A talented young man who is home for the summer, sent a letter to the area churches, looking for opportunities to earn some money as a substitute musician. As the only organist for my church, I quickly called and booked him for 3 weekends in June that I plan to be away for a wedding and two family reunions.
A neighbor is an amazing baker. Every Saturday during the summer, she holds a bake sale on her screened in front porch. People line up at 8 AM to get first dibs on her cinnamon rolls, pies and cakes. Special orders for graduation cakes and holiday pies keep her busy and her checkbook full year round.
The son of a coworker tutors math and chemistry as a way to pay for his room and board at college. He earns between $20 – $50 per session and finds it helps him keep his own knowledge sharp.
As a child, listening to adult conversations, I perceived the term “Hustle on the Side” as a derogatory comment; meaning you were making money in a way that may not be totally honest. Today, having a Side Hustle is seen as having an entrepreneurial spirit. Depending on your skill set, “hustling” can be quite lucrative.
If you are having difficulties making ends meet or want to up your saving or investing in the future, you have 3 choices: earn more money, spend less money or do both. Maybe a “hustle on the side” can help you achieve that goal. What marketable skills and talents do you have?
Last week, I met with a soon-to-be graduate from a local college. She was looking forward to having a new job – and an income! For any graduate, the real financial education starts after you receive your diploma and sign the contract for your first job.
- The First Job: It isn’t only about your salary. Look for opportunities for advancement in your career. Think beyond the paycheck. Explore the total financial compensation (including benefits like health insurance, retirement savings benefits, and others), which can make the difference to your bottom line.
- Relocate for your first job? Look at cost of living and taxes, because they vary greatly throughout the United States. Seventy–six percent of millennials relocate for the job – don’t let higher costs catch you by surprise.
- Start Saving for Retirement Immediately. One person shared that when he began as a bank teller, he thought it was temporary job and didn’t take advantage of the employee stock purchase plan/401 (k). If he were do it again, he would have started this saving as soon as he could.
- Be careful about adding credit card debt. Think about the long term consequences of having too much credit card debt. If you are carrying student loan debt, lots of ramen noodles may be in your future. Using credit is using future income. Pay off your debt as quickly as you can.
- Save Money: Hopefully you will have a direct deposit option; if so, split your payment into at least two accounts – savings and checking. Try to have two kinds of savings – emergency and general savings. You could add a third fund for a specific goal such as a vacation or new vehicle. Even $10 or $15 per pay period will add up.
- Create a Budget: Whenever there is a change in your life, it’s time to assess your needs versus wants. Do you have unhealthy habit? When you have disposable income – don’t throw it away foolishly. By creating a budget, you will know exactly what you have, so that you can spend and save.
When you buy a house, you don’t always know if the windows are original to the house or when was the siding changed. Usually a home inspector can give you an idea of whether your water heater or furnace are on their last breath.
About 5 years ago, I bought a house that was built in 1957. Cosmetically – it looked good. Well, over the winter, the paint started to peel on the east side of the house. I brought in a contractor and one of the first questions was: when was siding installed?
Why is this important? Any paint prior to 1980 contained lead. There are health issues because of the lead – we have heard about the lead water pipes In Flint, Michigan. If there is lead paint, the Environmental Protection Agency must approve professional contractors to abate the lead, and it is expensive.
I contacted my realtor to see if he had any information that was disclosed when the house was listed for sale. He had limited information, but he directed me to the county assessor’s office. When you make major improvements to your home, the assessor’s office issues permits and keeps records in their files. (Yes, these are the little paper forms that are put in your front window while the work is occurring .)
When I made the phone call to the assessor’s office, the records indicated that the current siding installed in February 1993. Whew! No worries about the extra cost of lead abatement when I reside my house this summer!
Most of us have dreams we would label as “impossible” from a financial standpoint: a certain kind of house, or a major remodel, or an international vacation… There are things that just seem out of reach.
If you’re like me, you learned as a child to just stash away those “impossible” dreams… Don’t even think about them, because wishing for things you can’t have will only make you unhappy. I respect the truth in that philosophy.
However, over time I’ve come to believe that we often benefit by paying attention to our dreams — even the “impossible” ones. I’ve seen that pay off in two different ways:
- Sometimes the dream isn’t as impossible as it may initially seem – I’ve had “impossible” dreams come true! In one case, I discovered it didn’t cost as much as I thought; in another case, I figured out a creative way to pay for it by delaying the timing a bit. I’ve learned that if I have a dream that means a lot to me, I shouldn’t give up on it without at least gathering some information and considering several options.
- Some dreams truly are impossible (or not worth the sacrifice required). Even then, I’ve learned that a wish can be a clue to an underlying desire. Suppose I wish for a bigger house (which is not going to happen). If I ask myself why I want a bigger house, the answer will be a clue about something else that’s important to me. Do I want a bigger house so I have space for all my stuff? Then maybe I can eliminate some stuff and better organize my storage space to reduce clutter. Do I want a bigger house so I can have parties and host lots of company? Maybe if I straighten up my home more often and rearrange some furniture, I would feel more comfortable inviting guests. By digging deeper, I can move toward the underlying desire, even if the initial dream doesn’t happen.
The man in the song who dared to “dream the impossible dream” may seem foolish to some people and noble to others. One thing I’ve learned, though, is that an “impossible dream” can be worthwhile if we use it wisely. ~Barb
Next week is Money Smart Week! Started 14 years ago by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Money Smart Week is designed as a public awareness campaign to help consumers better manage their personal finances. There are programs in all 50 states. Here in Iowa, more than 200 partner organizations have joined in the fun, promoting financial education with many interesting opportunities to learn. All Money Smart Week programs are free, and strictly educational (no marketing allowed).
ISU Extension and Outreach has been a MSW partner for many years. Programs are offered for audiences from preschoolers to seniors. From scout nights to shred days, essay and poster contests, geocache for college cash, piggy banks, books, and kites – in many cases, a chance to win a prize makes the learning even more fun. Educational program topics include establishing a budget, protecting financial information, raising money-smart kids, and more.
Go to www.MoneySmartWeek.org for more details about activities in your area. Check out your local libraries for a display as well as programming. Spread the knowledge!
Last week, I was doing programs for individuals who live in subsidized housing. The age ranged from 26 – 90 years old. They had only one thing in common – they shared the same housing facility – but I sensed there was a genuine caring for each other.
I shared an activity where each person had twenty cards of basic expenses one encounters each month. Housing, Transportation, Utilities, Food, Insurance (Health, Auto, Renters), Debts, Laundry, Cleaning, Clothing, Child Care and others. I asked each person to pare the cards down to just the ten most essential ones – the ones they had to have to live. For some this was challenging, as they wanted all 20 cards. Others looked at how they were currently living and only kept the cards that reflected their current situation.
It all gets down to “Needs” vs “Wants”. When we were children many of us had a laundry list of wants, but we learned from our parents that what was most important was the needs.
When the activity was complete, each person had identified his or her own spending priorities. Then, as sometimes occurs in real life, there was a second part to the activity: their resources were reduced and they had to remove 2-3 cards. I asked them which activity was more difficult – the first one or the second one. Several indicated giving up a few cards was more challenging. For some it was making the selection of ten cards.
Think about your priorities.
Today’s guest blogger is Carol Ehlers, an ISU Extension Family Finance specialist helping Northwest Iowans make the most of their money.
My college bound daughter began getting financial aid offers these past few weeks. Rather than crunching numbers from financial aid offers, we’re using a tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to help us make sense of it all. It’s called “Compare Financial Aid.”
The tool allows students to compare costs from three schools at a time. By entering only the names of the universities, we could see the estimated price of each college, the graduation rate, the loan default rate and median borrowing. Based on your individual situation you can calculate the estimated debt burden and the estimated monthly student loan payments students might face after graduating.
The tool gets more interesting after we click the “enter financial aid” button. When we enter data from the schools’ financial award letters — including expected family contributions and military benefits, if applicable — the calculator provides students and parents with a more realistic view of our college options, financially speaking.
We took the tool on a test drive. By entering the names of three schools — we chose a public university in-state, a private college and a public university out-of-state — we found that the sticker prices of the three schools ranged from $18,600 to $37,000 for the first year. By entering personal financial aid and scholarship information, we could build a personalized financial projection, which includes projected ‘Debt at Graduation’ and ‘Monthly Payments’ on college debt. These costs can be viewed next to graduation and retention rates.
For my family, as for all families with a college-bound student, balancing a realistic look at costs alongside a school’s track record of success is very helpful in making an informed choice about a college investment.
Are you a 20-30 something? You may be experiencing financial struggles. With college debt, it is hard to save and invest for the future. If you are an older family member, you may watch your 20-30 something experiencing these challenges. A recent survey found that 46 percent of millennials are receiving financial support from their parents. Fortunately, most young adults have a sense of optimism, and are planning to build a stronger financial future.
Are you looking for ways to bring your finances to the next level? Here are some tips:
- Skip the credit card offers – Having more credit cards on top of student loan debt just complicates the situation.
- When you get a raise, increase your savings. If you receive a windfall; put it in your retirement savings.
- Get comfortable with investing. Read about investing, learn the language of investing and after your emergency fund is in place, start investing.
- Stop the bleeding. Double check that you are not going more in debt; check your lifestyle, and live within your means. To get ahead, remember to focus not on what your earn, but instead on what you save.
- Pay off student debt. The sooner you bring down this debt, the sooner you will be able to accomplish your other goals.
- Imagine your future – what choices will take you to the road of your dreams? Remember to cover your insurance and retirement fund needs.
Once you achieve a basic level of financial well-being, it is time to strive for the next level. What are you doing to move forward?
In my office I’m seeing publicity for the Iowa State Fair (August 11-21, 2016). Even though our beautiful March weather is bringing early cases of spring fever to many of us, State Fair is still five months away, and the publicity catches me a little off guard each time I notice it.
It’s actually, however, a really good reminder to plan ahead!
For many families, spending several days (or even all ten days) at the State Fair is their major vacation each year. Other families have other vacation patterns.
Whatever your vacation plans, NOW is the time to prepare financially. Saving in advance is the best way to fund a vacation — it prevents a “debt hangover,” where you’re still dealing with the headache of paying off vacation bills months after the fun was over. Advance saving for summer vacation also lets you go into the fall with a clean slate.
Even if your vacation plans are simple – perhaps a couple of day trips, or weekend trips to visit friends – saving in advance will enable you to enjoy the experience without any shadowing stress about how you’re going to pay for it. And certainly if you have significant vacation plans, now is the perfect time to start putting away funds. Planning in advance makes vacations more fun! ~Barb
The top six New Year Resolutions for 2015 included, in order:
- Lose weight
- Get organized
- Spend less, save more
- Enjoy life to the fullest
- Stay fit and healthy
- Learn something exciting
Did your 2016 list resemble any of these items? It is now the end of January. During a recent staff meeting, one of my co-workers asked, “How are your resolutions going?” According to London Business School, 25% of us have given up by the first week. Sixty percent of us will make the exact same resolution year after year. Are you one of them?
If you’re struggling with your goals, ask yourself why? Many times, people fail because they had set the bar too high to succeed. Keep in mind also that it takes at least 30 days to replace a bad habit with a good habit; in other words you need to give yourself time to learn new habits. Checking to be sure your goal is realistic, and then being patient and persistent in putting it into action, can improve your chance for success.