up with current trends each winter season.

Boots are a Winter Staple

Fall and winter are the best seasons for boots, and luckily they can be used to create lots of different styles and looks. Ankle booties, calf-height “riding” boots, and over-the-knee boots can all be used in outfits for professional, dressed up, and casual looks alike. You can almost live in boots in the winter with all the different choices available. Keep in mind that heeled boots may be cute, but they are not always the best choice for potentially hazardous weather in the winter.

How to Look Chic and Stay Cozy This Winter | Young Finances

Recreate This Look!
Winter Hat (Option 2)
Long Sleeve Knit Sweater Loose (Option 2, Option 3)
Knee High Boots

At the end of the day though, warmth wins out. It’s not worth looking chic if you aren’t warm and comfortable. Plus, paying the doctor’s bill for getting a cold to look fabulous is just silly.

What are you wearing to look chic and stay cozy this winter?

Originally posted 2014-11-05 06:00:24.

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Young Finances

The Hidden Expenses of Travel

The costs of travel – especially international travel – can be steep.

The last thing you need are hidden expenses, no matter how small, sneaking up on you. While $25 here and there may not seem like much, it can truly add up when you account for all the unanticipated costs of travel.

The next time you are planning a trip, be sure to include these hidden expenses of travel in your budget so as not to be blindsided by them.

Travel Insurance

If you’re traveling abroad, it’s a good idea to purchase travel insurance. While not typically required for a leisure vacation, protecting yourself against risk, such as sickness or injury, theft or damage to belongings and trip cancellation, will be crucial in the case of something detrimental.

Depending on the extent of the coverage you purchase, it can cost anywhere from $60 to $200+.

International Bank Charges

Every bank has different charges for international usage, so be sure to find the information for your bank. It’s a good idea to get a credit card that does not charge international fees for purchases.

But, some countries don’t take credit cards as often as the U.S. and you may need to use ATMs for cash. There is usually a percentage charge on the amount withdrawn from an ATM plus an international fee of around $5 per withdrawal, depending on the bank.

While not much, it can add up after repeated withdrawals.

Try pulling out as much cash in one withdrawal as possible.

Tip: Some banks, like Bank of America, have alliances with international banks and don’t charge fees. Call your bank to see if they partner with any international ATMs/banks that won’t charge you a fee for withdrawing cash.

Currency Exchange Rates

Another expense to account for when you travel internationally is the currency exchange rate. Where you travel will have a huge impact on how far your money will go. Be sure to thoroughly research your planned destinations and allow extra money for money exchange.

Also, currency exchange rates tend to fluctuate, so check the rate frequently and measure the expense of exchanging money to a new currency.

Deposits

Some of your activities while traveling may require a deposit.

While you’ll likely get this money back, it’s important to ensure that you have enough cash to cover these deposits when you partake in said activities. For example, riding scooters or jet skis will probably cost you a hefty deposit in case of damage.

If you rent a boat, you will probably have to pay a deposit. And, some accommodations may require a deposit in case of damage to the housing. These are just a few examples, but something to keep in mind wen planning your activities for your trip.

Baggage Charges

So you scored that great deal on the budget airline. But then they hit you with a multitude of charges. One of which being hold baggage charges. If you plan on checking a bag, it may be to your benefit to travel with a slightly better airline.

Budget airlines will charge you extra to check a bag.

If you can carry on your luggage, then you are probably okay. Just make sure you watch the weight of your bag on any airline as overweight luggage will get you hit with another extra charge.

Tip: Budget airlines will also charge for food and drinks, not give them to you for free. So bring items on board or be prepared to pay a very steep price for snacks and beverages.

Seat Reservation

Most airlines, not just budget airlines, will also charge you to choose your seat. On long international flights, it may to your benefit to reserve a seat in which you’d be more comfortable – and that might require absorbing the cost.

However, if you don’t mind your seat, or need to save a little bit of money, try to avoid this added expense.

Wi-Fi

In America, we have become accustomed to free wireless Internet anywhere we go. But that is not always the case in airports, hotels and other countries. You cannot always rely on access to free Wi-Fi.

However, Wi-Fi is a commodity and can be sacrificed to reduce those extra costs of travel. In fact, it may be a blessing in disguise to disconnect yourself from the online world.

But do keep in mind that Wi-Fi may not always be free and you may have to pay to use it.

Resort/Luxury Fees

A hidden expense of hotels may be that in addition to the nightly rate for the room, you must also pay a mandatory “resort fee.” This usually compensates for usage of things like the pool, fitness room or any other amenities.

To my knowledge, it’s not easy to get this fee waived, so you may be stuck with the additional fee when booking a hotel. To avoid it, try less common forms of accommodations such as hostels, Airbnb or couch surfing.

Towels/Linens

Like the mandatory resort fees at hotels, hostels may also have hidden expenses for which you should keep an eye out. In some areas, hostels will charge you an extra fee for towels or linens. It is likely in your best interest to bring you own.

Tip: Try a microfiber towel. They take up less space and dry quickly. Or check the details and reviews for the hostel before you book it to ensure you don’t get hit with an extra cost for linens.

Cell Phone Usage

Quite possibly one of the most aggravating hidden costs of travel are those that come from cell phone usage. It is aggravating because it’s possible to be getting charged for things without knowing it.

You must speak with your phone provider before going overseas to figure out how to turn off mobile data on your phone – otherwise you will get charged an outrageous rate per minute for international data roaming. In addition, text messages and phone calls may be quite expensive.

Only use your phone if you absolutely must.

Otherwise, check with your provider to see if there an international plan that you can purchase.

When traveling, especially internationally, it’s important to be as prepared as possible to ensure no financial surprises. Hopefully, this list of 10 hidden expenses will help you anticipate any additional costs you may incur whilst on a vacation.

There are many ways to maximize your budget and save money while traveling that can seriously offset any unexpected expenses you may have. Traveling cheaply became a skill of mine when I was studying abroad.

(No job meant my bank account only went down, never up.)

I made the most of what little spending money I had by using these awesome tools.

1) Couch Surfing

Couch surfing is an awesome lodging alternative. It’s almost always ridiculously cheap – and you get to stay with locals, which gives you a completely unique experience. And, don’t worry, it’s not always literal. People will rent out their spare bedrooms or apartments (not just their couches). So just plug in where you want to go and pick one!

From the website, “Couchsurfing is a global community of 9 million people in more than 120,000 cities who share their life, their world, their journey. Couchsurfing connects travelers with a global network of people willing to share in profound and meaningful ways, making travel a truly social experience.”

2) Airbnb

Similar to couch surfing, this lodging option allows you to find apartments, homes, rooms, villas, or even castles to stay in. Locations are hosted by their owners and all bookings and payments are facilitated by Airbnb’s secure service. With over 800,000 listings worldwide in 190 countries, you’re bound to find something wherever you plan to travel.

3) Ride Share/Carpooling

Need to get somewhere cheap? There are tons of resources out there for ride sharing. It’s much cheaper than trains, planes or buses, and you may even make a few new friends! Here are just a few:

  • Carpooling Europe

Available in: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Greece, UK.

Available in the US.

Available in the US. Mobile app available.

  • Road Sharing

(I don’t know as much about this one, so if anyone has any experience let me know.)

4) Book a Travel Package

Booking your trip in a package can end up saving you lots of money… and headaches! Oftentimes, these packages will have all your accommodations, transportation and activities planned for you, so you can fully relax and enjoy your trip. No worrying about getting from one place to another or finding something to do.

If you’re under the age of 26, EF College Break has tons of really affordable trip packages for you.

I recently went on The Yacht Week, and I highly, highly recommend it for anyone who can stand being on a boat for 7 days.

There is a relatively new program called Camp No Counselors, which is basically an all-inclusive adult summer camp in a few cities in the states.

Also, be sure to check Groupon for any travel packages. (See this post for details).

5) Use Skyscanner

My favorite website for searching flights is Skyscanner. It compares prices and times from different airlines, allowing you to specify what you’re looking for to find the most cost-effective option. Plus, it allows you to be flexible with your dates to find out if flights on different days are cheaper. No matter where you’re flying, Skyscanner is a great tool.

These are only a few of the many resources out there to maximize your travel. I’m always looking for others! Have you used any other tools not named here? Let us know in the comments below!

Originally posted 2014-10-15 06:00:00.

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Young Finances

Should I Pay Off Student Loans or Invest?

As a recent college graduate, it’s likely that you have student loan debt. According to the National Center for Education Statistics,

“From academic years 2006-07 to 2010-11, the percentage of first-time, full-time undergraduate students at 4-year degree-granting institutions receiving any financial aid increased from 75 to 85 percent.”

With an average 4-year tuition cost of 21,000 dollars, and more and more students taking on student loan debt; a portion of your salary will go directly to paying of this debt. (Source)

However, if you research investment strategies, you’ll see the same advice over and over again. Start early and use time to your advantage.

Starting early puts the power of compounding on your side. That means more money. That also means that you are faced with a difficult question. Should you pay off student loans first or invest?

Before you can answer that question, you should evaluation your personal situation.

Do you have any other debt?

Do you have any other debt aside from student loans such as credit card debt, car loans, or medical bills? Even though your balance of student loan debt will typically be higher, these types of debt often have a higher interest rate. In order to save money on fees and interest. You should work on paying these off first. In addition, student loans give you more flexibility in terms of deferring payments whereas, waiting to pay credit card debt will most certainly affect your credit score negatively.

How much money do you have saved?

If you lack emergency savings, and you have an unexpected expense, you will cause yourself more stress than necessary. Emergency savings of 2-3 months of expenses as a bare minimum will help you manage most unexpected expenses such as hospital bills or car accidents. Take some time to build up an emergency savings fund first before you consider investing.

If you have all other debts in check and you have already set aside your emergency cash, now you can consider if it is better for you to pay off student loans or invest.

What types of loans do you have?

Typically, government issued loans have a fixed interest rate. If you do not have a fixed interest rate, then it would definitely be much wiser to pay off that loan as much as possible (or entirely) before you consider putting your money into investments. This is because when it comes to finances, figuring out what is certain and what is uncertain will help you determine where to put your efforts.

Are you ready to risk investing?

There is no such thing as a safe investment. The market can crash and businesses can go under at any time. Some investments are safer than others. When investing, there is a trade off between the risk you take and the reward you earn. The higher the risk becomes, more money will be returned on the investment. Only you can determine what types of risks you’re willing to take in your investing.

One final consideration is how you feel about your student debt. If you are the type of person who is uncomfortable with knowing that you owe someone a lot of money, or you have concerns about making that payment every month, then the answer should be obvious. Pay off your student loans.

There were many questions posed in this article. That is because there are many things to consider with a question such as this. You are the only person who can determine which choice is the correct choice. Evaluate your situation carefully, and make a decision that works best for you and causes you the least amount of worry.

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 2014-08-20 06:00:42.

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Young Finances

PODCAST: Young Finances Interviews Rob Wilson on Achieving Success

I’m super excited to share with you all this interview! Rob Wilson is a financial advisor originally from Pittsburgh and has been dubbed “Hip Hop’s Financial Advisor” because he is a trusted advisor to professional athletes & entertainers. Rob believes that we can all learn from their success.
PODCAST: Interview with Rob Wilson | Young Finances
He received his bachelors degree in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and his Masters in Business Administration from the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Rob for a chat and discuss what success is for him. Please listen in and let me know how you view success in the comments below.

Originally posted 2014-07-28 06:00:06.