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Friday, June 23, 2017

11 Ways to Make College More Affordable

According to some latest statistics, there are now over 44 million Americans with student loan debt.  The average monthly student loan payment is $351.  The average student from the Class of 2016 graduated with $37,172 in total student loan debt.  By the way, these are all increases from the previous year.  I remember back in 2000 when I graduated from UC Santa Barbara, I had one question in mind all of that summer:  What could I have done to have saved more on college?  Many things came to mind simply because I was an idiot back then when it came to finances.  I've shared on this blog that I used to buy groceries from Trader Joes, and pay for my car with the loan money I had left over.  In other, I took out more than I needed.

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Fortuitously, the loans I took out were the Federal subsidized variety, and I qualified for $15K of loan forgiveness by teaching science at an urban high school for four years.  This cut my loan balance in half.  By the way, this article at Cheatsheet.com is one of the most comprehensive I've read on the topic of loan forgiveness.  Just be careful looking into the government job (public service) option.  I've read there are a lot of complaints.  But let's now go back to the question at hand:  What are some ways you can currently save on college expenses?  I've come up with a list of 11 ways you can make college more affordable.  Mind you, these are not going to make everyone happy, i.e., sacrifice is involved.

Let's begin with...

1.  Stay in state.  The lure of going to a university out of state is strong.  You get to be away from family, friends, and everything you know.  Being in a new place can be exciting.  But the costs for out of state tuition versus in-state are not worth it.  Stay in state.

2.  Stay local.  If you live in an urban setting with a local University (I used to live about 1.5 miles from San Jose State University), you should go to school there.  You'll save thousands of dollars over your college years by living at home.  You're obviously giving up the college life experience, but trust me, these days the college life experience is not worth the future turmoil you'll put yourself in by over-paying for college.

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3.  Share a room.  You can save between $100-$300 in rent per month when you share a room.  Grant it, the room has to be able to occupy two, and you'll never have full privacy, but this is another viable savings option you should use.

4.  Live off campus.  My little sister-in-law, Chelsea, is saving nearly $500 a month in rent by living off campus.  Cal State San Marcos forced her to live on campus her freshman year (by the way this is another racket policy of many Universities trying to squeeze out as much as possible from their incoming students) but she has since gotten an apartment (off campus) with two other college friends.

5.  Get your General Education credits completed at a Junior College.  Everyone has to do their GEs, but not everyone has to pay a premium while getting them done.  I attended two years at San Jose CC and transferred.  Made a big difference in total costs by the time I graduated!

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6.  Don't buy a meal plan.  Don't be lazy and cook for yourself!  I had the meal plan my first year at UCSB.  I ate like a pig three times a day, and at night I'd still be starving!  I'd even sneak out a banana under my shirt from time to time, and I'd still have cravings.  I paid a butt load and realized in time it was best for me to cook my own meals and save money.  My favorite was tuna with graham crackers.  (I'm not kidding).

7.  Stop procrastinating.  Take a full load of classes and even consider dual enrollment so that you can finish college in three years.  I think I read somewhere that the average length of time students are taking to finish a four-year degree is closer to six years.  Why?  The average student doesn't have a clear plan.  80% change majors at least once!  Kids...you're shooting yourself in the foot taking more than four years to finish your degree.  Also, don't transfer mid-way or take unnecessary classes. 

8.  Don't miss the FAFSA window.  First, you should not make assumptions about your financial aid status and apply.  You never know...you may qualify for some monies.  Second, don't delay.  Each year the window opens and closes.  You're always welcomed to apply for Financial Aid even after the deadline, but the pickings in terms of available funding, will be less.  So get your parents on it!  Tell them to file their taxes a.s.a.p.

9.  Buy used.  If you don't have something you need to furnish your room, get it on Craigslist.  You can find desks, chairs, lamps, TV stands, etc., on the site and negotiate on prices.  In other words, don't go get what you need at Walmart.  Unless it's cheaper to buy new.

10.  Stop spending on alcohol.  The best beer is a free beer.  So never host anything, and if you consume, always drink responsibly.  Drinking responsibly means drinking less and never driving buzzed or drunk.  Going on beer runs every weekend is a surefire way of spending more on college.  The same goes for buying marijuana from the dorm dealer.  Stay clear of drugs my little homies!

11.  Don't buy new textbooks.  What are you, nuts!?  Find someone who's taking the course with you and share the book, make copies of the pages you need, go online and find a used or older edition, or simply take copious notes in class.  These professors and their publishers get away with murder, charging $300 or more for a book.

There you have it.  College is expensive, but students are to partly blame if they consume college like it's going out of style.  If you are willing to make some sacrifices, you can get a quality education at a more affordable price.  Thanks for reading!  If you liked this post and want to receive more like them, please subscribe below:
   
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Sunday, June 18, 2017

8 Myths About Money Millennials Are Being Told

I can't believe how much money advice out there is being given online that is plain wrong.  Most of this advice is being offered by Generation X'ers or Baby Boomers who have lived conventional lives and want those same conventions to be adopted by younger generations, namely, Millennials and Z'ers.  Vendors too are responsible for misleading the youth.  The mutual fund industry is trying to keep itself from dying out by aggressively advertising to Millennials.


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I know I'm not super rich myself, and cannot purport to have all of the answers on money.  But I can tell you that I'm not part of the conventional contingency of bloggers and financial writers out there trying to convince you to play it safe.  I've also had my share of life lessons i.e. mistakes and close calls that have given me better perspective than those who would tell you to set your money making and hoarding on automatic and forget it.  So I want to take this opportunity, my young amigos, to give it to you straight.  To share with you what I know about life and all things money, and to dispel some of what's considered dogma out there in the financial advice world.  Let's start with myth number one below:

1.  Retirement is the end all be all.  Ha!  T. Boone Pickens, Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, Carlos Slim...I can go on, but what do they all have in common?  They're all over 70-years old and extremely wealthy.  They have amassed enough money to pay for thousands of people's conventional retirements.  But why do they keep working?  Because retirement is a myth being sold to the common man (like you and me).  Retirement is for boring, middle class people who never aspired to be rich.  Once you get that becoming rich (and leaving a legacy) is the goal, not retirement, you'll gladly "work" until you die.

2.  Save, save, and save.  In the words of Robert T. Kiyosaki, "Saving is for losers!"  And he's absolutely right.  You're told to save, and invest your savings to scratch out more money with the aid of compound interest and time.  What a bunch of baloney.  Rich people save to buy assets that produce profits that get put right back to work to buy more assets.  Or they build a business that produces profits that they use to grow the business and make more profit or buy additional businesses.  The average American makes their chump change with amplification via compound interest and time.  The rich take their savings to make deals that amplify their gains a lot faster than compound interest can ever produce.


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3.  If you invest X money and assume a 6-8% annual return over Y number of years, you'll have saved $Z in your account.  Life has taught me that shit happens.  No one person stands a 100% chance of staying in a given career for 30 plus years, not moving around the country, or encountering situations that require money decisions that could be counterproductive.  This is why this often used scenario in financial articles is just ridiculous.  Therefore, believing you will be able to sustain 30 years of investing a given amount of money and on average earn a 6-8% return over those years, in this day and age where the average person moves jobs a handful of times, is either fired or let go, panics and sells at the wrong time, etc., is beyond stupid.  Try doing it and you will become a slave of society and money.  Money is to be used!

4.  Strive to be debt free.  This is a half myth.  If you have bad debt (credit card, student loan, etc.) then striving to kill off this debt is good, but NEVER at the expense of an opportunity to invest in a deal.  Herein lies the problem for most of you Millennials.  You went out and consumed a whole bunch of bad debt by attending college and quite possibly graduate school.  No matter how great you're at budgeting, you're going to kill several years of your getting rich potential by putting all your disposable cash to servicing these loans.  Then you'll consider yourself or others who have bragged about it, a hero for doing so.  Meanwhile, you have nothing else going for you except a career that keeps the carrot in front of you.  You need to take drastic measure to overcome your ball and chain situation.  What can you do?

A.  Move to a developing and growing city and get involved in house flipping or figure out how to build homes.  Or you can start a business in the area that is needed by the current residents.

B.  Find a partner that's willing to go 50-50 on a new business venture with you.  Borrow the money if you can (i.e. take on good debt).

C.  Fund a speculative investment after carefully considering all of the risks involved and vetting the people carrying out the deal.

5.  Diversification is the only free lunch.  Here's an example online article of this at The Simple Dollar.  Okay, so you grab a basket of low fee Exchange Traded Funds or mutual funds like a Total Stock Market or even a Target Date.  Now what?  Well, you work your ass off for 35 years adding little increments of available cash to these accounts until you save barely enough to call it quits at your job.  Does this sound exciting?  I'm sorry, but you have to try to hit the occasional home run investing in individual stocks.  Risky?  Yes, but even riskier is pretending you'll one day have no more financial worries because you invested safely by diversifying.  Yet again, more middle class propaganda.

6.  What are you waiting for...buy a home!  The mortgage and real estate industries want your money something bad.  They keep feeding you with lies about how important it is for you to get a home of your own so you can leave your parents alone finally.  Buying a personal residence at an early age is a great way to cut off your chances of ever becoming rich.  Servicing your principal and interest will shackle you for any future risky venture because in the back of your mind you'll always have that pesky home loan to consider.  If I were you starting out in 2017, with some of my investing money I'd buy a rental property in an area that has high rents and where homes are cheap.  The U.S. South and Midwest are great candidates.  I'd leave off buying myself a home until I had the assets to do so.  This is only if I didn't have any other moves.  I'd look to do A, B, and C from above before going with this route.

7.  There's no getting around taxes.  There is so!  It's called stop making your income from a career, i.e., job.  If you desire to make a life out of career and pay advancement, you will work like a slave for a very long time, giving away an incredible amount of your earnings over to Uncle Sam.  The rich get richer largely in part because they pay a lesser percentage of their earnings to the Tax man.  And it's their legal right to do so.  The tax code favors the rich and you may be someone who complains about this.  Why not do something about it?  Make money from investments and businesses.

8.  Lift yourself up by your own bootstraps.  If you think you stand a chance of ever escaping the rat race alone you are in for a rude awakening.  Find like minded people who are desperate to be "out" just like you.  Find mentors who can guide you as you make business or investing decisions.  Find money players with entrepreneurship experience and latch onto them like the little fish that swim around great white sharks feeding off the scraps.  (When you fatten up you can move on and be a shark yourself).  I can assure you, you'll never do anything if you rely on yourself to know or do everything.  You need people who know more than you!

For Example...

Last week my wife and I were in Nevada.  We were assessing a small town outside of Las Vegas for its real estate potential.  We want to partner up with my father-in-law and build homes.  We met with an entrepreneur/investor there who has multiple lots for sale, and also has several buildings he leases out all around Nevada.  The man cash flows millions of dollars every year.  He gave us the tour of the town and we gained more insight from this than we could've ever gained from RE agents.  Why?  Because the man is an investor/entrepreneur, sells lots to builders all the time, and he understands the business.

I have a mortgage, kids, a traditional career as a teacher, and for all intents and purposes, taking on a venture like this is pretty risky, right?  But there is never a perfectly safe scenario.  If I don't take risks in life, I will give up my shot at ever becoming rich.  I'll give up way too much power over to my employer, and my life will be but a mere routine.  Is this how you want to live your life?  I realize this post does not offer you hugs and caresses.  The biggest myth of all is that life can be lived wearing helmets and seat belts.  Life is turbulent, embrace it and live it freely!

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Monday, June 12, 2017

11 Best Part-Time Jobs for Extra Retirement Income

Working during retirement may sound like blasphemy to many of you.  Actually, even the thought of being able to retire sounds like something out of a fairytale these days.  But let's say for the sake of this post, that you are able to retire sometime within the next five years.  And for consideration, let's also say that you don't want to completely hang it all up, and want to have "play" money so that you don't encroach on your savings.  What are some jobs out there that you can get part-time that will provide you with both income and sweet perks?
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If I can make it to my retirement as a teacher, teaching is one thing I would not want to do part-time.  Next school year I'll be on my 17th year so I still have a ways to go.  I wouldn't want to take on any private tutoring, or substitute teaching gigs.  I think I'd be tired of the industry at that point and wouldn't want to do anything within it.  But that's just me.  Many retired teachers spend a few years after they retire working part-time as substitute teachers to make vacation trip money.  Substitute teaching is one of the several part-time jobs some of you may want to consider doing to earn your very own hobby, traveling, or "play" money.  It only takes a college degree, and passing a very easy test.  There's no lesson planning, and you can aim to become "the cool sub" every kid wants when the teacher is sick.  Substitute teaching gets us underway at number one below, but what else is there?  Keep reading.  (Keep in mind that this is money you don't actually need to earn, rather, you're working just to be out of the house and have some extra spending cash).

1.  Substitute teaching.  Pay is anywhere between $100-115 per school day.

2.  Bicycle shop employee.  At Performance Bicycle, a sales associate can make on average $9.64 an hour.  If you love bikes, this is the retirement part-time job for you.  The perks include getting substantial store discounts on bike components, wheels, frames, tires, etc.  I love to road cycle and the thought of being able to get discounts on items related to this very expensive sport revs me up!

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3.  Gym associate.  A "Front Desk Associate" at Gold's Gym makes about $8.53 an hour.  I happen to be a 24-Hour Fitness member and one of the front desk associates at my gym is a retired gentlemen who took the job just to not have to pay any money for a gym membership.  I've actually seen him working out on the floor many times.

4.  Bakery associate/clerk.  Lot's of bakery spots open up in the early morning and close in the afternoon.  You can be part of making sweet delicious treats, selling them, and eating them for free, perhaps.  Pay is anywhere between $8.00-$9.00 an hour.

5.  Movie Theater Ticket Taker.  Again, this is another low-key minimum wage job, but the perks include being able to watch the latest releases for free!  My wife, Jessica, and I, love going to the movies.  We go at least once a month.  If I only have to pay for one ticket (at senior discount in the future) we'd be at the movies a lot more.

6.  Wine Cellar Associate.  You can make between $13-$17 an hour pouring wine for wine lovers at a vineyard or cellar.  Best part is you can get your wine at a nice discount!  Have you noticed how much wine bottles cost above 13.9% alcohol?  Man...anything above 14% is the good stuff, but you have to be willing to drop at least a $20 for a bottle.

7.  Freelance/Consultant.  To me, this is like working full time again because chances are you'll be freelancing or consulting on things you're an expert on from your vast career experience.  But it will pay more than the 6 part-time jobs above.

8.  Retail job during the holidays.  When things get busy, retailers put out ads for extra part-time help.  A place like Whole Foods or Trader Joes would interest me.  You may get a small discount for certain products.

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9.  Guest services at your local stadium.  If you live in a big city with a major league baseball, NBA, NFL, or NHL team, you may be able to squeeze in on a part-time basis with a team as a guest service representative.  Watch games for free on your days off!

10.  Golf Course.  Work behind the bar at the club house, on the grounds, maintaining the golf carts, whatever.  Anything to get to golf for free on your days off.  Of course if you live on a golf course, this is not for you.

11.  Brewery.  Big breweries have restaurants, tasting and sales rooms, and grounds.  If you can get a part-time job working at a brewery, the greatest perk of all will become available to you: discounted craft beer!  Someone please give me a job at Ballast Point.  Sculpin...yum.

I get that people retire so that they DON'T have to work.  But for some people, not working can be scary.  In many cases, when married couples retire simultaneously, there is a build-up of tension at home.  Couples start to annoy each other if they don't maintain a somewhat occupied lifestyle.  Part-time working may be the solution.  In addition to getting out of each other's hair, part-time jobs will allow couples to live off their retirement savings a lot longer.  By the way, if you're having marriage problems because of your finances, The Simple Dollar has a great guide for you to read.

For me, I imagine a part-time job allowing me to spend on my hobbies without worry of depleting my savings, and that alone is peace of mind.  If I can get additional perks, even better.

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Friday, June 9, 2017

9 Things To Do With Your High School Graduation Money

I've worked at several high schools and have seen my share of graduations.  High school graduations are a rite of passage into adulthood for teenagers here in America.  Graduating teens get to be the center of attention, and even though they often downplay the importance, graduation is a BIG deal, especially for parents and extended family.  Families showering their teen graduate with gifts, including flowers, traditional, candy or money leis, and balloons, at the graduation ceremony is just the beginning.  Many families take their graduate out for dinner after the ceremony, and then even hold a graduation party for friends and out of town guests sometime within the next few days.

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For parents, their teen's high school graduation can be an expensive event.  Note: Your teen doesn't care.  They love the attention, but most importantly, they love all that money coming their way.  Depending on the size of the family and number of invited guests, the average (as in not from a wealthy family) teen can get anywhere from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars.  What (smart) things teens can do with their money will depend on their plans for their future beyond high school.  Teens without plans will do what they've done all of their lives, just wing it.  They'll spend their graduation money on stuff like shoes, clothes, and things of no self-improvement value.  Plain dumb in this era.  The smart teen with plans and goals should consider using their money in the following ways:

1.  Take a general ed class at the local junior college and get ahead of your prerequisites for college.  Just make sure it's transferable to the university you're attending.  If you're not headed to a four-year university, great, you have early credits to finish your two-year JC program on time.

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2.  Get your driver's license.  If you haven't yet gotten your license, then use your graduation money to purchase a driver's training course, and get your license before you leave for college.  Even if you won't have a car to drive as a freshman, it's vitally important you take care of this as soon as possible.

3.  Buy a bicycle and helmet.  Many college campuses and towns are bike friendly.  You won't have to drive everywhere and can save on gas if you're willing to pedal to local destinations.

4.  Pass down your high school computer or laptop to your younger siblings and buy yourself a reliable and efficient laptop.  You'll need it!

5.  Pay for part of your career or technical education tuition if you're not attending college.  If you're going to a two or four-year college, use your graduation money to pay for semester 1 textbooks.

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6.  Save for a used car.  If you intend on working after high school, (while attending some type of school part-time hopefully) you're going to need wheels to get around.

7.  Buy yourself interview attire.  For men, this means getting a power suit, slacks, shirt and tie, and black dress shoes.  For women, you may want to buy black dress pants, a navy blue blazer, a nice blouse or button down shirt, a black dress and tights, etc.  You have to have this type of attire in your wardrobe no matter what you decide to do after high school.

8.  Travel.  Just get it out of your system.  I realize Millennials and the younger generations are all about having great experiences.  Well, if you can travel somewhere with your graduation money and have some fun prior to getting really serious, then go for it!

9.  Open up a Roth IRA and fund it with 80% of your graduation money.  Use the other 20% to splurge on whatever.  The benefits of Roth IRAs include being able to use the money you've saved for educational expenses without incurring withdrawal penalties.  Or you can leave the money in the account and contribute more over time to save for retirement.

There are many other ways teens can use their graduation money.  And there's really no way of stopping them if they want to do something stupid with their money.  Giving them sound ideas like the ones above may sway their mindset and get them to do something positive for their personal development.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

This Is By Far The Number One Way to Save Money

If you were asked, "What's the number one way Americans can save more money?" how would you respond?  Think about all of the discretionary expenses you have on a monthly basis...now what do you think Americans do more of than many (if not all) nations in the world?  That's right, we eat like food is going out of style.  Americans have an obsession with food and it's no surprise when there's so much deliciousness to choose from.  Out of the 29 most obese countries in the world, the U.S. is at number 12 (#1 among "western" nations).
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According to this article at Chetsheet.com, eating out and spoiled food is the number one way Americans waste their hard earned money.  Just this morning, I was looking for some cream cheese for my bagel and I found a container in the back of the top shelf in my fridge.  I was so excited we had some in store.  I opened it.  There was so much fungal growth I thought Mario and Luigi would surely be popping out.  Gross.  Out of frustration, I decided to rid every shelf of expired food.  I threw out, moldy salsa and humus (the expensive kind my wife buys at Trader Joe's), black olives that were in plastic containers from like months ago, moldy tortillas, soft and squishy persian cucumbers, two bags of salad, left over beef stew, and left over rice.

If this were a one time occurrence, I'd have moved on with my day.  But no, I do this at least once a month!  Enough is enough.  I started thinking about this problem, which I'm sure happens in many households in America, and came up with the following analysis.

1.  Yes, as Americans, we can reduce how often we go out to eat.  We'll spend less money if we cook for ourselves more often.  But this isn't the real issue.

2.  Yes, we can use a grocery list and buy exactly what we need at the grocery store, to curb impulse purchases.  But this too isn't the real issue.

What I think hurts our pockets the most is the fact that we have a horrible sense of portion.  In other words, our portion control sucks!  The number one way of saving money involves making just the right amount of food to eat, meaning, having as few meals throughout the week that don't lead you to have to grab the plastic containers from your cabinets.  If I had a nickel for every time I threw away spaghetti noodles and moldy spaghetti sauce from the fridge I'd be a rich man!  How often are you making meals that leave you with leftovers?  Sure, you might get to some of the leftovers the following day, say by taking some as lunch to work.  But I bet you have some leftovers in your fridge right now that you never got to.

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The same can be said about how you order when you dine out.  Even if you've managed to cut down eating out to just one night per month, I bet you ask for a to-go box when you're done with your outing.  Again, it comes down to our obsessive habit of being surrounded by food at our table.  My wife, Jessica, and I cook at home quite often, and even so we cook way too much.  We serve our kids more than they can eat and that food ends up in the garbage.  Why?  Because our kids are food spoiled.  They don't like leftovers!  When we go out as a couple, we order too much and have to take food home.  Sometimes we leave it in the car (and heat) because we don't go straight home.  And then neither Jessica, nor I, wants to eat the leftovers for fear of getting food poisoning.  Has this ever happened to you?

So what can be done to stop wasting food and your money?  For starters, prepare less food for dinner.  Read the servings labels on your boxes or packages and follow the instructions to preparing your portion controlled meals.  Before going out to eat, have a snack so you're not so hungry and want to order a giant appetizer plus a full course dinner.  Order less food at a restaurant and actually use the opportunity servers give you when they return to check on you to order more food, IF, you are still hungry and are nearly finished with your meal.  Here's another tip...do not cook another dinner if you have plenty of leftovers still from the previous dinner.  You better nuke that $#!& and eat it!

Clearly, we can help both our pockets and our waistlines by being more conscious of how much food we buy and need to eat to meet our daily caloric needs.  Teach your children not to waste food, but don't set them up for failure by plopping down an adult sized plate and meal in front of them.  Thanks for reading!  Until next time.  If you liked this post and want to get more like them, please subscribe to this blog below:
   
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Monday, May 29, 2017

Best Online Brokerage Firm Investor Education Platforms

What's up everyone!  So I know you can find a slew of articles out there ranking the "Best Online Brokerage Firms" to get your investing started.  Online brokerage firms allow you to trade stocks, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), and buy shares of mutual funds, in case you didn't know.  Some of the most widely known online brokers are TDAmeritrade, Charles Schwab, Merrill, ETrade, Fidelity, ScottTrade, and Vanguard.  Personal Finance bloggers and other financial sites have taken to ranking these brokers, understandably, based on costs.

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It's a great idea to know what it will cost you to sign-up with an online broker, from minimum investment all the way to the cost to trade a stock, i.e., trade commissions. After all, you want to get the best deal and make the most money without fees eating away at your profits.  Each of the aforementioned online brokers may have sophisticated trading platforms, and people will like them for their ease of use, look, help provided, and available free content, in addition to the associated costs for use.  But what about investor education?  Are investors making choices to open accounts at online brokerages that include the availability, versatility, and breadth of free educational content?

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Even if you are an experienced investor, you should consider how important investor education is to your online broker.  Do they have easy to find "Education" pages somewhere on the main page?  Is the investor education content interactive, containing video or webcasts, and not just a series of links to pages with written content?  Are you being forced to open an account to get complete access?  (That's not very consumer friendly).  If these people want your money, you should be shopping for the best overall user experience, the lowest fees, AND an investment in your success that can only come from ongoing learning.  Yes, it's up to you to get educated about your finances and investing, and to find the best places online to go do this!  Wouldn't it make more sense to have that place be where you already go to do your investing?

Let's also say that you haven't yet committed to an online broker because you simply don't know enough about investing and have still to get the basics down.  Where do you go online?  Where can you access a library of the best investing content out there that is free?  To answer all of these questions, I have taken the liberty of reviewing the above cited online brokers' educational platforms (because I'm a teacher and value education).  In addition to my rankings, you'll also get a direct link to each site's investor education page so you don't have to waste time searching on their home pages.

Okay, here you go:

1.  Tdameritrade.com.  The most comprehensive of all of the online brokers.  It has a designated Education Center where you can select from various topics and levels, and essentially customize your learning.  The site has plenty of interactivity: videos, webcasts, and written content.

2.  Merrilledge.com.  I liked Merrill's designated "Investor Education" page layout.  Like TDAmeritrade, you can explore topics by investing experience, topic, and format.  A brand new feature is Merrill's Investing Classroom.  You can take a quiz and test your knowledge prior to learning.  As you go through a course, e.g. Stocks 101, you are asked questions to size up your understanding.  I didn't like that the "Options" topic was locked, i.e., only accessible when you open an account.

3.  Fidelity.com.  Fidelity has an impressive platform for learning.  It was hard to find from the home page, however.  Nonetheless, in Fidelity you have perhaps the easiest platform to learn from.  I love that once you select (by clicking a square) a topic, you can sort a la Excel for your "level" of understanding.  Another plus, the topics are as broadly ranged as those on the top two sites above.

4.  Etrade.com.  Not as comprehensive in terms of topics as the three above, but they do get a thumbs up for having a lot of video content.  If you're a visual and auditory learner, this is your place to go learn about investing.  Make sure you visit the first two ranked sites above, however, to find topics not covered at E-trade.  I loved their Personal Finance section!

4.  Scottrade.com.  What I liked about Scottrade was the fact that they had a wide range of investing topics to learn from, e.g., Intro to the Stock Market, International Investing, Investing Strategies, and Modern Portfolio Theory, to name a few.  I didn't like the lack of video content.  If there is any video on the site, I couldn't find it.

6.  Schwab.com.  Schwab has some of the best resources (worksheets and tools on site) available, but they're scattered all over the site.  For example, the "Education" page is under the "Trading" tab?  Then when you get here, there are no linked educational topics to choose from.  I had to go to the "Invest" tab to find the How to Invest resources.  If you plan on being a day trader, this is the site for you.  Everyone else must learn at the site hit or miss style.

7.  Vanguard.com.  Well, at least Vanguard has a dedicated "Investor Education" page.  That's the most I can say about the educational offerings at Vanguard.  I felt like I was reading a textbook (or eBook).  Boring!

Well my people, there you have it.  Make a commitment to learn daily about investing and personal finance.  Use my descriptions and links to decide on a site to learn from (based on your unique learning style) and keep at it.  That's the only way you'll stay ahead and be a successful long term investor.  Thanks for reading!  Until next time.  If you liked this post and want to get more like them...subscribe below!

**I am not in any financial relationship with any of the reviewed online brokers above...though I wish I were, lol.
     
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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Build Card: A Credit Card to Repair Or Build Your FICO Score

Are you someone who would be considered a subprime borrower?  You get this status by having either ruined your credit or having no, to very little, credit history.  A credit score of 660 or below makes you a "subprime" borrower.  As a subprime borrower, you've struggled no doubt to get a company to give you a credit card.  The recommendation for you to rebuild (or build) your credit has been getting what's called a "secured" credit card where you deposit the funds you intend to use ahead of time.  The drawbacks to this type of credit card are:


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1.  Having to pay a security deposit
2.  Associated fees: application, processing, and annual.
3.  Higher interest rates than those offered to credit worthy borrowers.

This may be a good option for you if you're young, have fewer responsibilities that could transform into financial emergencies, and have never experienced using credit appropriately.  But what if you're a grown up with adult things happening, and maybe you had a great credit history before a financial event (losing a job, losing your insurance, a bankruptcy, etc.) led you down the path of abusing your credit card to get by?  A secured credit card may not be your best option to rebuild your credit.  Neither is using a Payday lender.
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Have you had to use a Payday lender because you couldn't access a small loan with your history?  This is an expensive solution, as you already know.  Being charged 400% interest on balances will keep you in the poor house and never give you a chance to come up.  So...the good news.  Now you may qualify to get a more traditional credit card, one that is unsecured and equally transparent with its terms.  I was reading BusinessInsider yesterday and came across this article about a company targeting "deep subprime borrowers" (scores between 550 and 600) as potential candidates for a credit card that builds broken credit history, and helps people avoid local Payday lender shops.

Fscardinc.com is a company founded by CEO, Marla Blow.  Its lone product as of now is the The Build Card, a regular looking credit card with a MasterCard logo (meaning no one will know your credit is on probation, so to speak).  Here are the advantages of using a credit card like this:

1.  Transparency (no hidden costs)
2.  Lower interest rates (a lot lower than Payday lenders)--percentage in the high 20s.
3.  Instant access (no deposit needed)
4.  Longer repayment period

The disadvantages are:

1.  Still a low borrowing limit (starts at $500 and grows over time as you demonstrate responsibility)
2.  There's an annual fee of $75.
3.  It's not for everyone.  The company gets to decide whether or not you are worthy.  After all, you're a risky bunch of borrowers.
Image result for We're not worthy!

My take is that it's great that subprime borrowers have another option to Payday loans and secured credit cards.  If I wanted to repair my credit, this is how I would go about it.  Alright so there you have it.  Before I leave I want to add that I am not being paid to review the Build Card, and am not in any relationship with the company.  (Though I wish I were!)

Thanks for reading.  Until next time.  If you liked this post and want more like them, please subscribe below:
            
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Friday, May 19, 2017

College Students Should Ask This Question First Before Considering Grad School Programs

Hello everyone.  So yesterday, Thursday, my wife and I were on a rare weekday dinner and movie date.  We decided to have seafood at Hello Betty in Oceanside, and were helped by a friendly server, a young lady with some cool tattoos on her arms.  We got to talking with her and to no surprise, she is a college graduate who moved to California from Colorado with a dream of getting into a Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate program.  She has been in California for over a year, and has yet to land a spot in any of the several Southern California Doctor of PT schools, having had one interview at the University of St. Augustine in San Marcos, but not liking the fact that it wasn't on a medical campus.

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I mentioned to her (our server) that my little sister is also in the same situation.  She graduated from San Diego State in 2015, applied to at least seven programs across the state, and was rejected by almost all...got on one waiting list.  I had an interest in my little sister's application results because she had asked me to help with her multiple Statements of Purpose.  Using my writing skills, I cleaned them up for her and made each of them pretty damn good...at least I thought.  Coincidentally, my sister is also a server at a restaurant in downtown San Diego, a job she has held for three years.  The conversation with our server made me upset.

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Source:USNews


Millennials are paying large sums of money, getting in debt for life practically, only to find themselves in limbo after graduating, having underestimated the acceptance rates of their chosen professional or graduate school program.  Are millennials focusing too much on the nature of their chosen programs, their costs, time to graduation, location, e.g., and not enough on acceptance rates?  Do they not understand how competitive some programs are to get into, especially at the top schools?  Are they overestimating their chances?  College juniors and seniors should be asking themselves:

What are my odds of getting into X graduate program/school?

Yes, it's important to research how much certain programs will cost you, the requirements, etc., but what's the point of learning all of this information if you haven't assessed your personal odds of getting into a prestigious school, or even an average one?  Here's a way to assess your chances,

Pretend every applicant can have up to 10 unique colored marbles to put into a selection jar.  Having met all of the requirements gives each applicant 5 marbles to start with.  (By the way, if you haven't met all of the requirements don't even bother applying, save your money).  A high g.p.a. well above the required g.p.a. say like 4 tenths of a grade point (ex, required 3.2, but you have a 3.6) gets you one additional marble.  A g.p.a. of 3.8 - 4.0 gives you two additional marbles.  So this applicant will have 6 or 7 marbles to your 5.  If you have high G.R.E. test scores or whatever exam you are required to take, meaning, like you knocked it out of the park, give yourself another 2 marbles.  If your test scores were average, sorry, you get no additional marbles.  Finally, if you have an excellent Statement of Purpose or a compelling story, give yourself another (1) marble.

If you have 5 marbles, guess what?  You'll be in the first batch of applicants that will get weeded out.  Whoever is going through applications, may not even get to your Statement of Purpose based on your low marble count, so to speak.  Graduate programs are very selective and will want to maintain an average class that is above what's "required" in terms of test scores and g.p.a.  They just want to appear more inclusive by publishing "average student" requirements.  I hate to burst your bubble, but if you have 5 marbles, your odds of getting into a grad school program are a lot worse than you think.  You should consider spending a year taking classes to improve your g.p.a. or retaking the G.R.E. for a better result.  Of course this means you taking a year off from school, and joining the real world, working to pay your bills if going back with mom and dad isn't an option.

This may not be a bad predicament.  Just think, you have an extra year to consider if pursuing your professional program is something you truly want to do.  Putting this into perspective, you and your fellow applicants are competing to pay a university a hundred thousand dollars or more for a professional degree you may later regret having earned.  (Think of all the California Law School Graduates who have tried and failed the CA bar several times).  Go out and get more pre-professional experience and take a deeper look at your potential future career.  One or two internships during your undergrad years may not be enough to get a hard look at a career.

It's a damn shame what's happening to kids in college today.  Universities are giving them all of this hope and misinformation, and college kids are falling for it.  If you are a college grad who has tried unsuccessfully to get into a graduate program, please comment below.  Tell us what you're up to and how you feel.  Did you think it would be this hard?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Collectible Investments: Dream Makers & Heartbreakers

Hey everyone!  Today's post comes courtesy of Daisy Welch, blogger at ABCFinance.Co.Uk.  In this piece, she highlights some of the biggest successes and failures within the collectible investment market.  Some of you will no doubt take a stroll through memory lane as you look over the items that are detailed in this guide.  Now I wish I would've kept my Gameboy!  Enjoy!

Collectible investments remain one of the most open – and unpredictable – investment markets. The term can cover almost anything that sits outside more conventional financial investments such as ISAs, stocks and shares, or property. This leads to a market where childhood toys compete with gold coins, wine or even cars. The world of collectible investments is eccentric, to say the least.


Collectible Investments
Collectible Investments by ABC FINANCE LTD.



Successful Collectible Investments


In recent years, the childhood toy market has seen some major successes, with large collections and rare Matchbox Cars going for serious amounts of money. These compete with Star Wars figurines, the popularity of which continues to grow with the recent reboot of the film series. The music industry has also seen some major money-earners, with memorabilia and vinyl first editions fetching decent prices against their original outlay.
New to the market are vintage electronics such as the original Game Boy, but given the relative short lifespan of modern day machines it’ll be interesting to see if this specific area of the market has any future potential.  Gold remains ever popular, with coins and jewelry keeping value and bars being seen by many as a safe side-investment.
Failures
Wine success stories are everywhere, but it’s usually only at the top end of the market where monetary dreams can be made. At this level, investors tend to be professional in their knowledge of what wines to buy and where to sell them – the market requires real expertise alongside financial wealth. More casual investors are too often left with crates of ancient vino that the modern market has lost interest in.
Other failures highlight the difficulty in predicting future successes. Figurines such as those created in Germany by Hummel were looked upon by many as heirlooms in the making, but the manufacturers made their pieces in such bulk as to destroy any future sellers’ market.
Mass production has also dampened products that in older years have been successful – original film memorabilia from the 1920s and ‘30s has often made a profit, but get to the 1970s and beyond and the word ‘rarity’ is virtually non-existent.
Is it worth putting money into collectible investments?
Looking at the investment market as a whole, there are better guarantees elsewhere that are likely to keep your money safer, even if they don’t bring the kind of financial successes you had in mind. Looking at a specific example such as Star Wars memorabilia, it would have been impossible in 1977 to predict the success that followed, meaning much is left to chance.
Perhaps it’s best to look upon the collectible investments’ market as a game in itself. Given its unpredictability, buy for pleasure instead of buying with future profit in mind, enjoy your purchase, and if chance is on your side, those products resigned to the attic may just return to put a smile on your face.
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Friday, May 12, 2017

12 Skill-Building And Manageable Part-Time Jobs for College Students

Being a full-time college student, focusing only on classes and studying, can be problematic.  While a student in this situation may benefit from being able to completely focus on grades, they pay the price in the end, failing to acquire real-life skills not taught in lecture halls.  My guest today, Lorene Glover, is here to share both the benefits of having a part-time job (beyond having to do this out of necessity) as well as 12 potential gigs college students should be able to handle easily even with a full course load.  Enjoy!



College students have lots of distractions, often leading their minds away from what's truly important: their personal and professional development.  Once college is over, many students find themselves lost in a tough world.  Unfortunately, a college education doesn't teach students how to be successful.  I can tell you three things that can help you more about success than a few years of college:

1.  You need to have a life strategy
2.  You need to adopt a success mindset
3.  You have to hustle hard

Only by taking practical action will you gain a sense of what the previous three statements mean.  Developing practical skills that you'll need immediately after college becomes equally essential as earning that degree.  The way to do that is with part-time jobs.  Realizing that the priority is earning a high g.p.a. in the event you apply to grad school, I've compiled 12 fairly easy to do part-time jobs.  But first, here are some benefits of having a part-time job during college.

1.  Communication skills.  No matter what type of job you get, you'll need to learn how to adapt your communication with others within your work environment.

2.  Time Management skills.  Being both a college student and an employee will suck the time out of your day, so you'll have no choice but to become more efficient.

3.  Self-discipline.  The added responsibilities and increased obligations will teach you self-discipline like nothing else.

4.  Specific industry skills and experience.  Every job you'll take on is going to contribute to your professional development, which means that you'll build experience and expertise in different fields.

5.  Opportunities.  While working part-time, you'll get to meet full-time employees working within that company.  Opportunities will arise and you must be ready to seize them.

And now onto 12 part-time jobs that are suited for most college students.

1.  Virtual Assistant: 
As a virtual assistant, you'll be supporting the activities of a company.  You'll be focusing on administrative tasks that are similar to those of an executive assistant or secretary.  You can work from your dorm room!

2.  Customer Service Representative: 
If you like helping people, and fixing problems, this job is for you.  You'll spend most of your time answering emails and phone calls, as well as reporting issues outside your scope to your superiors.



3.  Freelance writer:
If you're a good essay writer, consider looking for work at Wizessay.com.  You can find other types of "content" jobs at Upwork.com but you can also build your personal network at LinkedIN and deal with companies directly.

4.  Graphic Designer:
Leverage your creativity by creating logos, videos, illustrations, and gifs online for pay.  There are sites like Fiver.com where you can promote your services.

5.  Blogger:
Many students start blogs.  The successful ones figure out how to bring visitors to their platforms.  Look to your passions to figure out what to blog or vlog about.

6.  Resident Advisor:
You may be dealing with rowdy freshman, but getting discounted or free accommodations as well as pay may be worth it.  Plus you don't have to travel to get to work.

7.  Babysitting or Pet Care:
As a college student, you're considered more responsible than your typical high school student.  Use it to your advantage and take on babysitting or pet care side gigs to up your level of responsibility.

8.  Photographer:
If you own a nice camera, this can be the start of your own side business.  Start by providing your services for free for those looking for event photography.  Build your resume and then go for paying gigs.  Work the jobs you want when you want.

9.  Offline Promoter:
You can apply for an offline promoting position even without marketing experience.  Someone will show you the ropes.  This job will improve your ability to talk to people and your persuasion skills.

10.  Bike Shop Mechanic:
If you love biking or are handy, this job may be for you.  Perks include big time discounts on bikes and parts.  You may have to take a course to be certified in some cases.

11.  Barista/Bartender:
These two jobs may also require certifications or advanced on the job training.  You'll get to meet hundreds of people and work on your ability to listen and communicate.

12.  Driver/Car Sharing:
If you own a car why not put it to work?  With Uber or Lyft you can clock in whenever you want.  There are other car sharing companies out there so look into it before you sign up.

If you're still debating whether or not to get a job during your college years, I strongly suggest that you do.  Especially if you have yet to have one!  I worked at least a dozen part-time jobs during my teenage and college years and this was one of my smartest decisions.  Get out there and experience the real world!

Lorene Glover is a talented HR executive that loves to share her most effective productivity tips and tricks.  She's a dedicated professional helping students reach their ultimate potential and a hard-working mom of two beautiful girls.