A Key Benefit of Parents Funding Their Children’s College Expenses

I remember I asked the question on the SMC Facebook page, “Should parents help fund their children’s college expenses?”  The responses ranged from, “Oh, hell no” to “If I have the means, why not give back to the next generation”.  My Dad helped me and because of that, I graduated with about $25,000 in student loan debt, as opposed to $125,000+/ for a top-tier private college. According to USA Today, “in all but one state, the average graduate owed more than $20,000 in 2013, and in six states, the average student debt was more than $30,000.”  So what does this all mean post graduation?  It means that a generation is starting their adult lives in the red. When it’s time to make major financial decisions, such as buying a house, like our parent’s generation was able to do, the road to home ownership and financial freedom seems non-existent.

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A Key Benefit of Parents Funding Their Children’s College Expenses

I bought my house for my 24th birthday on a whim.  In fact, my story of how I purchased a home for my 24th birthday was nothing more than a beautiful blessing.  I had not saved one dime specifically for a purchase of this type.  In fact, I was simply praying for a way to get out of my parent’s house after moving back from college.  At this time in my life, Sallie Mae and I were close friends because I had my student loans paid a year in advance even with the recession picking up steam.  For about two weeks, I was looking on the internet for apartments when I recalled a financial seminar I attended in college where one of the panelists made the point that “renting was paying for something you would never own”.  I wondered could I afford to own.  With a strong push from my friend Jason, I took a leap of faith, that some would call a poor financial decision, and I made an offer on a property, without looking at other properties.  That was just four days after of my 24th birthday.

Read the full story here: Why I Think Parents Should Their Kids’ College Expenses

How Was I Able to Make Such A Big Financial Decision in Just 4 days?  Found out in the full story:

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{Wedding Budget} Could My Wedding Expenses Be Tax Deductible?

Have you ever had an ah-ha moment in front of total strangers? You know, when the light bulb goes off and your mind starts racing. Well, I had that moment early this summer when meeting with a bride and her CPA father to discuss her décor for her wedding. We were talking trends in weddings, when someone asked, “what happens to the wedding flowers after the wedding?”. I told them of the article I read that inspired me for my own wedding (which then was just a daydream). The article suggested that couples donate extra floral left from the wedding to the residents of a senior care facility. While there, ask the residents for their wedding advice so that they get visitors and the newlyweds get advice from generations before. I thought it was a great idea and a sweet way to start a marriage- giving. The bride’s father interjected agreeing that it was a great idea! Especially since, you could write it off on your taxes. AH….HA…..MOMENT!Tax Deductible Wedding copy

Who knew that some wedding expenses are tax-deductible? I starting researching wedding related tax-deductions using an online tax calculator in planning my own wedding and I was surprised by what I found.

Click here to  find  the secrets behind tax-deductible wedding expenses and how they can work for you!

What are your thoughts on tax-deductible wedding expenses?

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This post was first featured on the FeeX blog.

What Is a Zero Based Budget & Why You Need One

The Zero-Based Budget

A Zero-Based Budget or “zero balance budget” forces you to justify each expense by assigning a dollar amount to every move you make with your money. That is to say, your income minus your expenses, equals zero. Radio host and financial advisor Dave Ramsey explains, “If you cover all of your expenses during the month and you have $500 left over, you aren’t done with the budget yet”. Although Ramsey speaks of the zero based budget in terms of monthly spending, I prefer to budget twice a month since I have irregular income. You know exactly where your money is going, it leaves no room for overspending, and it is based on your current needs, which are clear advantages to this type of budget.

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I used to write down every expense to get an overview of how I spend money. It was good because I was able to see patterns in my spending that I was unaware of. Outside of being a very tedious task of tracking every expense (pre-smart phone apps), doing this sort of overview only happened AFTER I have already spent the money. Nowadays, I take a more proactive overview of my finances and I spend my income on paper BEFORE I spend a dime in reality by using a zero-based budget.

How to Make a Zero-Based Budget Work for YOU!

Sure there’s computer based software for budgeting, but I find a simple pleasure of the good ole’ pen to paper method. It’s my personal preference but in order for you to be diligent in your effort, you should choose whatever makes you most comfortable. Got your tools? Let’s go!

Read the Full Post Here: 6 Easy Ways to Make A Zero-Based Budget Work 

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Are You Guilty of this Common Credit Score Blunder?

Using this type of payment was once thought to be a great way establish and build credit. Some people may agree that this is still the case for in-store financing. I’m inclined to disagree. Fact: Good credit is important to secure financing when making large purchases such as furniture.sofa1

But did you know that financing furniture or other high ticket items can have a negative impact on your credit score?

When shopping, sales people will make payment suggestions to the consumer to close their deal. The first offer that is usually thrown out is a store card or in-store financing. They will present both options making them sound attractive with facts that have no real financial bearing, like 5% off when you open a card today. In most cases, in-store financing is affiliated with well-known banks which may make you as a consumer feel more comfortable. Yet the deal is generally closed once consumers hear the magic words- “no money down and no interest for two years.”  to find out why it’s not a great deal!

What are you saving for?

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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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