{Week 7 Money Challenge Recap} RESET Your Goals = Success

“Personal Finance Really 80% Behavior and 20% Head Knowledge”- Dave Ramsey

Jars of Coins

We are closing out week 2 of February and I have a good feeling that people have started to forget the motivation that most feel at the very beginning of the year. Whether you have forgotten your goals, lost sight of your personal mantra for your year, or given up on your resolutions, know that it is not too late to reset. In the past three years, I’ve gotten off track more than a few times when doing this challenge. That’s why it’s called a challenge. It is not supposed to be easy. Lucky for us, my BINGO version of this challenge isn’t particularly difficult either. Making necessary changes to help you reach your goals, be it financially, socially, or vocationally is all about behavior. You have to retrain your brain and as soon as you start seeing results, you will begin to establish that positive change as a habit and one day you will look up and it will be a lifestyle. You can do it, whatever “it” may be for you. As far as this journey toward financial freedom goes, you are not alone. We are in this together. I’m proud of myself for going strong every Friday with the 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge. Today I crossed off $46.00 on my BINGO money sheet for a total of $70.00 extra dollars that went toward my credit card debt (on top of the monthly minimum, of course) this month. Instead of spending $70.00 on my taco habit (Hi, my name is Danielle and I have an unhealthy LOVE of tacos) I invested that $70.00 into my financial goals.

Great job to those who are going all in and staying on the challenge like Alysa T. who check just about every Friday, Briana C., and Chris. C.  I also want to welcome the newcomers to the challenge. The beauty of this challenge is that you can start or restart anytime, so if you have gotten off tract RESET today.

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{What Is an IRA?} The Millennial Woman’s Guide to Beginners Investing

As a millennial woman, I know many of my female peers shy away from conversations about money and becoming financially fit for fear of looking ignorant for not knowing the basics. Financial vocabulary is spoken and some hear Charlie Brown’s teacher and stop listening. I want to help break down self-imposed barriers that could be keeping us from confidently making smart money moves.

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THE BASICS

Whether or not you have an interest in saving and/or investing money, I could bet that you have an interest in learning how to make it grow. So listen up, take notes, and let’s start planting financial seeds of knowledge. First up, the IRA.

An IRA or an (Individual Retirement Account) is a savings account where money grows tax-free with a max contribution of no more than $5,550.00 ($6500.00 if you are 50 or older) for 2015 and 2016. TAX FREE. F-R-E-E! That free part is what should make it exciting and intriguing, even for those who have no interest in investing. There are two types of IRA accounts: a Roth IRA and a Traditional IRA and the differences between the two are when you pay taxes on the money. Regardless of the fact that your money is growing tax-free in both types of accounts, you still have to pay Uncle Sam his cut. With a Roth IRA you pay the taxes up front and with a Traditional IRA you pay the taxes at the time of withdrawal. Regardless of the type of IRA you have, you can access your money once you hit 59 ½  years old, without getting hit with a 10% tax penalty for early distribution.

IRAS AND MILLENNIALS

I know, I know….generally speaking millennials are not very interested in saving for retirement. We are, however, very good at saving for the emergency of the present or for big things like college/student loan expenses or even buying a house for the first time. If you needed to tap into your contributions right not, your IRA will give you far more flexibility than a 401K or a 403(b). Assuming you meet the necessary requirements, this type of account can be used to offset qualified education expenses (like tuition, books, fees, supplies, and equipment required for enrolling) if you attend an IRS-approved institution or even buying your first home without penalties.
The best thing yet, if you are a 20 something….or even a 30 something like me, time is still on your side. According to this article entitled, Why You Need A Roth IRA, writer Kevin McCormally explains it well with regards to the Roth IRA, youth, and compounding interest:

“If a 25-year-old contributes $5,000 each year until she retires and makes an average annual return of 8% on her investment, she’ll have $1.4 million saved by the time she retires at age 65. And the money is all hers—she won’t have to give the IRS a cent of it if she waits until retirement to withdraw the earnings”.

Related Article: How Youth Is On Your Side

Although it is already 2016, you still have until the tax deadline to make/claim contributions from last year. That is to say, if you have $5,500.00 laying around in your mattress or in a money market, you might want to consider opening an IRA for that $5,550.00 deductible on your taxes THIS tax season.

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{Money Hack} Quick Guide to the Debt Snowball

If you are a frequent reader of shemakescents, then you will constantly hear me referring to a snowball, but what exactly does a snow ball have to do with personal finance? The snowball is a metaphor that represents my current financial goals. Picture this… someone picks up a small handful of snow and creates a ball. That ball is then pushed down a hill and with every rotation picks up more snow and speed. By the time it reaches the bottom of the hill, the ball has multiplied in size. Money SnowballPhoto Credit: PM Images

Now let’s break it down…

  •  Simply picking up the ice to form a ball represents motivation. Most people would have seen the snow but left it alone because it’s too cold to bother with.
  •  The small ball, created from motivation, is a manifestation of the strength of my current financial situation. It’s small right now, but will grow with better money habits ahead.
  •  The snow ball being pushed represents my obligation to myself not to settle or stay stagnant. You have to keep moving to make progress. With every rotation (aka payment above the minimum) the fight against debt gains momentum until it gets to the bottom of the hill aka “The Land of Financial Freedom”.

Financially speaking, it looks like this:

Current Credit Card Minimum Payment = $89.00
The Average Monthly Payment I Make = $450.00 ($300.00 per month + the average of the 2016 version 52 Week BINGO Money Challenge) will have me credit card free in 9 months at the longest.

Once the credit card has a zero balance, that money will be “snowballed” onto my monthly student loans. Instead of paying the $200.00 minimum for those, I will then pay $200.00 + $450.00 to equal $650.00 per month on student loan debt. Doing this will shave 12 years and 7 months off my expected repayment term and save me about $6,555.55 on interest alone.

Once the student loans are eliminated, I will then have an extra $650.00 every month.  That’s an extra $7,800 per year that could be applied to savings, investments, or a down payment for a large purchase.

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SMC Book Club: Leave Your Mark

Feed your mind or it will starve… – Danielle YB Vason

Feed Your Mind Quote copy

Back in college my roommate/future doctor, Safiya, diagnosed me with what we now refer to as “Shiny Penny Syndrome”. Shiny Penny Syndrome is when you are focused on one thing and something else steals your attention. It’s exactly what happens when I see pretty shiny things or when dogs see squirrels. Well, let just say that the shemakescents January book selection was my latest shiny penny. I was walking through my favorite book store on the hunt for a Christmas gift when I saw the cutest book cover. Mint green, coffee cup, and red lipstick stains immediately caught my eye!   Then I realized the author was Aliza Licht aka @DKNYPRGirl, solidifying the book “Leave Your Mark” as the first shemakescents  book selection of the year.

SheMakesCents.com Book Club- Leave Your Mark

Leave Your Mark This Year

Drawing invaluable lessons from her experience, Licht shares advice and inspiration with a particular emphasis on communicating and building your personal brand. Join #teamSMC as we dive into this sassy, relatable, and knowledgeable guide to the contemporary working world, where personal and professional lines are blurred and the most important thing you can have is a strong sense of self.

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What ONE Word Reflects Your Vision for 2015?

If you could choose one word to reflect your personal goals/resolution/vision for 2015, what word would you choose?passion

Every year I post this question to my readers on the She Makes Cents Facebook page.  The year 2013 was my year of BALANCE, 2014 was my year of FOCUS, and 2015 will be my year of PASSION.  Passion is something you can’t fake, it is motivating, and a compelling energy that elevates one’s thoughts and actions to the next level.  Welcome 2015 and cheers to a passionate year!  I’d love to hear your vision for the New Year.  Please share your one word in the comments section below.

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What ONE word reflects your vision for 2015?

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Food For Thought: Finances & Job Security

Truth- There is nothing secure about job security. In fact, the emotional and physical stress that people experience over worry of losing a job and not being able to keep up a lifestyle or provide for a family is all too common. According to this article from the Wall Street Journal, “As many as two-thirds of people in the U.S. don’t have the recommended six months of expenses saved. The percentage of people with savings enough to cover at least three months shrank to 40 % in 2014, compared with 45%, a year earlier.”

save-money-after-job-lose-lay-off

So when do you make a plan for the worst? Well, it’s better to have one in place before you need it…and I hope you will never need it. Having the recommended six months of expenses is just that- a recommendation. You have to figure out what amount works best for you and if you are like me, having a goal and a plan to get more than the recommended amount would put my mind at ease, since it can still take more than six months to secure a new place on your career path. The good news is, it is never too late to start protecting yourself financially.  Are you saving enough? If not, don’t undercut yourself by saving a little this week and skipping next week.  Get in the habit of paying yourself first!  You owe it to yourself and those you support to be financially secure in a world where job security isn’t secure.

Companies are downsizing, departments are being eliminated, and employers are trimming the fat. If you lost your job today, how long would you be able to survive financially?

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{Look Up} Check Out This Powerful Video That EVERYONE Needs to See

“I have 422 friends… yet I’m lonely”, starts the film to the online generation performed and directed by spoken word artist, Gary Turk. I have gone through a couple of drafts for this post, thinking about how to write my thoughts on this and I must say I’m speechless.  We as a culture have become slaves to the technology we mastered.  As a result, Turk maintains we have become a “generation of idiots; smart phones and dumb people.  When was the last time you calculated a tip without using a tip calculator app? I am that girl who pulls out her phone when there is a lull in conversation. I have friends who stop beautiful and organic moments to document it.  As a culture, are our attention spans shortening, are we losing basic communication skills, or are we that in need of attention or validation?  I’m not going to leave my technology at home, but I do pledge to #lookup more often.

Check out the video and share your thoughts below:

It is sort of oxymoronic to ask you to share via social media, but that is how we communicate.

Please SHARE with everyone you know!

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{Week 17 Update} Why This Easy Financial Move is Worth the Risk

It’s funny how children’s fables are still relevant to adults and the decisions we make.    Are you familiar with the story about the Grasshopper and the Ant?  It’s the one  that provides an oral lesson about the virtues of hard work and planning for the future.  The fable is about a grasshopper that has spent the warm months singing and dancing while the ant worked to store up food for colder months. When winter arrives, the grasshopper finds itself dying of hunger and begs the ant for food.  His lesson– it is best to prepare for the days of necessity. 

Last week was week 17 of my 52 Week Money Challenge and I am excited to announce that I am under the $1,000.00 mark for my credit card balance. This week I crossed off $51.00 on the SMC Bingo Money Sheet, which puts me at a total of $421.00 dollars in extra payments applied to my credit card balance this year. When I first made this goal a part of my financial plan, I thought that paying off this debt would take longer.  It’s not a glamorous or goal trendy. Most of my friends don’t even understand why I am making these type of financial goals for myself, but I can’t think of many things more delightful than not having to worry about massive debt.

Hare Brain Behavior

In the post, Is This Super Easy Financial Move worth the Risk?, I threw out the idea of going against Dave Ramsey’s advice to maintain a $1000.00 emergency fund.  I revealed that I was considering tapping into my emergency fund once I got my credit card balance under the $1000.00 mark. Well that moment is here and I have decided. I considered every suggestion that readers posted in the comment section of that post and on our Facebook page and I have decided to use $500.00, half of my emergency fund, to knock down my balance even faster. Not only would that put me ahead of my goal date, but I would also end up with more money back in my emergency fund AND savings because I would not be paying interest fees. That’s to say that once my emergency fund is back up to the recommended $1000.00 mark, I would continue put any extra money (up until the original goal date of August 1st) into my savings.

Slow-and-steady-moneySlow & Steady Wins the Race
Although, I have decided that tapping into the emergency fund is the best move for me. I would only do so under one condition – the results of the check engine diagnostic on my C-class Mercedes. If I can afford to pay for repairs to my car and knock out my credit card debt faster, without going into the emergency fund,  then that’s what I will do. Otherwise, I would risk using credit again to take care of this unexpected expense, which is a point that many of you readers brought up when I first presented this idea, and defeats the purpose of having an emergency fund in the first place.

Does slow and steady win the race every time? I’m not sure about EVERY TIME, but I do know that it has become a well-known lesson for a reason. I’m just hoping that this time, I’m an exception to the rule. Only time will tell and I can’t wait to let you know how things turned out.  Like the ant, I am preparing for days of necessity through working hard and planning for the future.  Why not make my money work for me?

Do you consider yourself a financial grasshopper or ant?

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{SMC Announcement} Danielle Boler for FeeX

FeeX LogoJust recently I teamed up with a company called FeeX to join the conversation of about money for their company blog.  The content is a mix of personal stories, financial insights, news, and interviews and I am honored to be a part of the discussion.  FeeX is a free service that uncovers the hidden fees in your retirement accounts—initially IRAs—and estimates the damage that these fees are inflicting on your retirement savings.  Are you one of the 7 out of 10 Americans that are completely unaware of the fees eating away at your retirement savings?  I think this type of service is cool and a great way to learn more about retirement savings while adding my twenty-something voice to their blog.  Check me out!

Let’s Connect!

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{SMC Journal} Why Youth Could Be Your Best Financial Strategy

I was talking the other day with a friend who just found a twenty-year-old document from a forgotten 401(k) plan. When he was twenty, he worked at what he called a “simple little job” and enrolled in a 401(k) plan. He didn’t max out his employer’s matching and contributed a modest amount putting aside what he could on his limited budget. He moved on to another job, his career blossomed, and somewhere along the way, he forgot about his 401(k) plan from his first real job. Imagine how surprised he was to find out that his forgotten money has compounded to over $25,000.

His story got me thinking about my finances, especially the poor financial decisions I made in my early twenties that I am still paying for. Interestingly enough, one of my biggest regrets has been not contributing to my 401(k) when I got my first real job at 19 years old. At the time, I was working for a company that offered dollar-for-dollar matching. I am still kicking myself for leaving FREE money on the table by not taking advantage of my youth and the company’s benefits.

she makes centsIt is one of those lessons I had to learn the hard way and my current financial portfolio is proof. I am embarrassed to admit the reason I didn’t enroll in a 401(k) then was because I was trying to save money for my sorority fees and dance team expenses. I was living and planning for the “right now” and not thinking about retirement or saving for a future nest egg. I thought to myself, I have plenty of time to do this, but little did I realize how quickly time flies.  Almost ten years later, I still wish someone had thoroughly explained to me that having youth and time on my side was one of the best methods to help build wealth and save for retirement. I look around and see so many people working way past their prime or even living in poverty because they do not have savings to fall back on. If I could go back in time and have one conversation with my younger self, I would tell her to spend cash not credit, pre-pay her student loans since there is now plenty for that, and enroll in a 401(k) program as soon as possible. If I had made those decisions then, I would be closer to my goal of living a debt-free life now!

This post was first published on the FeeX blog.

What’s most important to you?

Living in the Present or Saving for the Future

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