$1.7B Navient Settlement for Private College Borrowers

If you’ve thought about attending college, you’ve probably done the cost calculations in your head: how much will it cost per year, how much will it cost in total, how much will I have to borrow, what will my student loan payments be once I finish school? For students that attended certain for-profit educational institutions such as Corinthian schools, DeVry University, the Art Institutes, and ITT Technical Institutes students may have miscalculated how successful they’d be after graduation. The students may not have been the only ones.

The Attorney Generals of 39 states are alleging that Navient knew the students would struggle to pay back the loans and steered borrowers into forbearance programs instead of repayment options with lower monthly payments to let the interest accrue longer.

Now, thirty-nine Attorney Generals from around the United states have forced Navient (the company that used to be Sallie Mae) to forgive the student loans of 66,000 borrowers and pay out about $260 to each one.

The states covered are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Read more here and here.

Free In-Person Tax Filing

If you earn less than $66,000 a year, you can have the United Way file your taxes for you, in-person, for free.

That’s right.

 

United Way

You contact your local United Way branch, take your tax documents, and they will file your taxes for you for FREE while you wait. If you are over 50, in the military, undocumented, whatever …  they have something to help you file FREE.

Unfortunately, even if you earn less than $66,000 (or $69,000 if you just wanted to use the free online tax prep software) and you own a business (you file a schedule C) you are NOT eligible to get your taxes done for free. They say the free software doesn’t have a schedule C.

Taxes 1040

This year, our taxes don’t have to be filed until July 15th so you have a few more weeks.

 

FREE Tax Prep Software

Today on Patriot Act I learned that fewer than 7% of Americans that CAN file their taxes for free, actually DO file for free. There’s a whole episode about “Why Doing Taxes is So Hard” here, but I wanted to make sure to drop the link to the website that the show put together that lists all the FREE tax prep software in one place.

Patriot Act With Hasan Minhaj

Basically, the show says that even though tax prep folks do have free software for folks that make less than $69,000, they make it ridiculously hard to find. If you Google “free tax prep software” a bunch of links will pop up that say they are free but they will actually lead to you expensive upsells.

The website is a bit crass but it has the links to the free tax prep software, so here you are: go visit www.TurboTaxSucksAss.com.

Due to covid-19 we have until July 15th to file our taxes. Let’s make sure if you can, that you do, file free.

5 No Cost Things You Can Do to be Financially Stable

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People that teach financial education often talk about lowering your expenses and increasing your income to increase your financial stability. Of course those things are good but today I want to focus on the five free things you can do to increase your financial stability.

Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute WorkbookFor all of my personal finance tips, order my book “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money“. If you already have a few challenges, order my Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook“.

 

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#1 Open an Account at a Credit Union

One of the best financial decisions you can make is to open a checking account at a credit union. It costs nothing to open an account and the benefits are many: better customer service, often lower account fees, usually cheaper car loans, mortgages, and credit cards, and the opportunity to build a relationship with a financial institution with all these great benefits before you need to ask for a loan. Check here to find the credit union closest to you.

 

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#2 Check Your Credit Reports

You may know that there are three credit reports and three credit scores for each of us but did you know that you can have free access to your reports? The credit bureaus have the right to control who has access to the scores that they’ve created the mathematical formulas to create, BUT the records …  the information that make up the data those formulas use is your data and is free for you to access. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free copy of your reports once every 12 months.

 

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#3 Collect Your Change

For years I’ve told people that an easy way to find money to build up your Emergency Fund or invest in a no-load mutual fund was to throw your spare change in a jar. I still believe it’s true. On average, you’ll have about $50 per month is quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies. Instead of that spare change ending up under the couch cushions, in your car’s ashtray, and at the bottom of your purse throw it in an empty water jug or an actual piggy bank. Don’t believe me? Check out this blog.

 

 

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#4 Open a High Yield Savings Account

Since I’ve been badgering you to create an Emergency Savings Account, I thought I’d help you out by providing you with the latest lists of accounts with the highest interest rates (you’ll earn more money than at your local financial institution) across the US. Check out the highest yielding savings accounts here.

 

blog success is when preparation meets opportunity

#5 Choose You

This is the hardest free thing you might ever have to do: choose yourself over everything. Choose to save some money for an emergency instead of eating out. Choose to invest some money in a mutual fund instead of purchasing an extra excursion on a trip. Choose to think you’re going to create the exact life you’d like to have …   and then do the prep work so when your opportunity comes, you’re ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

College Basics for Parents: Helping your kid graduate debt free

Bigger Than Your Block is pleased to announce a new FREE webinar for the parents of college students. Scholarship guru, and mom who used these strategies to get her daughter through undergrad with NO student loan debt, Gwen Richardson, will present College Basics for Parents: Helping your kid graduate debt free with the most dynamic financial education speaker working today, Shay Olivarria.

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In this FREE webinar Gwen Richardson, author of 101 Scholarship Applications: What It Takes to Obtain a Debt-Free Education, and Shay Olivarria, author of 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money, will help you navigate the money side of undergrad.

The webinar will cover:

  • How to find scholarships to apply to.
  • Strategies to help your student with scholarships.
  • Which two accounts your student needs to open to create financial wealth.
  • Tips and tricks to help your student learn to manage money while in school (in preparation for life).

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Please join us:
or
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Want to read the books before the webinar? You can order a copy of both for $30 total, including shipping. 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money sells on Amazon for $15 plus shipping on its own. If I were you, I’d run to get both for $30.
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See you at the webinar!

4 Financial Tips for College Students

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It’s summer and families are planning to send their college students to dorms or apartments across the country. While you’re helping your student decide what they’ll take with them and talking about fall course selections, it’s also important to talk about financial education. Here are a few tips from “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money” to help your college student get started on the right foot this fall.

#1 Read and Understand Student Loans

According to CNBC 70% of college students end up with taking out loans to pay for college. To make matters worse, the average loan amount is $37,172. Before your student takes on more debt than necessary (did you know you can refuse or “return” some of the monies offered by the Financial Aid Department) it’s important to think about what the return on investment of those borrowed dollars will be and create a plan to start paying the money back six months after graduation.

#2 Open an Account at a Credit Union

Now that your student is in college, they will need a checking account to cash checks and pay bills. Banks are an obvious solutions but have you considered a credit union? Credit unions perform the same function, and offer the same products, as banks but tend to have lower interest rates for loans (credit cards, car loans, mortgages, etc.) and often have better customer service. Though individual credit unions are small, they work together to form large and powerful networks so customers have free access to ATMs across the country and can sometimes rely on other credit unions to function as branches for customers that may not have a credit union branch close to them. Click here to find a local credit union.

#3 Create an Emergency Fund

Since your student will be living away from home, it’s important for them to have a financial cushion in case something goes wrong. Helping your student grow a small sum in a savings account or money market account can help them plan better and feel secure knowing they don’t have to rely on mom and dad for small emergencies.

#4 Invest for Retirement

Even though your student hasn’t begun a career yet, it’s important to get into the habit of investing. Starting to invest now takes advantage of compound interest and sets the foundation for a future of financial security.

Regardless of if your student is a freshman or a senior, helping them create responsible saving and spending habits is a good idea.

 

SShayOlivarriaHeadshothay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. Previous clients include: Gateway Technical & Community College, SCE Credit Union, American Airlines Credit Union, and San Diego City Community College, among others. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. Shay has been quoted on Bankrate.com, FoxBusiness.com, NBC Latino and The Credit Union Times.The 2nd edition of “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money” is available now.

 

College Speaker Needed for EOPS Programs

college students 2018

It’s almost time to welcome the fall 2018 students into your Extended Opportunities, Programs, and Services program. As you’re planning what supports and resources you’ll offer, have you considered providing financial literacy?

Many EOPS students have been managing money successfully for a while now. Why not help them go to the next level? Book the most dynamic financial education speaker working today, Shay Olivarria, to provide a live workshop or live webinar for your students.

Shay works with colleges, credit unions, and businesses across the country to provide time-tested financial principles with humor and engagement. Common topics include:

  • Spending plans (what is is, why it’s important, and how to make one)
  • Net worth (why it’s the only way to figure out where you are financially)
  • Checking accounts (why you are being charged and how to avoid the charges)
  • Saving (common myths and some tips to help you stick to your goals)
  • Emergency Savings (how much you need and where you should keep it)
  • Credit (how it’s computed and how to raise your scores)
  • Debt (strategies to pay it off quickly and tips to keep it off)
  • Retirement Investing (what is it, how to navigate the options, and how to get started)
  • Student Loans (what’s expected of you, what’s available, and tips for paying it off)

 

To book Shay at your next event call (323) 596-1843.

 

 

SShayOlivarriaHeadshothay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. Previous clients include: Gateway Technical & Community College, SCE Credit Union, American Airlines Credit Union, and San Diego City Community College, among others. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. Shay has been quoted on Bankrate.com, FoxBusiness.com, NBC Latino and The Credit Union Times.The 2nd edition of “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money” is available now.

Low Cost Ways to Invest for Retirement

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Thinking about retirement?

I work with college students, young professionals and people that generally don’t have $5,000 lying around to start investing for retirement. If you do, make sure to speak with a fee-only advisor (they don’t make commissions on products so their advice is non-biased) before you start investing. If you don’t I’ve come up with a list of investment options that you can use to get into the market and stick to your spending plan.

Thrivent 50 per month investing by length of time

This image is from the Thrivent website.

It’s important to remember, that investing is always risky. There is no way to guarantee that you’ll always earn money if you are investing in stocks. Please take a look at this list of low cost options for opening an investment account and do your homework. Call the organizations. Ask questions. Google.

Investment firms that allow you to open an account with no, or a few, dollars to start are expecting that you will make a monthly contribution. Most will let you “turn off” the monthly contribution on months where you just don’t have the money to spare but once your spending plan is set, you’ve decided to pay yourself first, and you are committed to investing early and often, it’s best to set the money to transfer from your checking account to your new investment account automatically.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are a few low barrier accounts you can open:

Open an Account With $0

Charles Schwab index funds – Choose an index fund with no minimum investment amount.

Nationwide Funds Group – Choose Automatic Asset Accumulation. From their website “When you invest the same amount on a regular basis, you buy fewer shares when the market is up and more shares when the market is down. This may cut your average cost per share because you’re buying fewer shares at a higher price and more shares at a lower price. This investment strategy is called dollar-cost averaging.”

A list of cheap robo-advisors can be found here. For those that are into technology want to open an account quickly (and use their spare change to do it, see Acorns app) this could be a good option.

 

Open an Account With $50

Thrivent Mutual Funds Automatic Purchase Plan – Easy to understand. Easy to set up.

 

Open an Account With $100

Monetta Low Minimum Investing – From their website, “Investing for your retirement or child’s educational expenses through a low minimum automatic investment plan (AIP) can be an effective way to accumulate assets. Funds are automatically deducted from your checking/savings account or paycheck. Studies indicate that regular automatic investing, also known as dollar cost averaging, has the potential to be an effective investment plan for long-term asset accumulation.”

 

For a few more low barrier mutual funds, visit here.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is provided for discussion purposes only, and should not be misconstrued as investment advice. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell specific funds.

EMPOWERED A Financial Education Accountability Group

EMPOWERED - Young - Professionals

Most of us grew up with an older person in  our lives that told us to save for a rainy day but most of us don’t do it. Some of us aren’t sure what specific steps we need to take to get our financial house in order. Some of us know what to do but need a reminder every now and again.

During the 11 years I’ve been working as a financial education speaker I’ve come across lots of folks that want to work with me one-on-one but can’t afford the fees. I’ve been trying to figure out how to reach the largest amount of people and I think I’ve figured it out. I’ve created a five week financial education accountability group. We’ll work, as a group, on increasing our credit scores, understanding any loan products we might have or are looking to get, and beefing up our emergency savings and retirement accounts.

Empowered-logo shay olivarria bigger than your block

Here’s how it works:

#1 You register for the 5 week program and get access to the EMPOWERED private Facebook group.

#2 You open and read an email every week detailing one aspect of personal finance.

#3 You complete the action step for the week.

#5 You participate in the weekly private Facebook group chat.

#6 You build the life you want.

 

$7 REGISTER NOW

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5 Week Financial Education Accountability Group Overview

April 22nd – May 26

 

Week 1 – Paying Yourself First

Provide apps to create a spending plan

Week 2 – Bank with a Credit Union

Find out if joining a credit union would benefit you

Week 3 – Invest

Commit to starting, or increasing, your retirement contribution

Week 4 – Understand PIL

Look over your current loans and consider refinancing

Week 5 – Understand Your Credit Scores

Pull your credit reports and correct any mistakes

 

Why It Works

Knowing that you have a group of people cheering you on from the sidelines helps you do what you know you need to do.

 

$7 REGISTER NOW

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How Much Do You Need to Have Invested for Retirement?

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This is a question that comes up with young professionals, mid-career professionals, and people about to retire. Everyone wants to know what is the magic number that one needs to have amassed before they can retire comfortably. The problem is that the number is different for each individual.

On top of tax concerns, social security issues, and  income vs outgo histories, you also have to think about lifestyle. Most people have some idea, even if it ends up being wrong, about what they’d like their retirement years to look like. To get a ballpark figure I’d suggest:

#1 Take a look at the actuarial charts to find out how long you might live.

Of course none of us knows when our lives will be over but drawing from social security records, actuarial tables can help you get an idea of if you should plan to be in retirement for 20 years or 40 years. This simple calculator is a great place to start.

#2 Take a look at your Social Security Administration account.

Think about when you’d like to start drawing social security and how much you might be getting. Things like who applies first, if you’re married, and how far away you start drawing from when you reach full retirement age matter. Visit the Social Security Administration’s calculators page to start.

#3 Consider how much you live on right now.

One of the many challenges of trying to decide how much money you might need to be able to retire is not knowing how expenses will rise and fall over time. Some thinking says that early in retirement, you’ll spend on leisure activities (travel, golfing, etc.) while later in retirement you’ll spend those same dollars on healthcare. Whatever you spend in a year right now, use that as a base number to think about how much you might spend in retirement.

#4 Do the math.

Since you already how many years you should be planning for, how much you can expect to earn from Social Security, and what your yearly spending is now all you’ve got to do is a little simple math.

First, subtract how many years the calculator said you may live until from the age at which you want to retire. Example: My calculator says I’ll live to be around 94 year old. If I plan to retire at 70:

94 – 70 = 24 years in retirement

I need to plan to be in retirement for 24 years.

Next, let’s find out how much I can expect to get from the Social Security Administration. I used the quick estimator and saw that I’d earn $1.360 per month in retirement. That’s about $16,320 per year.

$1,360  x  12 months = $16,320 per year from Social Security

Next,consider how much you’ll need to have invested. Let’s say that I spend $70,000 per year. I just learned that I’ll get $16,320 per year from Social Security. That means I’ll have to have $53,680 per year of money I’ve invested.

Lastly, multiply the number of years by how much you spend in one year. Example: I’ll need to prepare for 24 years (from the example above) and I spend about $53,680 per year.

$53,680  x  24 years = $1,288,320

I need to have access to $1.2 million dollars. That sounds like a lot of money. Let’s further assume that I have nothing invested. Nada. This calculator will help you figure out how much you need to start aggressively investing.

If you’re a young professional and would like to better understand how to get started on the right foot check out my book 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money. If you’ve already made a few mistakes, check out my best selling book Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook.

Regardless of where you are starting from, remember that building the life you want IS possible. Don’t worry about what you didn’t do before. Start from now. You can do it.

#FinancialEducationForALL

 

ShayOlivarriaHeadshotShay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. Previous clients include: SCE Credit Union, American Airlines Credit Union, the Yorba Linda Water District, Verizon, among others. She has written three books on personal finance, including Amazon Best Seller “Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook”. Shay has been quoted on Bankrate.com, FoxBusiness.com, NBC Latino and The Credit Union Times.The 2nd edition of “10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money” is available now.

 

 

 

 

Baltimore May Sell Homes for $1 Each

Baltimore one dollar house

Like Philadelphia and Detroit, Baltimore has lots of empty, crumbling houses. The solution has been to tear the houses down but it looks like a program from the 1980s to help people become home owners may get a second chance:

From the Greater Greater Washington website:

The estimated cost to restore the properties was as a high as $100,000, so the city made low-interest loans available to new owners. With a one percent interest rate, Clarke’s resolution notes that new homeowners could pay as little as $300 per month to repay the loan. With the same terms in the 1980s, H.O.M.E.S. says no new owner defaulted on their loans.

Buying an old dilapidated house is not the feint of heart. The house is falling apart, in some cases, and the neighborhood doesn’t have many retail businesses available that a young person or young family might want. You’ll put lots of blood, sweat, and tears into a house to make it a home. For some, the work won’t be worth it but for others …  it might just be a dream come true.

 

$10,000 African American Study Abroad Scholarship

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Did you know that the United Negro College Fund had a $10,000 scholarship to help Black students in the United States study at a University on the continent of Africa?

The Joseph A. Towles African Study Abroad Scholarship is named in memory of Dr. Joseph A. Towles, a black social anthropologist and specialist in the study of African cultures. Dr. Towles, a native of Virginia, earned his doctorate at the Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

This makes me wish I was still in school so I could apply for this scholarship. I’ve been to twenty countries on five continents but I’ve never had the pleasure of studying at a university abroad. There are only three more days to get your application in. Hurry. This is a great opportunity.

African American Study Abroad Scholarship
United Negro College Fund
Deadline to Apply: Nov. 3, 2017
Award Amount: up to $10,000

By providing financial assistance for UNCF students to study at an established university within the continent of Africa, The Joseph A. Towles Scholarship will allow students to receive an incredible academic experience and exposure to the rich traditions within African cultures.

Click here to visit the United Negro College Fund’s page.

Financial Apps for Lazy People

lazyIf you’re like me, you want to use your money well. You want to buy things you want. You want to pay yourself first by setting a few dollars aside for emergencies and investing a few coins for retirement. You want to pay your bills on time, and in full every month but those things rarely happen the way you know they should. Behavioral economics explains that most people do better when things are automated and we don’t have to actively make choices. Why do you think so many people know exactly what they need to do and then they still don’t do it?

Making good financial decisions with every single purchase day in and day out is challenging. Instead of making things harder for yourself why not use automatic savings and/or investment apps? Here is a round up of what’s available.

 

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Apps for Automatic Saving

Digit – There is a free trial period of 100 days. It’s $2.99 a month after that. It basically uses an algorithm to figure out how much money can be moved from your checking account into your Digit savings account. Digit accounts are FDIC insured. There is a desktop version and an app. FAQs are here.

Qapital – Free. You set “rules” that tell the app when and how much money to move to your Qapital account to reach your savings goals. It’s a little more complicated than Digit. Qapital accounts are FDIC insured. App only. FAQs are here.

To read a comparison of Digit and Qapital, click here.

 

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Apps for Automatic Investing

Acorns – It’s $1 per month for accounts with less than $5,000 in them. The app rounds up the change from purchases and invests the change in the stock market. Find out more here.

Stash – There is a $5 minimum and $1 monthly fee for accounts under $5,000. You decide when to invest and how much to invest. Find out more here.

 

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Apps to Manage it All

Mint – Free.

YNAB You Need a Budget – Free for 34 days and $4.17 every month after that.

 

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Personal Finance Software

Quicken Money – if you’re not a fan of phone apps but you’d still like to keep an eye on your money, this may be the software for you. It tracks spending, can track investments, and even comes with a free app if you’re so inclined.

 

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Other Options

If all this sounds like a little too much, you can stick with the tools provided by your financial institution (many offer programs to help you save the change from transactions or create a holiday savings account), invest in your 401k or 403b through your job, or invest for retirement on your own by opening an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) through whatever company suits you.

Whatever works for you is best. There is no right or wrong. It’s important that you start now though. Even if you can only use the change from your purchases, something is always better than nothing. Take advantage of compound interest and start now.

 

 

 

 

Good Bye MyRA

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MyRA was a program started to help young people and the working poor invest for retirement. Contributions could be as low as $5. The hope that young people and people with few resources could take part in investing for retirement (because we all know Social Security isn’t gonna be enough) was a lofty goal. This may have been especially helpful for people of color since we’ve all read the studies about net worth and cycles of poverty.

Unfortunately, the MyRA program will be stopped under the Trump administration. It was never really given the resources to take off. That was the main reason given for its close. The working poor don’t have lots of options to move up the socio-economic ladder and now they’ll have one less option.