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Friday, June 30, 2017

Success: For Minority Teens (& Their Friends)

Success is its own field of study.  Books on the topic go back to the days of the ancients, but when it comes to financial success and wealth accumulation, the earliest one I can think of is Dale Carnegie's, How to win friends and influence people, published in 1936.  I have a copy of this book in my library and I can tell you after having read it that its teachings are still very relevant today.  Napoleon Hill's, Think and Grow Rich, came only a year later in 1937, and is still a best-seller today.  I have a copy of this book in my library as well.

I'm a student of modern day success.  I've read at least a hundred different titles and learned a tremendous amount of knowledge on the principles of success.  I'm sure you have picked up books on success from your favorite authors in an attempt to glean the formula for your own rise from your current level to a higher one.  I noticed one thing, the body of work on "success" is primarily written for adults.  Yes, there are some titles out there for young adults, i.e., teenagers, but these are just versions of the adult copies that have had sales success.  For example, Sean Covey (son of the great, Stephen Covey) authored, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.  Jack Canfield, another one of my favorite success authors, has a teen version of his incredible book, The Success Principles.


Link to book (Paperback version)


As a teacher of majority, minority students (I teach in an urban setting), I felt my students were at a disadvantage.  They need to be able to see themselves in what they are given to read.  The authors of these famous success books are mostly white males.  Nothing wrong with this, of course, but let's just say many of my students have a hard time buying-in to the lessons offered within these books.  I saw a great need for my students to have a book they can turn to for help becoming successful and productive citizens of our country.  So I wrote one.

My book's title is, Success: For Minority Teens (& Their Friends), and I poured my heart into this project.  The book uses story telling to make connections between the principles of success more memorable.  The stories come directly from my life as a pre-teen and teen.  Almost every chapter has an exercise students can try at home to work on their bad habits or erroneous mindsets, all of which I know too well, having had thousands of hours of conversations with teens at school.  To make the reading easy to digest, each chapter has a short introduction of what to expect, and there's a "Main Points" section at the end of each chapter.  Prior to publication, my book reviewers made it a point to tell me that the book has application for ALL teens.  Hence, I revised the title and included, "(& Their Friends)."

Here is an excerpt from the book:


"Don’t fall in love with grades, fall in love with effort

The public believes that schools in the United States are college preparation factories.  Not true.  They’re college acceptance factories.  Big difference.  According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card, only about one-third of high school seniors were prepared for college-level coursework in math and reading in 2015.  What this means is that 66% of high school seniors have done everything according to plan, keeping great attendance, behavior, and grades but still aren’t college ready.  That’s a lot of unprepared kids.  I was one of them in the mid ‘90s.

I graduated high school with a 3.33 grade point average.  I took many honors and even some Advanced Placement classes.  I thought I was a big deal when I set foot at San Jose City College until I got my first graded college essay returned to me.  I scored a “D” on my first English 101 writing assignment.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here I thought I was a great writer.  My high school English teachers never gave me less than a “B.”  This professor had marked up my paper with her red pen.  I didn’t even know where to begin looking at it..."


Do you have a son, daughter, niece or nephew who could use a book on success like this?  If so, I invite you to please look over the book description at Amazon.  Look over the chapter titles.  I must inform you that the book also offers advice on both college and career.  If you read my blog then you know I'm not conventional when it comes to advising people on financial decisions.  This book gives it to teens as they need it to be told.  I offer no apologies.

Here is a video of my book release news:




Until next time!  Thanks for the support.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

5 Ways to Save Money Buying A Used Car

What's up everyone!  This is a good time to be in the market for a used car.  There's a ton of inventory out there and if you shop around with patience, you may be able to score yourself a great deal.  The car industry is struggling, just look at the charts for both GM and Ford (a stock I'm very long on) and you'll see dismal performance that begs for any sort of relief.  Every day an article will appear in the media about how Millennials are delaying buying just about everything (including cars) due to their incredible student debt loads.
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My little sister-in-law, a 20-year-old who just completed her freshman year at Cal State San Marcos, worked part-time at Walgreens for a year and was able to save $3500.  Tired of asking her parents to pick her up at 11:00 p.m. on some evenings when the city bus is no longer in service, she decided to use the money for the purchase of a reliable used car.  She recently secured a job at the university that pays two dollars and hour more than what she earned at Walgreens and she moved into an off-campus apartment that lowered her rent by nearly $500.  Therefore, she now has enough to cover the extra car costs (insurance, gas, e.g.).

If you are in desperate need for a used car, I'm here to give you some financial tips that will have you saving money throughout the process.  Here we go...

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1.  Have a budget.  For example, my little sister-in-law wanted to spend no more than $5K for a car.  She obviously understood that she would have to finance anything beyond the $3500 she had but wanted not to have a monthly payment that was more than 36% of her gross income from her job.  This is your very first step!

2.  Shop around.  You'll be surprised how far a few thousand dollars can go in terms of choices.  No matter how much you have to spend, look for car models with a history of reliability and length of life.  My little sister-in-law went on Craigslist for two weeks.  (Please be careful with scams).  She took her dad to see a few cars around Northern San Diego County but those vehicles didn't pan out.  She then found two cars she wanted to check out at a small car lot in Escondido, ultimately finding a 2006 Volvo with 105K miles.  Cost: $4900.

3.  Check the Blue Book value of the car you are going to see.  If the car is below the Blue Book value, you may want to take a trip to go check it out.

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4.  Cash offer versus Finance offer.  At a car dealership, you may get even more savings if you are willing to buy the car outright.  Dealers will price your potential new ride as both a cash purchase or one you can finance for a higher price.  Regardless of how you decide to purchase your vehicle, haggle for a better price.  It's worth a shot to offer $100-$200 less, especially if you know what vehicles of your chosen make and model are going for in your area.  After all, you still have to cover your sales tax (in some states) and registration fees.  Don't forget to include these fees in your budget!

5.  Vehicle inspection!  This is a huge potential savings undertaking.  If you know nothing about cars, now is the time to pay attention.  At around 100K miles, most cars start to have their issues.  Most people think to check the engine...duh.  But these days most cars are built with engines that don't break down like they used to in the 1980s and 1990s.  Here's how you save future money:

A.  Walk around the car and inspect each tire.  Is there good thread on the tires?  Ask the seller what percent of thread on each tire is left.  You want at least 55% (6/32) on each tire.  Cost: Anywhere from $300-$600, depending on size, brand, and number of tires needed.

B.  Shocks and struts.  Give the car a hard push downward at the back and front of the vehicle on either side.  Does it bounce a lot?  If so, could be the shocks are worn out.  But you won't know for sure unless you test drive the car and purposely go over small bumps.  Do you feel every little bump along the road on your tush and feet?  You probably will need new shocks and/or struts.  Cost: $400-$600.

C.  Air conditioner.  A new AC system is expensive!  My car's AC system just stopped working with perfect timing (summer).  I'm going about the problem by replacing both the condensor and compressor parts, buying them at Ebay.com and using my mechanic friend to put the new parts in.  I still have to use a shop to evac the freon and recharge the system.  I'm saving on the parts and labor big time, however.  You can run the AC during your test drive and hope for the best, meaning, that the AC continues to work and all it ever needs is a recharge.

D.  Check the belts, especially the Serpentine belt.  Do the belts look more like reptilian skin, i.e., there's lots of cracking and look rough?  You will have to replace those.  However, a visual inspection may not suffice.  Use a gauge to check the wear.  Here's a good video.  I had to replace my Serpentine belt last month.  Back to back months now with car issues!

Obviously it's best to take a mechanic or trained car technician with you whenever you are going to buy a used car.  A-D won't replace a trained car expert who can give you the lowdown, but if you have no such connections or money, they will at least get you through with minimal mistakes that won't cost you an arm or a leg in the very near future.

Well, here's to you going out and buying yourself a reliable used car so you can get to your J.O.B. and back without a hitch.  Good luck!  If you have any tips of your own, please continue the dialogue below in the comment section.  If you liked this post and want more like them in your inbox, please subscribe.  Thanks!

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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.

Thanks for reading!  If you liked this post and want to get more like them, please enter your email below and subscribe.  Until next time.
  
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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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