Am I The Only One Who Doesn’t Feel The Crushing Weight Of Student Loan Debt?

Personal finance is a little bit like physical fitness. You can hire a personal trainer, a dietician, and say you’re going to workout five days a week, but if you aren’t fully committed to following through with a health plan, it will get you nowhere. As a young adult in the US, we often feel slighted that most of us aren’t educated on personal finance issues in high school before we’re thrown to the wolves of the real world. We are just expected to know how to file our own taxes, know how credit cards work, and how to navigate through financing college degrees all on our own.

Trial and error is the name of the game because we feel shamed in asking personal money questions. My financial journey really began in college with student loans. To be quite honest, by the time I graduated, I had only a very general idea of how much I owed because while in school I chose not to think about it. I tried not to anyway. I didn’t even know who I was supposed to be paying this money to. I found out I had to pay two different entities, which is common if you end up having multiple loans. Once I realized I had no idea how my student loans worked, I dove into learning all I could about personal finance. And I encourage everyone else to learn everything about their current financial health because nothing gets resolved by burying your head in the sand.

It’s not that hard in theory, but it does take discipline. Here’s the steps I’ve taken so far to ensure I’m a financially stable, fully-functioning adult.

If you have debt, know EVERYTHING about each debt. Figure out the interest rate, how much interest accumulates daily/ monthly, and what percentage of your monthly payment goes to interest versus the principle. I have student loans and a car loan. I overpay on all my student loans. However, I prioritize my two highest interest loans, so I overpay the most on those. As of right now, I’m looking at paying off my loans four months ahead of the original estimated date. I keep monthly track of how much I paid each loan and how much there is left to go. There’s many ways that people advocate to pay off debt (debt avalanche, debt snowball, etc), just find which method works best for you, and do it.

Look at your income and how much you bring in each month. Know how much money you bring in each month and figure out how much you can afford to spend each month. Some people track every expense. Personally, I find this dragging, and I’m never able to keep up with it. So I’ve adopted a simpler method of not spending more than I can afford to. Live below your means so you can…

Save, save, save. This is so hard for me to write about because I know that there are people out there living paycheck to paycheck. And that’s why many people climb into the hole of credit card debt in the first place. Therefore, we need to educate people on how credit cards work and how to get them to work for you not against you. But saving is the beginning to eventually growing wealth. It will get you into the habit of setting money aside to eventually invest. Some personal financial “experts” say that you shouldn’t even think about saving before paying off your debts. In my opinion, and what works for me, I want the stability of having money set aside to pay cash for an emergency and not have to swipe a credit card to be able to “afford” a crisis.

Get Life Insurance. This was a hard one for me. Homeowners and auto insurance are obviously necessary, and you must have them. Life insurance is different. It’s a choice. But is it really? I’m at the point in my life where I just made a large joint “purchase”- a mortgage. And it’s scary to think about the fact that life happens. I want to make sure that my husband could still afford the house should I pass away unexpectedly. So, I’ll happily pay $20 a month just in case, at least while we’re still paying off the house.

 

I’m not a financial guru. I don’t claim to know everything, and I’m still learning. Take what I say with a grain of salt because this has just been my experience, and we all have our own unique financial journey. Better yet: read, learn, listen. Figure out what works for you, and do it.

Advertisements

The Best Way to Spread Christmas Cheer

toys-for-tots

Image courtesy of: Toys for Tots, www.toysfortots.org

Growing up, I always had the best Christmases. I never wondered if there would be presents under the Christmas tree. I realize,  as an adult, how extremely lucky and blessed I was to not know that feeling as a child. And because of this, I could look forward to Christmas morning.

For the past few years, I have chosen to donate toys to Toys for Tots. Toys for Tots is a non-profit organization run by the US Marine Corps as a way to provide hope to underprivileged children through gift-giving. They provide toys and gifts to children ages 0-12. I believe it is one of the best, large non-profits out there. According to Charity Watch, 80% of its funds go to its programs versus overhead costs.

Every year, I look forward to going out and buying toys. My mom is the one who began donating to this charity and inspired me to do the same. I usually try and buy toys that I either played with or would have liked to have as a kid. I spend months leading up to the time when I can actually go out and buy toys getting excited to shop for those kids who wish for an amazing Christmas. I get so much joy walking up and down the aisles, I feel like a kid again. I love the feeling of knowing that the Toys for Tots kids will at least have one toy to open on Christmas day.

If you are like me and had a privileged childhood, please think about donating a toy this year. Or if you were once a kid that could have benefitted from this non-profit, consider being responsible for the light in a child that was once you, and donate a toy if you’re now able. Even one toy can change a child’s Christmas. (With Black Friday approaching, now would be the perfect time to buy. Also, Target is having 30% off all toys this Saturday, November 19th, so check it out!) Look for a drop site to donate here. Or click here to give monetarily. We could all stand to spread a little Christmas cheer.

I’m getting a little old and a little out of touch on what’s popular, so if you have a young one, give me some ideas on what to buy this year by commenting below.

 

Living Life Compassionately

compassion

When was the last time you did something selfless? When did you last see the opportunity to do something amazing for someone other than yourself? For someone you did not know? Did you take it? There are countless ways we can support the lives of others and make their lives better. By bringing others up, doesn’t mean we bring ourselves down. We can all rise together.

The other day, Avery called me a bleeding heart. The definition of a bleeding heart is “a person considered to be dangerously softhearted”. (I won’t get into the reasons why he called me a bleeding heart because I don’t want this post to be about what specific things I’ve done in the past but rather what we can all do moving forward.) I don’t view myself like this whatsoever. I think about all the times that I could have done more to help whether the recipient would have been another adult, a child, an animal. When I see people out in the hot, Texas sun selling water to raise money for some cause or event, I want to buy it all. I have this constant, nagging need to help. In my mind, why should I have this nice car, sitting in air conditioning, with the ability to go down to the store and not worry about having more than enough money to buy myself food when I know others are doing their very best and are still struggling?

I’m privileged. I may not feel privileged every second of every day because we all have our own problems and bumps in the road, but when I sit down to really think about my life and how I’ve been brought up, I am very grateful for the life I have been born into. I didn’t ask to be born healthy. I didn’t ask to be born into a family that never had to struggle to put enough food on the table everyday. I didn’t ask to be born with the opportunity to go to college. But others who aren’t born healthy or who don’t have a promised meal everyday or who never had the opportunity to go to college, they also didn’t ask to be born with these problems.

No one asks for the life they’ve been given. This is the perspective we need to use when learning that we all have something to give. Whether it’s time or money or gratitude, we can all stand to show a little more humility in the life we have been handed. And we can all stand to show a little more kindness and understanding to one another. This world has more enough evil; we need to fight it with the love in our hearts.

(photo credit: Aaron Alexander, https://www.flickr.com/photos/asalexander/3190479939)