Category Archives: Goals

Is College Worth the Cost?

I am currently working on my third college degree. I am someone who loves education and sees a lot of importance in getting a good education. When I’m done, I’ll have a Master’s in Ministry in Youth Ministry. I already have a Bachelor’s in Sociology and a Master’s in Communication Studies.

I work with teenagers on a regular basis, which I believe I’ve shared on here before. One of the things that I talk to students about most often is their futures. They go to me about college and jobs and what should they do with their future. Of course, I’m still in the process of figuring that out for myself. But, I’ve gotten to a point where I say to them “Hey, you know what, maybe you don’t need to go to college right away.” Some people may be shocked, but in today’s economic climate? It may not be a horrible idea.

Like I said, my bachelor’s degree is in sociology. Now yes, I learned a lot of valuable things during my time in the major, but I got out of school and could only get a job in either social work (which, if I wanted to do social work, guess what, I would have majored in it!) or fast food. Talk about miserable. So, I went back to school and got a degree in journalism. Do I wish I’d just gotten my bachelor’s in it? Kind of, but now that I have a Master’s, I’ve found it to be worth it.

Here are three questions that you should ask yourself if you’re even on the fence about going to college:

  1. Do I know what I want to do?
  2. If the answer to that first question is yes, does what I want to do even require a degree?
  3. Can I really afford to go now?

That’s really what it comes down to. College has become a “rite of passage” into adulthood in American culture. So much so, in fact, that psychologists have pushed adolescence as far as age 25, calling 20-25 “late adolescence.” But, that’s not how it has to be. I know plenty of people who are successful in life who never went to college.

Now, I’m also not saying that you can’t go to college. I’m a huge advocate for education, to the point that it’s almost absurd. I used to be the type of person who told everyone that they should go to college. Since the downturn in the economy and my own experiences struggling to get by with a bachelor’s degree that didn’t do much for me until I got my Master’s, I’ve toned that down a lot. An education is a great thing, but if it’s going to hurt you financially more than help you, maybe you should reconsider your options.

What do you think? Do you necessarily need a college degree in order to succeed in today’s world? Share some thoughts in the comments, have a great week, and we’ll see you here next Tuesday!

Road to Success: Setting your Goals

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Okay, so we all know that goals keep us focused on a purpose. The truth is, all successful businesses and organizations have short term and long term goals and a written plan for reaching them. The first thing you need to do is to determine your financial situation and then decide what you want to achieve for your future also how you’re going to accomplish this task.

“Most people don’t plan to fail, they just fail to plan”

Writing out your goals is like saving, everyone knows they should do it but most don’t.

So why are financial goals so important?

Just like you wouldn’t leave on a long road trip without a road map, still many people go through life without a real solid plan for their future. The road to success can lead directly to your destination or to a dead end. Making specific financial goals and witting out plans for meeting them will help you focus your efforts on the end result.

Think of goals as your wheels on your car, they steer you in the direction you want to go and you will not get very far without them. So if you have not started planning for your future, then now is the best time to begin no matter how old you are. The earlier you start however, the more advantage you’ll have. Time is THE most important tool when it comes to saving and investing. If you wait too long to start investing and saving, you’ll have to work at it a lot harder than if you start as soon as possible. The best/smartest thing you can do in your twenties is to invest and to save. When you start at an early age, you’ll ultimately have to save and invest much less of your money and will still come out far far ahead of anyone who starts investing ten or twenty years later.

For example, someone whose twenty years old and invests $5,000.00 and earns an average of 8% a year, at retirement ( age 67 ) will end up with $186,160.06. Now the same amount invested at the age of forty would total less than $40,000.

Without a good solid plan, you can have the best intentions but lead nowhere. Start mapping out your financial route now, because your future depends on it. Be sure to come back to read my next post on how to calculate your financial net worth.
(This is the first article of the three part series)

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Overcome your worst fear: Learn How to Save

Raise your hand if you think saving is a good idea? Now out of everyone who raised their hand, keep your hand up if you actually save. Here is where almost everyones hands go down.

When you ask anyone to save a certain amount of their pay check, they will most likely agree that it is a great idea but they claim they can’t because they’re already pushing their limit within their budget. To save money from your current income will mean reducing your standard of living and that may be moving into a smaller place, not driving a fancy car, eating cheaper foods, or not able to enjoy your daily morning Starbucks. But because peoples lifestyles are all built on habits, even if they can agree that saving may be a great idea, the actual thought of reducing ones lifestyle is so unacceptable that they are not able to discipline themselves to take the first step.

Believe it or not, saving has always been a part of your life. When we were all growing up, we were given allowances and also were encouraged to save our money. Back then, we looked upon money as a tool to buy happiness whether it be in forms of toys, candy, ice cream, or cookies. Therefore as a result, we also naturally begin to look upon saving a way of punishment, which means depriving ourselves from the toys, candy, etc. At an early age, people begin to associate savings with pain, sacrifice, loss of pleasure, satisfaction and happiness. Now as adults, this habit is manifested in our desire to want to spend money as soon as we receive our checks.

Well instead of telling you how you can overcome this habit or cutting back on your current lifestyle, heres a different route. From this day forward, you need to save 75% of every increase in pay you receive from work.

How does this work?

This is something that you can do because it does not require you to lower your current standard of living, in other words, you don’t yet have the money built into your daily lifestyle. It is easier for people to commit to saving money that they don’t have than for people to agree on saving by cutting down on their current lifestyle. In order to become wealthy, you need to develop these habits.

So starting today, commit to save at least 75% of future raises in income. The earlier you start, and the rate at which your income grows, saving 75% of your future increases in years to come will allow you to acquire an enormous amount of money. Developing this habit will eventually make you financially independent.

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How to Determine Financial Success

Personal Finance is such a big fuss in our blogosphere, there are so many articles on how we can save more for our retirement, how to reduce debt, how we can live more frugally, how to not spend your money, and the list goes on and on. I love to read about all the different aspects of finance, because the truth is the more you think about finance the better you’re gonna do financially.

But after applying all the neat hacks and tricks on how to be more financially independent, what’s next? How do you determine financial success? How do you gauge your performance? It’s simple. It’s not how much credit card debt you were able to pay off this month, its not how much you were able to save up, it’s not how much you were able to put away for retirement.

What it comes down to is, your net worth.

You can put away $500.00 for retirement one month but in that same month treat yourself to a nice Iphone (which is somewhere around that price range) and not improve your overall net worth. You can pay off $200.00 off your credit card this month but you keep using the same credit card for all your purchases, again, you’re not improving your situation.

The way you can gauge your financial performance and know that you’re doing good is this, ask yourself, “Did my net worth improve from last month”? If you can say yes, then you’re doing wonderful, if not you might want to rethink your strategy.

What you don’t want is for you to have the same net worth month after month. As long as you can say that your net worth has increased by ‘x’ then you’re in good standings because you know that your making progress. As opposed to someone whose net worth is the same each month and not making any improvements, which is the most case. If you spend just as much as you save, then you’re really not making anything. Wouldn’t it be great if you can see that your net worth is getting better and better each month, each year? Instead of being in the same financial scenario for 5 years? This is why keeping track of your net worth is very important because it also allows you to keep track of your financial progress.

The big picture is aside from all the frugal living, putting away for retirement, investments, and all the financial goals one might have, what it comes down to is are you improving your net worth.

The key points is, you should concentrate on improving your net worth month after month. This is the only way to rate your performance. If your net worth is improving, then you know your financial situation is improving. :)

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Ways to Avoid Procrastination

Here are some tips to help you get a nice jump start on your next project and avoiding those last minute deadlines.

  • Create a to-do-list. It doesn’t matter if its on a notebook or on your computer. You want to record everything you need to do. This way, taking the time to log your entries makes you want to carry them out a little more.
  • When creating your list, you want to give your task a priority. You can do this by listing the more important tasks at the top or you can
  • You want to refer to your list as much as possible. The more you see it, the more you’re gonna be thinking about.
  • This is important, reward yourself. After you have accomplished a task, take the time to reward yourself. The reward doesn’t have to be super expensive, a trip to Starbucks if fine.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. You are not the only one who has a hard time trying to get started on various projects and tasks.
  • Let others know about your goals and plans. This way, you are somewhat committed to your goals and you will not only have to face yourself, but to others as well.
  • Promise yourself ten minutes a day. When you think ten minutes, its not much but you’ll be surprised how much work you can get done in that time. In most cases, you will end up passing 30 minutes and you will have made some progress.

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Credit Card Completely Paid off!

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Yes, I’m really excited to announce that I have completely paid off my credit card as of this past weekend. I have wrote many posts about my credit card situation and it has been an ultimate goal for a while now. I am finally glad to announce that my long journey has finally reached an end.

For those who do not know, I originally had a credit card debt of about $9,000.00 as of last year May. Over this past year I have been trying really hard to fight temptation to not buy anything that I don’t need and only worrying about paying off this debt.

So now that it’s finally paid off, what’s my next goal? What am I now going to do since my debt has finally been paid off? It’s simple. Save, save and save. Invest, invest, and invest. That is going to be my next goal. Over this past year, paying off my debt has definitely been a great learning experience and through the process I’ve learned to budget effectively and to live frugally.

Now my main goal is to save up for my down payment for my first home. I plan on purchasing my first home in about 3-4 years from now, so I have plenty of time to start saving. I live in Maryland and houses here are quite expensive. If I want to save for a 20% down payment, I’m going to need about $70,000. That’s going to be my next 4 year goal.

Having this credit card debt paid off has relieved a lot of stress off my back and now I’m ready to continue my financial journey.

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How to Pay Down that Credit Card Debt

card.jpgStatistics show that the average American has over $8,000.00 in credit card debt. If you fall under that credit card debt range, then you’ve got some major cleaning up to do. There are millions of people who have come out of some heavy credit card debt, so now it’s your turn.

Follow these 5 steps to be on your way to being credit card debt free. 

  1. First thing, you need to stop the credit card offers. You want to get away from all these tempting offers. You can actually force credit card bureaus to stop selling your information at 1-888-5-OPTOUT. Call the number to get the forms.
  2. Reduce your interest rates. The average credit card interest rate goes for about 18%, which is really high. You want to be in the 7%-12% range. You can call your credit card provider and negotiate for a lower interest rate. If you have been a customer for a while, then it should be really easy to negotiate. 
  3. Stop using your credit cards. If you’re trying to reduce your debt, the last thing you want to do is to keep adding to it. If you have a hard time not using your cards, then take them out of your wallet or purse and leave them at home. If those methods doesn’t work, you can even cut up your cards.
  4. Always pay more than the minimum due amount. Credit card companies love it when you only pay the minimum amount because the balance is calculated based on a system so that they can extend your payment plan as long as possible to make optimal profit.
  5. Consolidate your debt. Once you have reduce the interest rates of your cards, you want to combine your credit card debt into the card with the lowest interest rate.

Once you have stopped using your cards, reduced your interest rates, and have consolidated your debt, then you’re heading in the right direction for paying off your credit cards.

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10 Reasons why I Love to Budget

piggybank.jpgSo whats the big deal with budgeting and why is it so important? Let me tell you why I love to budget, I have ten reasons and maybe you might see for your self the reason for its importance. Here they are:

  1. Big Awareness. Through budgeting, it keeps me aware of how much I spend on the daily basis.
  2. Saves me money. By knowing whats coming ahead and being able to plan, it helps me to spend less and less every month.
  3. Smart planning. Knowing how much money I have allocated, daily budgeting keeps me financially aware of my situation.
  4. Puts me in the right direction. Helps me to reach my financial goals.
  5. Helps me Prioritize. By keeping a nice balanced budget, I don’t have room to always buy things that I want. Instead, I need to make sure that I am able to buy the things that I need first before being able to buy anything else.
  6. It just feels good. The satisfaction of spending within my allocated funds is a great feeling and an accomplishment.
  7. Helps reduce debt. Financial planning and strict budgeting is a great way to help reduce debt.
  8. Keeps me in a positive financial mind set. When I’m consistently around numbers and percentages, I’m always being reminded to keep going.
  9. I love numbers. I love to calculate and to see how I’m improving from month to month.
  10. Organized. Being able to plan my budget has definitely helped me to be more of an organized person.
  11. (Extra)I’m ready for those emergencies. Life is unpredictable and you never know what’s heading your way. Being on a budget prepares me for those emergency times when I need those extra few bucks.

Budgeting is a very nice way to keep track of all your expenses and it also helps you stay organized. The best thing is it only takes about 20 minutes per week. I recomend using this program called pear budget. Its an excel spreadsheet that keeps track of how much you spend on the daily casis. If you want to give it a try, you can download it for free here.

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Time is More than Money

treemoney.gifTime, more than money, can help you achieve your life goals.

If you have a future in mind, whether it’s a home, starting a family, going to college, or building a nice nest egg, the main problem of achieving your goal is that money is tight and hard to come by.

The best tool you could use to help achieve that goal is time. It doesn’t take that much,  but just good time management and a simple plan which you can stick to. When is the best time to start investing? The sooner the better.

There are certain circumstances in which you might want to wait before starting to invest. An example would be, say you have a credit card debt of 5,000 and your interest rate is over 12%. In this case, it’s probably a smarter move to pay off your credit first before starting to invest because you don’t want to be losing 12+% each month from your debt.

Otherwise, the sooner you start the better. You don’t even need a lot of money to invest. You can start with as little as $20, $50 or more a month.

The more you save, the more you will have. The more you have, the harder your money will work for you.

Start now while time is on your side. The younger you are the more time your investment has to potentially grow. What is why it is important to start investing as soon as possible.

Lets do a recap of your possible future investment lineup:

Say you invest $100 a month at an 10% return.

1 year —- -$1,320.00 ($120.00+)

5 years  —-$8,058.73 ($2,058.73+)

10 years —$21,037.40 ($9037.40+)

15 years—$41,939.68 ($23939.68+)

20 years—$75,603.00 ($51603.00+)

In twenty years, you can turn $24,000 into a little over $75,000. And this is just with $10o a month. The sooner you start, the longer you have to let it grow.

When is the best time to start investing?

I’d say today is looking pretty good.

Credit Card Update

So I managed to bring my credit card debt down to an even $4,000.00 just this past weekend. Paid off $1,404.22 out of the $5,404.22  which brought my total to an even $4,000.00 :) I plan on paying off a little more as soon as I receive my refund from my federal return. My goal is to bring it down to $3,000.00 by next week. It would be nice if I could have it completely paid off before summer starts but I doubt that will happen, simply because I am only working part time and spent money on worthless junk. However, this will not stop me form trying to get it down as much as possible. Here is a general idea on how I plan on getting it down as much as possible. Some of the stupid/unnecessary things I spend on includes:

  1. Chinese food – This one is really stupid considering I have a meal plan on campus which is completely already paid for. I just need to throw out all my carry out menus from my room.
  2. Starbucks - Ah, how I love coffee. This one is going to be a little hard to stop but I am going to try to cut down little by little. I go about 5-7 times a week. I love their new Dulce de Leche Latte. Such temptation makes this one quite tricky.
  3. Random grocery shopping. Yes, I am truly a college student. I all I do is eat and study. Although I love the infamous Ramen Noodles, I tend to spend a little more on the hot pockets and frozen pizzas.
  4. Car gas. Gas price is no joke. Especially since my car only takes premium fuel.
  5. Pure junk. Stop carrying my cards and cash everywhere. Simple.

I think that if I am able to cut down on these 5 things I can save so much more. I’m going to set my target date for May 21st. Until then, I plan on keeping a record of how much I would of spent and instead saved.