{Donating to My Alma Mater} Why I Give Even When I’m Saving

One reason that I have over $20,000 in student loans is because I chose to attend Spelman College, one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges and #1 ranked HBCU. I was offered full music and academic scholarships during my senior year of high school to other colleges and turned them down to attend a school Forbes ranks among the nation’s top ten best women’s colleges. I got a little “something something” based on my academic achievements, but when everyone beside you is a Valedictorian and Salutatorian of their high school class, just being in the top 5% isn’t really scholarship worthy.  While I know my parents supported whatever decision I made, I am sure on some level my Dad’s wallet would have been very okay with a FREE education, elsewhere.

Michelle-Obama-Speaks-at-Spelman-College

Why I Spelman

Making the choice about where I would attend school was the first major decision that I ever made for myself.  It marked the transition from childhood to adulthood and  helped shape the course of not only my career, but also my life. In the end, I did not even consider the price of tuition (estimated $120,000) because I knew without a doubt, that Spelman was the right place for me. From the moment I walked onto the campus, so many beautiful, intelligent, and diverse women from around the world welcomed me. For the first time, I was “at home” in an academic space where standards and honor are raised.

spelman oprah

Why I Give Even When I’m Saving

Stebo 016

Earlier in my matriculation, I noticed the presence and pride of the alumnae. I was told that I was standing on the shoulders of greatness, hard work, and those who came before me.  Now is my time to help provide opportunities that help prepare the next generation of women who will change the world.  Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum acknowledges in the 2012-2013 Report of Philanthropy that “a college education is a privilege.”  According to Tatum, “We live in challenging times when educated women are needed more than ever.  The generosity of alumnae, corporations, faculty, friends, foundations, parents, staff, and our current students has secured vital financial support to develop  these change agents.  [Spelman] appreciates your contributions to scholarships, facility, renovations, innovative initiates such as Wellness Revolution, faculty and student research, and support of Spelman’s Annual Fund- all of which are critical for Spelman women to succeed.”  Yes, I have financial goals and a financial plan; but there is nothing like going back and seeing the women who are now standing on my shoulders and in need of support.  Giving back doesn’t always have to be in the form of financial contribution, however, I do highly recommend it.  Every year, Spelman announces a goal for it’s Every Woman Every Year campaign.  This year’s goal, like the year before, is to surpass 50% alumnae participation or 8,667 alumnae donors by April 11, 2014, the 133rd Anniversary of Spelman’s founding.  I make my contribution every year on this date and charge every Spelman alumna to show the impact of her voice, by making a contribution to Spelman in honor of our founding.  If you don’t give back to your school, I encourage you to do so.   If we don’t invest in where we came from, how can we expect anyone else to?

Happy Founder’s Day Spelman College

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{Souls Saving Soles} Spelman Sophomore Launches Shoe Drive to Benefit Homeless Children & Familes

Spelman-College

student_imaniwhite

I received an email yesterday from my alma mater about a Sophomore by the name of Imani White who is making her mark in Atlanta.  Since boots are made for walking, the C’2016 biology major, has launched an effort that epitomizes the lyrics to this classic Nancy Sinatra song.  White recently launched “These Boots Are Made to Walk,” a boot and shoe drive designed to benefit homeless children and families in metro Atlanta.
Working in partnership with the Spelman College student organization Pretty Brown Girls, White is accepting all kinds of shoes – from sneakers and boots to casual shoes and dress shoes – in children and adult sizes. She hopes to collect 500 pairs of shoes to benefit the Atlanta Women and Children’s Shelter, Atlanta Union Mission, Gateway Shelter, Atlanta Children’s Shelter, and Salvation Army, among other organizations.
“This is my way of showing that one little effort can help so many people,” said White, who serves as vice president of Pretty Brown Girls.

homeless-shoes-190x260-process-s175x239This really got me thinking about just how blessed a lot of us are and just how easy it is to take even the smallest things for granted.  If you are in the Atlanta area and want to take part, shoes can be dropped off every Friday through Friday, December 6, 2013 from noon to 4 p.m. in lower Manley of Spelman College. If you are not in the Atlanta area but would like to help, please forward, facebook, and tweet this article to let people know or better yet, plan a shoe drive in your area.

 For questions, contact White at mailto:madetowalk@gmail.com.

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Let’s Connect!

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{Smart Money} Is Education a DEBT Sentence?

Education

There is a quote that states, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. Unfortunately, this quote is true on SO MANY levels. While many people associate the word ignorant with being dumb or stupid, it’s simply the condition of being uneducated, uniformed, or unaware. After graduating from Spelman College, I made both smart and dumb decisions regarding my student loan debt. I was told by my aunt that paying your student loans is a great way to establish credit. I put in an extra effort in paying Sallie Mae, so much that I had it paid more than year in advance. This was smart, ignorant, and sometimes dumb at the same time. It’s smart because I really never had to worry about forgetting to pay the bill. I felt extremely proud of myself for not being another “irresponsible” 20 something. It also revealed my ignorance because I should have been using that extra payment every month to pay down the balance NOT pay it in advance. I ended up paying interest when I could have been slaying the balance, which ultimately shortens the life of the loan. However, it wasn’t until I was in between jobs and not paying on the loan at all because the next due date was a year from then that I started digging a hole that I am still trying to get out of four years later. For one, my interest was accruing at about $8 a day, so a lot of the money I thought I was saving was now been tacked back on to the overall balance. It got worse when after the year was up, I still wasn’t working and I accepted an offer to postpone my payments for a year. That was back in 2011 and after yesterday’s phone call to Sallie Mae, my decision to postpone is still hurting my finances.
I pay about $200 a month for my student loans and recently got a series of letters saying that if I qualify I should sign up for automatic billing, which would let Sallie Mae automatically deduct money directly from a specified account every billing cycle. The incentive you ask? A .25% reduction in my student loan interest…equaling about $50 a month and $600 per year. I called Sallie Mae on yesterday, only to find out that I did NOT qualify. Apparently, if you post pone your loan at ANYTIME over the life of the loan, you lose eligibility for any interest rate reduction. Had I known this I would have been the never postponed my loan, but this secret penalty was never in any of the documents I agreed to.  Looking back I would have rather roughed it out. So I guess the quote rings true. My education was expensive but my then financial ignorance could cost me more in the end.

We would LOVE to hear your thoughts?

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{Women, Money, & Cosmo} The Debt Crisis No One Is Talking About

My favorite professor and teacher of all things “deep”, Dr. Michelle S. Hite, once told me that when you are fully engaged in research, you will start to see inspiration everywhere. I was researching women and business, but more specifically the salaries gaps of women in business, when I found inspiration in an old “habit”. My name is Danielle and I am an admitted magazine junkie and Sunday evening… Cosmo was my latest hit. While reading the February LOVE issue, I came across a very informative article from Rachel White entitled The Debt Crisis No One Is Talking About! In it, White discusses the vicious financial cycle of women, higher education, and student loan debt. You see, it is easy to say that women have more debt. That’s a statement I hear all the time from men and women. It’s a blanketed generalization because the mind tends to lead one to the stereotype of women and financial incompetence not the FACT that more women now have more financial responsibilities. For example, women now outnumber men in college, which means women are more likely to start their careers in debt. In her article, White used a real life example of a woman by the name of Brenda Errichiello, who “found herself with a $947 monthly [student loan] bill and only a $27,000 annual salary”. In all, Errichiello ;graduated with a fabulous 3.9 GPA and $92,000 in debt. OMG, I thought to myself while reading this because Rachel White could have very well been telling my own story. I, like Errichiello, graduated with honors from Spelman College and thousands of dollars in debt before I even earned my first adult check.

What is Errichello to do?

She Makes CentsYou might be surprised by the answer. She had actually considered going back to school with the hope that more education means a better paying job, job security, and a bump up the corporate ladder. This is something I very well considered myself, getting back on the law school grind, but I had to remind myself that money doesn’t equal love and that hard work doesn’t always pay off in the currency of one’s choosing. Is this the epitome of spend more make more? This, SMC readers is that start of the Debt Crisis no one is talking about.

Things to Consider!

Women come out of the gate making less than our male counterparts for the same positions (18% less according to the article), are less likely to ask for raises at review time, have more student loans, and generally take maternity leave to start a family. How are we going to catch up? Why isn’t anyone talking about debt? According to White, it affects out relationships or lack thereof, career choices, and forces drastic decisions that hurt us even more in the end and if you follow SMC, you have read of other real life examples that support White’s point.

Do You Consider This A “Debt Crisis”?

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5 Benefits of Thrifting

THE POWER OF THRIFTING

Thrifting is not only a great way to save money, but it also provides you with the opportunity to attain rare pieces that set your wardrobe apart from the next person. Aside from creative pieces, thrifting is comparable to diving in a fashion time machine, if you will. I say this because when thrifting, you get to see how trends have changed and how our clothing has not only evolved, but also repeated itself.

Thrifting is great for…

  1. Broke College Students (that would be me).
  2. Costume + Performance attire.
  3. Home Décor
  4. Passing the time without breaking the bank
  5. Gag Gift Shopping

TOP THREE trends I’m seeing in thrift shops now that are trendy even today!

  1. High-waist denim shorts
  2. Patterned Tops
  3. Boyfriend Blazers

A few TOP thrift shopping destinations in the greater Atlanta area:

  1. Rag-O-Rama
  2. Goodwill
  3. Psycho Sisters
  4. Plato’s Closet

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If You Won the Lottery, What Would You Do?

My sister and I have this discussion often. What would you do if you won the lottery? Well, I cannot tell you our plan in detail, but I will list a few things on my list. This is in no particular order:

Immediately put a good chunk of my winnings in several interest bearing accounts


Write a significant check to my Alma Mater
Spelman College


Make a donation to the music program at Clark Atlanta University

See…AUC unity does exist. I was educated at Spelman and socialized at CAU. Shout out to the alumni members of the ESSENCE Dance Line!

SN: I have gained some of my closest relationships within the music program at CAU.

ESSENCE Dance Line

RAHS

ESSENCE dance CAU

Start My Own Operation Wedding Fund

I’m sure someone will want to marry me someday…at least I will be able to afford my dream wedding (if I don’t elope)


Travel the World with Family and Friends



Make a “let me hold a dollar” fund

This will be for all of the fake family members and random people who will show up.. Once this fund is depleted…oh well


What would YOU do if you won the lottery?

 

 

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Back to School: College Students, Banks, & Credit Cards

Good Morning and Happy Monday! With every week that passes the “Back to School” season is coming closer and closer into view. Parents are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel while students and even some teachers are dreading going back to the classroom. I have been thinking about writing a post like this for a while because I remember all too well the abundance of “FREE” t-shirts, water bottles, and even iPod nanos given to us students at Spelman College to urge us to sign up for credit card offers and bank accounts. Simply put, banks and credit card companies target students and what separates the students who kill their credit earlier on and those who become financially savvy adults is knowledge. What makes it ironic, though, is the idea for this post came from my own memories and experiences as a college student, only to have suspensions of credit card companies and banks confirmed Friday on a visit to Clark Atlanta University for freshman orientation.

Do Not Open an Account without Researching the Bank
I guess in this economy, banks have scaled back on their swag. I saw a few t-shirt being given out, some water bottles, a nice highlighter set, but no iPods (sorry students). Now I’m not saying credit card companies and banks are evil, you just have to know how to play the game. Banks are becoming increasingly aggressive when it comes to recruiting the business of college students. This can be used to your benefit with a little bit of research
and patience because the banks are presenting more competitive offering to beat out the other banks. College students and parents, if the bank cannot offer you FREE checking, FREE online banking, and most importantly for the student, no minimum balance, then walk away because another bank will.

Location, Location, Location
I remember taking a weekend with my parents to drive around the campus and surrounding areas of Hampton University in Hampton, VA. I figured I needed to know how to get to all of my favorite places like Target, restaurants, and the mall. My parents, however, thought it was important that I knew where the closest bank, grocery store, and hair salon (shout out to my mom for trying to maintain my whip appeal) were located. My advice for you is to get acquainted with the area. The bank from your hometown might not be available in the city where you or your student will be attending school, therefore learning the area is important in trying to find the best bank. Now let’s take a moment for the other factors that could influence your decision to pick a bank. Will you be a commuter or resident? Is there a bank already on your campus? Are there shuttle services offered to get you back and forth? Are there any banks located within walking distance? If you cannot physically get to a bank it doesn’t matter whether it is a great one or not.

Credit Cards and the Credit Card Act of 2009
Pay off your credit card balance in FULL each month. By doing this, it forces you to really stop and think about your purchases because resetting your balance each month causes you to buy only what you can afford. American Express, for example, makes cardholders pay in full. Think about it, it is a win- win situation because you don’t fall into the increasing numbers of consumers who are in serious debt due to credit card spending and they get their money on time. The College Board adds, “Credit cards are actually high-interest loans in disguise. Companies may lend you money, but they get it all back and a lot more by charging you fees. Finance charges on the unpaid portion of your bill can be as much as 25 percent each month, and cash-advance fees have even higher interest rates. Annual fees just to carry the card in your wallet range from $20 to $100; there are also late-payment fees, typically $25-$50. Not paying off the entire amount in your account each month can lead to big finance charges.”

It is important to know that a lot of the information written for students and parents about student banking and credit cards was written before President Obama signed the Credit Card Act into law. Now, credit card issuers are banned from issuing credit cards to anyone under 21, unless they have adult co-signers on the accounts or can show proof they have enough income to repay the card debt. That’s right; it’s not just the students’ credit score that is at risk. Bad financial decisions of students will directly affect the credit of their adult co-signer. The Credit Card Act of 2009 also stated that credit card companies must stay at least 1,000 feet from college campuses if they are offering freebies to entice student to apply for credit cards.

To be honest, I didn’t get a credit card until I was weeks before graduating from Spelman College. I waited because I was not sure if I could handle the financial responsibility that I had witnessed other fail. I knew I would already have to worry about my girl Sallie Mae and the student loans I was owe her, so I didn’t want to add the extra stress of credit card debt as well. It worked for me and yes, I recognize that every situation is different. Before applying for a credit card and/or opening a student banking account, do your research. A good starting place would be my 5 Non-Negotiable for Students and Banks. College should be one of the best times of your life so don’t taint it with worries over bad finances. Start smart, create great habits, and end on top.

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5 Important Tips For Student Banking

Check Your Account Daily

Everyone, not just college students, should check their finances daily. By doing this, you are always aware of exactly how much money you have at all times. Why would you allow someone to know more about your money than you?

Overdraft Protection

Two words… Overdraft Protection. Sign up for Overdraft Protection when you sign up for your account. Doing this will help you avoid penalty fees for going over your limit. I know someone who had about $400 in one month tacked onto her checking statement for overdraft fees and penalties. Obviously, she does not follow step one and two. Learn from her mistakes.

Set Realistic Alerts for EACH Account

The very same person mentioned in the tip above became my inspiration for this one. If your account consistently holds a balance under $100, setting your banking alert for $100 will not help you. Instead, pick an emergency figure that is more realistic for reminding you, hey you need to make a deposit. It will help keep you out of the red.

In the Choice between a Debit and Credit Card- Choose Debit

Debit equals your own cash and credit equals money borrowed plus interest. If you have the money in your account, swipe your debit card!

If Banks Can’t Offer the Basics… Walk Away

If the bank cannot offer you FREE checking, FREE online banking, and most importantly for the student, no minimum balance, then walk away because another bank will.