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.

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?

Image result for learn about investing

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.  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.  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 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.  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.  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 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.  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:

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.
Image result for The Build Credit card

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. 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.

Best Books on Credit Repair:


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.

Image result for acceptance rates for medical schools

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 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 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.

Image result for getting accepted to grad school

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.
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!

99 Key Skills for a Resume (Best List of Examples for All Jobs)

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  You can find other types of "content" jobs at 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 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.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

How I Came Up With My "Retirement Number" (An Actual Figure)

Have you been disappointed by all the financial articles out there that claim in their headline to have a way of calculating your "retirement number" only to click and read an article on the 4% withdrawal rule?  I have!  The 4% rule, for those of you who don't know, says that during your retirement you're to withdraw no more than 4% of your retirement funds annually to cover all of your living expenses.  It's supposed to help you have enough money to last you through retirement.

Image result for My retirement number

Online retirement calculators want you to include inputs you may not have, only tell you how long your money will last, don't actually spit out a target dollar amount, and in some cases, won't share anything with you unless you sign up.  I've tried a few out.  Don't take me wrong, there are a lot of great articles to reference.  Google: How do I calculate my retirement number.  My favorite of all articles on page one is provided by because you get a step-by-step approach.

Why I decided to blog about this today is because recently I was asked to answer: "How much money do you personally need to retire, and how did you come up with that number?" for an upcoming article at a financial site.  (When it's live I will let you know).  Below is my answer.  It may not be accurate, meaning I may be missing some things as I did this without any feedback from CPAs or financial professionals.  Nonetheless, my methodology is explained and it could help you out with this same problem of wanting to know your number but not having a way to actually compute it.

My answer to the question:

To retire my wife, Jessica, and I will need $4.45 million in total assets.  How I came up with this number is as follows.  Retiring at 65, I plan on having our money last us until Jessica is 95.  (I’d be 99 and don’t plan on being alive as none of my grandparents have reached 90).

Our home is our biggest expense today.  We spend $37K a year on mortgage, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance.  We spend about $29K a year on all remaining living expenses.  Therefore, we are spending about $66K a year to maintain our standard of living.  In 2042 when I retire, we will be mortgage payment free, but still have to pay property taxes, insurance, and maintenance costs.  These are variable costs that will no doubt rise over time.
Using a 2.5% yearly rate of inflation, I estimate my housing costs will be about $17K a year in 2042.  The $29K of living expenses will be about $54K factoring inflation at 2.5% once again.  That means we’ll need $71K in 2042 to live as we live today.
Accounting for inflation for an additional 33 years (i.e., from 2042 to 2075 when Jessica would be 95) of life, this puts us in need of $4.45 million in total assets to live comfortably in our current 3,200 square foot home in Oceanside, CA.  We have $1.25 million in assets today.  If we don’t reach the 4 million plus mark by 2042, there’s always leaving the state and downsizing, i.e., plan B!

Well, you can see that my reasoning includes factoring in how long I need our money to last, inflation, when I expect to retire, how much income I'll need each year adjusting for inflation every year, where I plan to retire, and so on. I had to think hard about this. What could alter my actual retirement number?

For starters, inflation may average 2% and not 2.5% over the course of my lifetime, or who knows...maybe even more and that wouldn't be good. I may die sooner than 90. I mean, I can go on forever. No one can predict everything that will happen in the future. least I have a target retirement number to shoot for. I plan on downsizing for sure (two people won't need 5 bedrooms) so renting or living in a tinier home (this will depend on the economic cycle) will surely mean we'll need less to retire comfortably on.
Alright, there you have it. If you have any input on this topic, please share with all of us by posting a comment below. Until next time!

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Saturday, May 6, 2017

6 Ways Parents Can Save More Money for Their Kid's College Fund

As a parent of two small children, I worry constantly about how I'll be able to afford paying for future college expenses.  Jessica, my wife, and I have made saving for our retirement our number one financial goal.  We've come to the conclusion that not burdening our children financially as we age is more important than defraying their college expenses.  Now, this doesn't mean that we'll leave them without financial support.  We just won't unload all of our retirement savings so our children graduate from college debt free.

As a parent, you're probably in a similar boat, wondering what major future events you should be saving money for, retirement or your kid's college.  I suggest you save for the former by contributing to your 401k, Traditional or Roth IRA, each month, and anything leftover you can put in the college fund.  That's what I do.  It's not much, say $150-$300 each month, but heck anything helps.  To ensure I have money left over for the college fund, these are 6 ways I plan on not spending on my children, no matter how much they plead or beg:

1) Expensive birthday parties each year.  According to a report on a study, the average cost of a birthday party in 2016 was $450!  The entertainment, food, decorations, and favors were the most expensive.  Then there's the presents parents are buying their kids for their bdays.  Is this all really necessary?  Go to a Costco or a warehouse store in your area and bulk buy what you need.  Spend no more than $150.  Have the party at home, the park, or any free venue.  Buy them a gift for under $100.  Do cheap pizza for the kids.  If you want to spoil your kids, do major parties at 5 and 10 years only.  Save an extra $200 each year per child doing this.

2) It's all about the kicks.  Sometime during their elementary years, kids start noticing how cool some shoes are over what they may be sporting.  This is an important time for parents.  If they cave in and get their kids the latest Nike or major brand shoes, it's going to be difficult pulling back from this.  Buying kids Air Jordans or other designer shoes is a no-no.  Kids don't need expensive shoes.  If they beg, tell them every time you buy them their shoes at Big 5, Ross, etc., you're putting an extra $50 into their college fund...and actually do it.

Image result for Air Jordans

3)  Don't commit a huge parenting mistake buying your kids expensive cell phones.  People upgrade cell phones too often simply because they want what's new right away.  Kids learn from their friends what's cool, and the latest iPhone and Galaxy are definitely cool.  Paying off a cell phone in installments with your bill also gives one the impression that they're not that costly.  When your kids complain about their cheap phone, tell them it's because you love them and want them to have less college debt.

4)  Control your kid's sugar intake.  And salt while you're at it.  Your kids don't brush their teeth correctly anyway.  (There are adults who still don't know how to properly brush their teeth!)  But as a parent you will be placing yourself in dire financial straits often if you don't watch what your kids eat.  Even with great dental insurance, you will be out-of-pocket thousands of dollars over the course of your kid's life from child to adulthood.  This is money that could be placed in a 529 plan.

5) Don't give your teenage girl a Quinceanera or Sweet 16 bash.  The average cost of a Quince is between $5K-$20K.  I know it's tradition in some families, especially Latino ones, but this money can be put to way better use...such as adding to the college fund.

Image result for Quinceanera

6)  Buy your high school junior or senior student a used car, not a new one.  Even better is to only pay half of the costs of that used car and let your teen work for the rest.  As a high school assistant principal, I saw many students driving into the school parking lot with new cars.  I was at a public school so one can only imagine how much these kids' parents had to fork over to please their teen child.

Now, how much should you be saving each month to have enough to pay for a fraction of your child's college expenses?  Depends on how much, i.e., what percentage of the total costs you want to handle for your child.  (65 to 70% is the norm since financial aid or loans would cover the rest).  According to an article from today at The, parents are saving on average $3K a year for college.  This isn't enough.  A good rule of thumb is to multiply your child's age by $2K and that's how much money you should have saved.  For example, if your child is 7, then you should have $14K in the college fund.

There are many ways to find an extra $50-$100 per month to add to a college fund.  I gave you 6 major ones but there are so many more.  Be creative and consistent!  Thanks for reading.  Until next time.  If you liked this post and want to receive more like them in your inbox, please subscribe below:     
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Monday, May 1, 2017

How to Lower Credit Card Interest Rates & Save

Hey everyone. Today I have a guest post from a young lady taking the initiative to build her blogging resume, and get a head start on paying off her college debt. I just love Millennials who get after it like Lauren has done here and am always glad to help out. Enjoy!

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Roughly 50% of Americans have credit card debt that isn’t paid off every month, which means half the population is paying interest on their credit cards. The national average credit card interest rate hovers around 15%, but many people are able to negotiate their existing rates to well below that percentage. A reduction in interest rate means more money in your pocket at the end of every month. Still, many other credit card users are paying 20% or more.

Depending upon your balances, this could mean hundreds of dollars a month in interest. For example, a credit card that carries $5,000 month-to-month at a 20% APR can take over four years to pay off and cost the holder $2,360 in interest alone. If you’re in this boat, it’s time to take control of your high interest rates. There are some basic ways to lower your credit card interest rate and save you money.

Tactic #1: Negotiate Directly with Your Credit Card Companies

Too many people are afraid to simply call up their credit card companies and negotiate a lower interest rate. Of course, this tactic doesn’t work 100% of the time, but you’ll never know if you don’t ask. If you get those unsolicited credit card offers in the mail, open them up to see what range of APRs you are being offered. If they are lower than the rates you pay on your existing cards, you are probably in a pretty good position to negotiate with your current companies for a lower rate. If you don’t receive those offers by mail, do a little research online to guess at what kind of rate you would expect to receive considering your credit score.

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Don’t know what your credit score is? That’s alright, because many people don’t track their scores closely until they actually plan to apply for new credit or do something credit-based, such as negotiating a new interest rate. Everyone is entitled to a copy of their credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus—Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax—once a year, for free. Go to to order your reports, or you can contact the credit bureaus directly.

Once you’re armed with competing credit card offers, or at least an idea of what rate you would qualify for, you’re ready to call up the companies. When you get through to customer service, be polite, but firmly state that you would like to request an interest rate reduction based on your card loyalty and competing card rates. Sometimes, even if they are unable to tell you yes, they may have some advice about re-requesting in the near future. With any luck, though, you’ll be able to score a new, lower rate with just a quick phone call.

Tactic #2: Shop Around for Balance Transfers

Another way to lower your interest rate is to simply move your balances from higher interest cards to new, lower interest cards. Agains, this is when those unsolicited credit card offers in the mail come in handy. Although most of them don’t guarantee you that you’ll be approved when you apply, those offers are sent out based on credit, and if you have sufficient income you’ll probably be approved.

One way that credit card companies try to solicit business away from one another is with enticing rates on credit card balance transfers. These are often marketed in big, bold letters as “low, introductory rates” and may last anywhere from a few months up to a year. If you’re able to transfer some or all of your debt to a new card with a much lower interest rate, just be sure that you budget in a way that allows you to pay off as much as possible of the balance before the introductory period ends and the rate shoots up.

Of course, there can be downfalls to this tactic. One thing you must watch out for are costs directly associated with balance transfers. These are transfer fees, and if you don’t pay off your balance (or pay it down significantly) during that introductory rate, the higher non-introductory rate combined with what you paid in transfer fees, may add up to more than the interest you were previously paying!

Another concern is that applying for new cards can ding your credit score. Part of your score is affected by how many “hard hits” your credit receives within a certain period of time. A couple hard hits won’t affect your score, but more than that can have an impact that brings your score down until enough time passes that the hard hits drop off your report. And if your score goes down, that affects what sort of rates you’ll qualify for based upon credit. This is why it’s so important to identify the best credit card offers first, then apply very selectively.

Tactic #3: Start Improving Your Credit Score

If negotiating with your current companies doesn't lead to rate reductions, and you aren’t able to snag a new card with lower rates, then don’t worry because all is not lost. You can still get your credit card interest rates reduced, but it’s going to take a little longer to get there. It’s time to start improving your credit score, which will put you in a better position to qualify for lower rates in the future. There are a few factors to consider with this.

First, order and carefully examine all three credit reports from the major bureaus. Roughly a third of us have inaccurate credit reports, so look for anything unusual—a company you don’t recognize, judgments or repossessions that don’t belong to you, even inaccurate late payments. Be very careful to make your payments on time whether for credit cards, mortgage, student loans, or any other line of credit. Over time, this will improve your score. Getting your credit card utilization rate down to under 35%, and keeping it there, will also benefit your score. Do all of these things and six to eight months later, check your scores again for improvement. Good luck!

Lauren Davidson is a soon-to-be graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. As she transitions into the “real world” she is looking for freelance writing work to help pay off her student loan debt. You can visit her site here.