Tag Archives: graduation

Money Genie: I Grant You 3 Financial Do-Overs

Today is your lucky day! The personal finance genie has graced this site with his presence. What’s he doing here? Well, he has come to grant you 3 financial do-overs.

What Would You Change Financially If You Had the Chance?

The genie wants to know what financial decisions you would change if given the chance. Do you wish you began investing at 18? Do you wish you never set eyes on that guy giving away t-shirts in college if you signed up for a credit card? Here are my 3 wishes:

1. I wish I never saw a credit card in my life

I’ve never wanted to get too much into detail about our personal finances because some people who read this blog obviously know me. However, I will admit that I have made some bad decisions concerning credit cards over my lifetime. I received my first card at 18 and I could just feel the immense power that it had. That power caused me to feel financially invincible and it caused me much financial harm. Let’s just say that it will take me quite awhile to dig myself out of this financial hole that I have dug.

If this wish came true, I would live my life with MUCH less stress. As many of you know, debt puts a huge weight on your shoulders. You have to continually focus on the final outcome of being debt free. Having that vision helps you continue the battle and kill debt a lot faster. I cannot wait for that day to come!

2. I wish I fully funded my Roth IRA every year since I opened it 7 years ago

All I can say is that I started out on the right path. I opened a Roth IRA when I was 18 (actually, my uncle did it for me). However, over the years I completely neglected it and managed to only put around $1,500 into it. I know a lot of you will say that I lucked out because of the market collapse, but I do not see it that way. If I would have put the max in each year ($31,000 total) and invested it in an index fund (Vanguard Total Market),  I would only have around $27,000 in the account. Frankly, that sucks. However, that would be $26,000 more than I currently have in it and if I had done that every year, I imagine my credit card debt wouldn’t be as high.

3. I wish I would have paid my way through college and not taken on student debt

Looking back, I know I would have been able to pay my way through college (undergraduate AND graduate). Yet what do I have to show for it? Many times the average debt of a typical college student. In plain english, I was stupid. I really have no idea where the money went that I earned while working during college. It could have easily went to my school and yet it didn’t. I just want to scream from the hilltops for being so dumb. Don’t get yourself in the same mess I did. PAY CASH FOR COLLEGE!

I really wish there was a money genie and he could take care of all my financial woes. Unfotunately, there isn’t and I will have to live with my decisions and learn from them.

What are your top three financial mistakes? Share them with us in the comments!

Do you have a blog? Share your financial do-over wishes with your readers! Link back to this article so we can have a collection of them all. Hopefully this can be a large resource for younger individuals (college students) on what NOT to do financially at a young age.

UPDATE:

The genie has been making his way around the blogosphere. Check out some of the places that he has been:

Mrs Micah

Suburban Dollar

Budgets are Sexy

Free Money Finance

Joe Taxpayer

Give Me Back My Five Bucks

Punch Debt In the Face

Fighting Foreclosure

My Financial Recovery

12 Questions With Deena Katz – Top Financial Planner

While attending Graduate school at Texas Tech, I had to opportunity to learn from one of the top financial planners in the country, Deena Katz. Deena has been in the business for many years and is recognized as one of the best CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERâ„¢ Professionals. She was recently named one of Financial Planning Magazine’s “5 Most Influential People in the Planning Business”. She is also the author or co-author of nine books on financial planning.

I appreciate the time that Deena took out of her extremely busy schedule to answer our questions. Here is the list of questions that I asked her. These questions include some of my own as well as some from readers. Deena has some great insight in her answers and I hope you appreciate her input!


YMR: What drew you to financial planning and how does it enhance your life?

Deena: My mother was a minister and a social worker, but when my father died at 39, it became clear that she was unprepared for the financial burden.  She taught me early on to be able to take care of myself, because there is a high likelihood that I would be taking care of myself at some point in my life.  That led me to the planning profession.  My first company was working with women in transition.  It is extremely fulfilling to see people learning to take financial responsibility and accomplishing their goals.  I’m passionate about it.

YMR: Why do you think many individuals are scared about the thought of using a financial planner? What can the industry do to fix this problem?

Deena: There have been some very bad incidents in past years (Madoff and Standford most recently) which have shaken the trust and confidence that people had in advisors.   This is a two-sided problem.  Many people do not have the education to recognize if something is not right, some are looking for investment opportunities that are just too good to be true.  A little greed and a little vice make a big mess.  I always tell people “Never let anyone care more about your money than you do.”  On the other side of that, I believe people should work with CFPs, who are bound to standards of ethics that are quite rigorous.  I also believe that advisors should act as fiduciaries (in the best interest of the client.)  When looking for a planner, ask how they work, how they are paid and if they are a fiduciary.   Then you can begin to develop trust.

YMR: How have you been calming down your clients over the past year? Did you have them well prepared for an event like this?

Deena: No one is really prepared for an event like this.  It’s a 6th standard deviation event.  But, if we are able to manage client expectations from the first minute they work with us, we have a better chance to keep them from jumping ship when things are rocky.  As advisors, we can never promise market returns, we should be exploring the downside of investments with them.  We should be able to “stress test” their plan, to demonstrate how bad things really have to get, before their plan is unworkable.  We need to keep them informed of what is happening in the markets, in congress, and in the economy so we can give them “our take” on it and how it affects them personally.

YMR: Do you think this economic climate will finally get people to realize that debt is bad and retirement saving should be a priority?

Deena: No.  I don’t think many folks really understand.  I am hoping that congress will start to help us focus on financial literacy so that young children get this education to prepare them for life, rather than stumbling through it, making grave mistakes, then trying to “right” everything before they retire. I think people are paying more attention, but I am not sure they have been taught successfully yet.

YMR Reader: Do you think budgets are a sexy thing right now?

Deena: I have always felt that budgets are a four-letter word…but “sexy” is not the word I think of.  The nature of many human beings is not to feel the constraints of budget, because you fight against them, the same way you fight against your parents when you are 15.  I believe in  “trade-off” spending.   The first thing you need to know is how much does it cost you to live-basics, like rent, utilities, etc.  Then you look at the variables-eating out vs. eating in, for example.   Then you can say, “I’d like to buy a new car, so if I eat in and shave off some other expenses, I can us that money to buy the car.”   With budgets you are managing money, but with trade off spending you are managing goals.

YMR Reader: The buy and hold strategy has been around for decades. Do you feel that same strategy applies to the Gen X and Y generation?

Deena: I do not believe that modern portfolio theory is dead.  I further believe that you can’t  make market returns unless you are in the market.  Look what has happened in the last two weeks— If you missed one day, you missed a 6 ½ % run up.  Right now, I have no reason to change my investment philosophy.

YMR: Speaking of generations, do you think the baby boomer generation is prepared for retirement? Why or why not?

Deena: Baby Boomers are not prepared, but they don’t really want to retire either. Further, if all of us did retire, we would not have a big enough work force to carry on.  Boomers may not stay with their current jobs, but may work at something they love, for less money.  They will postpone retirement because they have to, even though they will not admit that’s the reason.

YMR Reader: Asset allocation has been preached extensively after the dot.com bubble, yet even diversified balanced portfolios took a significant hit with the recent economic meltdown. How do you address that to those concerned?

Deena: See #6 above.

YMR Reader: Speaking of asset allocation, what do you recommend people do with their retirement accounts? I would like an answer for new hires, mid-range employees and close to retirement employees.

Deena: First, the younger you are, the more time you have to let your portfolio grow.  I suggest a low-cost S&P 500 index.  Leave it alone.  As you continue to add money, eventually you should buy small cap and international-all index.  Mid range employees, you may want to add some fixed income, probably around 20% max.  As you get closer to retirement, you may have 60% equities, depending upon when you will need to start withdrawing from them. You want low-cost selections, because the fund expenses come right off the return.

YMR Reader: The economy has my wife feeling a bit insecure even though we’ve got a sizable emergency fund built up, and we have no debt. The question is, once we’ve completed our emergency fund, what path should we take? Should we start investing in the stock market like it’s on clearance, save in a high yield savings account, or should we be paying extra on our mortgage? Or a combination of those things?

Deena: Some leverage is good, so I would not start paying down the mortgage unless your interest rate is so high that you cannot beat it by investing your money elsewhere.  If your mortgage interest is low, invest in the market, because it is on sale.  I would suggest that you in invest index mutual funds because they are cheaper (less expenses).  Try Vanguard’s S&P Index fund for starters.

YMR Reader: My wife and I are in the market to buy a new home. We’ve saved up a sizable amount and we are selling our current co-op to use mostly as a down payment on a new place. Our credit is also impeccable. Still…how can we tell if we can truly afford it? Is there a metric/guide we can go by?

Deena: Bankrate.com has a calculator that can help you get your arms around that.  I don’t like “rules of thumb” because they are made for average situations and I believe you deserve solutions that are unique to you.

YMR: Now a fun question! How are you liking semi-retirement in Texas?

I am not semi-retired!  I am working 24/7, but loving it.  I love Lubbock, it’s just the right size community for me.  I love the school, my fellow faculty and most of the students.  I can’t imagine doing anything else. In fact, we’ve opened up a branch office of Evensky & Katz here in Lubbock and we are in for the long haul.

Many thanks to Deena for allowing me to interview her!

Weekly Roundup – March 29th

Welcome to this weeks roundup! There were plenty of great articles this week around the PF Blogosphere. Last week I posted infrequently and I apologize for that. I hope to get a full week of articles done today and you can expect to see my Q&A with Deena Katz (the top financial planner) on Wednesday. She has responded to my questions and I am excited for you all to read it. Anyway, enjoy these great reads!

Great Reads

Ben at Trees Full of Money witnessed a credit card fiasco at a Target checkout counter. Needless to say, this article really made me angry for some reason. You can see my response in the comments of his post.

Trent at The Simple Dollar thinks that most time management is rubbish. Head over there to see the ten things that work best for him.

Pinyo at Moolanomy has some extra income ideas for college students and recent graduates. I especially like the one on selling class notes. I wish I would have thought of that when I was in school!

Pete at Bible Money Matters wants to know if you are emotionally invested in your credit card.

Frugal Dad talks about the new Discover card for teens that creates bad habits.

I hope you enjoyed these great posts! I look forward to your comments this week!

Buying a New Car? Cash Rebate vs 0% Financing Spreadsheet

I think the toughest part about buying a new car is selecting a model. When I searched for my most recent car, it took me months to figure out which one I wanted. I even feel like I settled on my Chevy Malibu because I was just tired of shopping. Whatever car you end up selecting, there comes a time when you have to choose between the cash rebate and the super low financing rate (typically 0%).

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Cash Rebates

Cash rebates are exactly what they sound like. Many automotive companies offer cash back when you purchase one of their new cars. If you see a commercial for a new car that offers $2,000 cash back, you can expect at least $2,000 off the MSRP. There are several types of rebates so make sure you know about all of them. You can get rebates for being a recent graduate, being in the military, etc. Make sure you negotiate the lowest price before mentioning any rebates. This will ensure you receive the best deal possible. You can find a list of current rebates at this site.

Special Financing

Many companies also offer the chance to get great financing rates through their company. Many companies, especially right now, offer 0% financing for a couple of years. Even if they do not offer 0% rates, they usually still offer rates lower than you can get through traditional banks.

Which Offer to Choose

Now comes the part where you need to figure out which one to choose. Here are the options which you will need to pick from:

1. Pay Cash for the Whole Car

In this case you should obviously take the cash rebates. You should also be proud of the fact that you will own the car free and clear. Congratulations!

2. Take the Cash Rebate and Finance the Car at an Outside Bank

With this option, you need to figure out if the amount of the rebate will be greater than the amount of the interest expense of the outside loan. For example, let’s say you need to borrow $15,000 for the new car and you can get a 60 month loan at your credit union at 5%. Over the term of the loan you will pay $1,984 in interest. So for this example, if the rebates are greater than $1,984 you should take the rebate and finance it at the outside bank. You can search for auto loan rates in your area at Bankrate.com. Also consider joining a credit union. They always seem to have great rates. You can use the spreadsheet at the end of this post to calculate the interest expense. It will also tell you which option to choose.

3. Pass on the Cash Rebate and Finance the Car at the Special 0% Rate

If the rebates are smaller than the interest expense you calculated for #2 (using the spreadsheet at the end of this post), you should use the 0% financing (assuming you qualify).

I should note that many companies are offering cash rebates PLUS 0% financing right now due to the economy. If that is the case, you should obviously take both.

Spreadsheet to Help You Choose

Use the following spreadsheet to help you choose the best option for you. Be sure to read the comments in the spreadsheet so you get all of the numbers in the right spot. Enjoy!

Laid Off Recently? Turn It Into Something Amazing

Lost your job recently? Feeling in the dumps? Well, here is some good news. Many great business founders started their businesses after being laid off. Time to turn that frown upside down and get out there to make things happen. Although I wrote the post 10 Things to Do When You Graduate Without a Job for recent college grads, most of the imformation applies to anyone searching for a job. Head over there and apply those steps and get searching.

Use Your Layoff to Do What Your Employer Did Bad

One of the tips dealt with finding alternative ways to generate income. So, why not start your own business? If you enjoyed your last career, why not start a business in the same field that does something your original employer did wrong? I will be doing this next year. While working at my current job, I have been very observant. I now know what not to do when I start my own business. I know what to charge that is competetive and I know what people are looking for.

Didn’t really like your last career? Why not start something that you have always been passionate about? There are plenty of businesses out there that you can start for almost nothing. Want some inspiration? Here are some individuals who started their businesses after being laid off:

Tom Stemberg

Tom was let go from a supermarket chain names Finast-Edwards in 1985 when his division was sold. He then founded Staples, the office supply giant which has over 40,000 employees. His estimated net worth is over $200 million. Not to bad for starting a business that sells pens and paper!

Michael Bloomberg

Michael was laid off from Salomon Brothers only to start the financial news service that bears his name. He is also the mayor of New York City.

Get Going Now

Recessions can be the best time to start a business. When everyone else thinks it’s the worst time to start a business, it’s sometime the best time. Sort of like in the stock market. Now may be the best time to start a business that helps individuals find jobs or helps them find other sources of income so they do not foreclose on their home. Just sit down and brainstorm. You will be surprised with what you come up with!

10 Things to Do When You Graduate Without a Job

When I graduated in December, I did not have a job. It was one of the worst job markets for me to graduate in. You would think that a master’s degree in financial planning would help, but most firms (ones that I would want to work for) just were not hiring. I guess the losses in the market amounted to losses in their revenue.

Because of not having a job in December, I thought of some ways to help others in my position. These are just some quick tips in order for you to stay in the game. Staying in the game (or hunt) is the best advice I can give you.

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1. Stay Positive

It’s not the end of the world! You need to relax, be positive and focus on the long run. You may not be able to find something right this instant, but if you keep your mind to it and follow some of these tips, something is bound to open up somewhere. Hopefully, it will be the job of your dreams!

2. Get a Part-time Gig

Bills still need to be paid and you cannot just sit at home on the couch. This is especially true if you are supporting someone else. Even if it’s only temporary, you need to get some type of part-time job that keeps you from going insane. If at all possible, find a job in a field that closely relates to the one you graduated in. For example, I am working part-time at H&R Block for the tax season. It’s obviously not the career path I want, but it relates closely.

3. Set Goals and Visualize

This is where you want to firmly state your goals. If your goal is to work at a top 50 ranked hospital, write it down. Visualize yourself working there and you will work even harder at that goal. As for other goals, list them and then start off with the easier ones and work your way down the list until you have reached them all. These goals can deal with your personal life as well as your career.

4. Network, Network, Network

This is a big one. Networking is a major part of finding your dream job. Knowing people who know the right people will help you get ahead in this world. I know that sounds bad and unfair but it’s the truth. I imagine many of you can agree with that. A great way to network is to join an organization in your community. Rotary is a great place to start as many business owners in your community attend these meetings. Not that great of a speaker? Start attending a local Toastmaster’s meeting. There you can work on your public speaking skills as well as meet local entrepreneurs.

5. Go a Knocking

I will be honest with you in saying that I do not trust web-related job searches. There is something about submitting my resume online that makes me feel like I lost control of my destiny. I know many companies have now gone solely to online submissions but they are just the big companies. Most of the small businesses (where most new jobs come from) still look for people the old fashioned way. I recommend you search around for the company that you would best want to work for, even if they are not hiring. Then, you should just pop in the business and introduce yourself. Bring along your resume as well! This will surely make a great impression on the business owner and if you are qualified enough, they may even make a position for you!

6. Be Willing to Make the Move

Chances are you will not find your dream job in Localtown, USA. You need to be able to say that you are willing to go anywhere. If there is a job open in a neighboring state, go for it! I know you want to stay close to family, but believe me, your future is much more important. Your family cannot support you forever.

7. Do Something Involving Your Field of Study

Another great way to stay involved in your field of study is to volunteer. Many of you may not have that option. It depends on your career choice. For example, I doubt I am going to be able to volunteer my time at the local financial planning office. However, if you are in the medical field you can visit the local nursing home or hospital. Not only will you be around the career that you love, you will also be able to NETWORK!

8. Continue Educating Yourself

I know you just probably graduated and you thought you were done with school. WRONG! In these times, you need to be constantly educating yourself. Things change in an instant now and you should always be at the top of your game. I did this when I decided to attend graduate school. Even if you have reached your peak in terms of education, start reading things in your field of expertise. Go to your local library for a list of good books. You can also search for journals that may be of interest to you. There is no better way to read about your career choice than from the individuals that are already doing it. Those are the people who contribute to journals.

9. Find Alternative Ways to Make Money In Your Field

Have you ever had an idea about something in your field that has not been done before? I sure have. This would make a great opportunity to start a small business. If your idea is great, it could turn into something amazing. Even if you do not have financial ability to start a business, if the idea is good enough you can find some financial backers. You may even want to start a blog about it. When I started this blog I had no idea that you could make money doing it. I just wanted to do it to share my knowledge to the world. Of course my blog is to new to make money but I still love doing it. It also keeps me up-to-date with my profession as I am constantly writing and reading about things in financial planning.

10. Be Frugal

Learning to become frugal is very important when one does not have a job. My fiance and I are working very hard at that right now. Without a steady income, some things are just going to have to wait until you get the right career. Now is not the time to be buying a car, renting that big condo, getting the sports package on TV, etc. You need to learn to buckle down and only live on the necessities. You will find that it will help you later on in your life as well. You will be want to be debt free and you will ultimately have a lot of money in the bank!

What Color Is Your Parachute? 2009: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers is a great book if you are searching for a job. It’s good for new job seekers as well as the seasoned ones.