7 Things High School Grads Must Do This Summer to Prepare for Life

 

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Congratulations on graduating from high school! Whoo hoo!

Since you’re graduating, you either 18 years old or about to 18 years old very soon. That means that you are, or will be, legally an adult. It’s time to think about starting your financial empire. Below, you’ll find 7 financial things high school graduates must do this summer:

Check Your Credit Report
It’s imperative that each graduate get a print out of their credit report from each of the “Big 3” credit reporting agencies. The government has passed a law that makes our credit reports available once a year for free from www.AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the only site that will provide a copy of your credit report at no cost to you, from each of the “Big 3”, once a year. You will not get your credit scores though; scores are computed through separate companies. Tip: Nothing in life is free. Any company offering you a free credit report and/or score is more than likely trying to sell you a monthly credit monitoring service. Read the fine print.

Figure Out How Much College Will Cost
Whatever college you choose, it’s important that you understand how much the total cost of your degree will be. Consider the costs of tuition, books, dorm fees, and any other monies you’ll have to pay. Take a look at estimates fees per semester and then multiple that by eight semesters, perhaps ten semesters if your school is impacted. Once you see the costs in terms of tens of thousands of dollars it might make you a little more motivated to be responsible with your money. Apply for as many scholarships and grants as possible because you don’t have to pay those back. When you take out loans not only will you have to pay the money back, you’ll have to pay it back with interest. Tip: Look for opportunities to make small financial changes that make a big difference. Buying used textbooks can save you hundreds over four years.

Consider the Return on Investment
You are going to make some decisions in the next year or two that will be the foundation for your life. Don’t make decisions based on your emotions or what your friends are doing; look at the return on investment. If you are spending money on something, it’s because you are expecting to get some kind of benefit. If you choose to attend an Ivy League university you expect to command top salary at a major fortune 500 company. If you choose to attend a community college it’s because you want to save a few dollars on your foundation classes. Did you know that you can attend a community college, transfer as a junior to a university and no one will know? You’ll cut your college expenses by half and end up with the classes you need. You must consider the return on investment with any purchase and paying for college is a big one. Tip: If you’re undecided about a purchase, sleep on it. Never make a decision in a hurry.

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Available on Amazon

Create a Spending Plan
Writing things down is good. I’m sure you have a general idea of how much money you’re expecting from jobs, financial aid, etc., but unless you have a written plan to spend it the money will pass through your account and you’ll have no idea what happened to it. Have you ever taken $20 out of the ATM and the next day you have no idea how you spent it? Research studies have proved that writing down your goals makes it easier to achieve them. When I want coaching clients to focus on spending, I ask them to write down the financial goal on a Post-It Note and stick it onto their debit card or credit card. The same thing works with writing a spending plan. Knowing how much money you want to spend in each category will help you stay on track. Tip: making the plan before you actually have the money is the key to putting the spending plan into action.

Move Your Money
Visit www.aSmarterChoice.org to find a credit union in your area. Credit unions are financial institutions that offer the same products and services as traditional banks, but they are not-for-profit. The only purpose of credit unions is to serve the community; each credit union member loans money to the other members so loan interest rates are usually lower than a bank. Pretty soon you’ll want to purchase a car and in the not-too-distant future, a home. Credit unions tend to be smaller, offer more personalized service, and offer better rates on loans so having a relationship is a good thing. Moving your checking and savings account to a credit union could potentially save you thousands of dollars over your lifetime. Tip: Search for a financial institution that is a good fit for you, don’t just choose whatever your parents have.

Start an Emergency Fund
Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? It states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. It’s up to you to make sure that you have at least $500 in an Emergency Fund at your credit union or bank because there will always be something that you need money for unexpectedly. Having at least $500 in an account that you can have access to when times are rough might be the difference between having to borrow from a family member or take out a cash advance loan or being able to borrow from your stash and go on about life without being a hindrance to anyone. Start by opening a money market account at your credit union or bank and then add $20 a week to the account until you have at least $500. Tip: Don’t touch it unless it really is an emergency.

Open a Retirement Account
Did you know that investing $5 a day will make you a millionaire by retirement? You read that correctly, investing just $5 a day in an average performing mutual fund account that returns 9% a year (industry average is 10%) will put $1.3 million in your pocket. The first step is to find a mutual fund company that will let you open a no-load Individual Retirement Account (IRA) with no money as long as you contribute at least $50 a month. Put your money in an account that’s not too risky and not too safe. You have a long time horizon so don’t be scared to invest more in stocks, but you have to be able to sleep at night. A fee-only advisor can help you determine how comfortable with risk you are and suggest some mutual funds to you. The process is as easy as filling out a one page application and sending in your credit union or bank checking account information. The second step is to commit to adding at least $50 a month to the account. The third step is to watch your account become fatter every month. Tip: Set up the account so that the money is added to the retirement account automatically every month from your checking account. Add at least $150 per month to reach that million with no sweat.

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In case you’d like to find out more financial information, you can order 10 Things College Students Need to Know  About Money from Amazon. Happy summer!

 

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The 5 Documents Every Family Needs

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I am NOT an attorney or a CPA. Please, please, please consult an attorney licensed in your state to get everything done legally. What I’m sharing here are things that I learned after my grandmother died.

 

Death.

No one likes to think about it but it’s going to happen. The questions is: Will your family know what to do when it happens to you? If you have assets (checking accounts, retirement accounts, a car, etc.) you need to figure out what you want to happen to those things after you’re gone. What if you don’t die? What if you are injured and/or become incapacitated? If you’re not sure, this is the list for you! Time to get it done and most of it can be done for free with a little bit of time. So, without further ado ….. here’s a list of family documents that every parent needs to have:

A will. Simply put, a will is a document that tells people what you want to happen to your things (bank accounts, investments, home, jewelry, car, etc.) after  you die. There are companies that will provide them to you for free. Some states will accept handwritten wills (aka holographic wills). Having a will does not mean that your estate will avoid probate.

A living trust. A living trust is a trust that is in effect while you are alive and can manage it. You get to put things that you want to avoid probate into the trust and manage those things while you’re alive. While you’re alive, you get to choose who will manager the trust after you’re dead. Once you die, whomever you said gets to manage it takes over. Probate is generally not needed.

A healthcare directive. This document tells people what you’d like to happen in the event of a terrible health event. For example, would you want to have extraordinary life-saving measures taken? How long should they let  you be in a coma before your family decides to pull the plug? These aren’t fun decisions but they are necessary. You can download your state’s form and register it for free in most states.

A healthcare power of attorney. This document tells the hospital, or whomever, who you want making medical decisions for you. Consider who will do what you want versus who will do what they think is best. Who will have a clear head and be willing to go to bat for you. This multi-state form from the American Bar Association should do the trick.

A durable power of attorney. This is a document that gives someone the power to make legal decisions for you. You want to have a document that becomes valid once an event occurs (accidents, death, etc.), not a document that is always valid. You don’t want someone to sell your house and clean out your bank accounts. Hopefully, the person that you put in this role wouldn’t do that anyway but one can never be too sure. Get a “springing” durable power of attorney just in case. Here is a bit about powers of attorney.

 

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Create a Legal Will Using Willing

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Image is from MyMoneyBlog.com

 

I came across a website called Willing. It claims to make a simple, free legal will with a few clicks of your mouse. I read reviews here and here to see if it made sense to use. The site came out of the tech start-up incubator Y-Combinator.

The reviews I read seem to agree that it is really easy to use the website and it doesn’t ask for any social security numbers or credit card numbers. They also agree that it will create a simple will. They are not sure how legal it will be after time passes. Like most legal documents, they have to be updated periodically to adhere to laws that may have changed over time.

Prince just died without a will and the money to worked so hard to earn will be distributed among people as the judge sees fit. Since Prince left no will, the judge has no idea what he would have done. You don’t want this to happen to you.

I encourage people to have a legal will (what will happen to your things), a living trust (you will manage your things when you’re gone), and a living will (what will happen to you if you are incapacitated or die). There are attorneys that can set these things up for you, but sometimes the costs are a bit much. If you have few assets (car, house, checking accounts, personal items) and want to make sure that everyone knows what you want to happen after you pass, this might be a great free solution.

Here’s a bit about why Willing was created and how it works:

Willing is divided into two main products. The first is an online tool that helps users create a will or living will (a document that outlines their wishes for end-of-life care) in minutes. The second, which Medina and Dyson are currently fine-tuning, is a platform that lets users find and compare costs for funeral homes and cemeteries.

At the very least, going through the site will help you think about what your family might need to make decisions about. Take it for whirl and let me know what you think.

 

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Too Many Middle Class are Working Poor

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The American Dream.

If you asked most Americans, I think they would say that they aren’t poor. I think they would say that they are part of the middle class. Many were surprised to find out how much money one has to earn to actually be considered middle class. Take a look at this chart and see where you land. If you want to be more specific, use this calculator from the Pew Research Center to find out how you compare to other families.

Since so many want to believe that they aren’t poor, they are just broke (hello, Dick Gregory) many also have trouble admitting that money struggles are an issue. According to The Atlantic, every year the Federal Reserve Board does a survey about personal finance. This year, this data point stood out:

The Fed asked respondents how they would pay for a $400 emergency. The answer: 47 percent of respondents said that either they would cover the expense by borrowing or selling something, or they would not be able to come up with the $400 at all.

 

It might surprise some, but it doesn’t surprise me. For years I have been suggesting that having $500 in an emergency account (read Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook or 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money) could be the difference between someone making it and someone going under. Many of the people that think they are middle class could actually be considered the working poor (I wrote about the concept of the working poor here, here and here).

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If you are not sure what you would do if you needed to come up with $400 here are some ideas to help you build your emergency fund:

Idea #1 Open a money market account with the goal of having $500 in it within six months. If you deposit $21 per week you’ll reach your goal in no time.

Idea #2 Put $50 per check in an envelope and add another $50 each paycheck. You’ll have $500 saved up in 5 checks (that’s 2.5 months). The challenge with this method is that if your home is broken into or catches on your fire, your money goes with it.

Idea #3 Open a secured credit card. When this happens, sometimes people turn to a payday loan. Instead of that open a secured card with a $500 limit. Once you have your $500, if you don’t trust yourself, send that $500 to a credit card company that will hold it for you and do two things 1) provide you with a credit card with a $500 limit to use in emergencies and 2) hold that $500 cash deposit so you don’t spend it and return it when you close your account.

Obviously, I think the best option is idea #1 but I understand if there are circumstances that make this difficult. Whichever option you choose, start creating a financial cushion now.

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Economic Summit and Student Leadership Conference – Las Vegas

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The Economic Summit and Student Leadership Conference was held in Las Vegas at the College of Southern Nevada – Cheyenne Campus on Saturday, December 13th. Shay Olivarria, financial education speaker and author, spoke to three sessions of students and parents while representing the Center for Financial Empowerment in Irwindale, CA.

Topics covered included credit scoring, credit monitoring, credit cards, ROI and the differences between traditional banks and credit unions. Each presentation was about 50 minutes long and included PowerPoint, videos and large group discussion. The teens (both high school and college students) and parents were very vocal and were genuinely interested in in sharing what they knew and learning more about the topics.

The event was well attended and very well run. Perhaps Shay will be back in 2015.

31% of Americans Have No Retirement Investments – Tips for Starting

Portrait of Smiling Family on Steps“Nearly a third, or 31% of U.S. adults said they had no savings or pension to help them afford retirement, according to the Federal Reserve Board.”  – CNN Money

Extended family sitting outdoors smilingI want to say that I’m surprised, but after working with students, employees and retired folks for the last seven years ….  this is what I already know. If you’re part of this group, you’re going to be in for a HORRIBLE surprise come “retirement age”. Either you won’t be able to retire at all or the money from Social Security will only be enough for you to afford a room in your kid’s house and no fun, but it’s not too late. Here are my tips for creating a retirement plan and sticking to it … at any age.

0 – 16

Think it’s too early to start thinking about your child retiring? Not so. Though you can’t take advantage of tax-deferred plans like IRAs (you’re kid probably has no earned income) you CAN put a few dollars away every month in a regular investment account, buy individual shares of stock or purchase savings bonds. Let’s assume that you contribute $50 per month (or $600 per year ….  birthday … Christmas …  ) to any one of these strategies and that the investment earns 2% per year on average (some years more, some years less). By the time that child is 67 years old, that investment would be worth $84,584.31. Imagine how much money it would be worth once your child started contributing too.

16 – 24

By this time you are probably working, but not making much money. You might think that $50 per month won’t amount to much anyway so why bother? Because that $50 per month, or more, could end up being $432,992.84! Once you’re working you have earned income and can take part in wonderful retirement investing plans like 401k/403b, if your job offers them, or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), if your job doesn’t. You put in $30,600 over your working years (16 to 67) and you’ll end up with a half-million dollars … easy! Read more about this in my book 10 Things College Students Need to Know About Money.

25 – 40

Yes! Now, we are in the prime earning years! Not only do you have a job, you probably have a half-way decent job. No more ramen for you! It’s time to take it up a notch. If you have been investing (since you have that good job) increase that contribution. If you haven’t begun FamlyBlackcontributing yet, it’s time to start.

You might think that you don’t have any spare money to invest or you might not know how to invest (read Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook), but it’s easier than you think, especially if your company offers a retirement plan with a company match. On your own, the average American can find $50 worth of spare change every month. PLUS, think about the ways that you waste a few dollars here and a few dollars there every month. Assuming a monthly $50 investment, starting at 30 years old, into a tax-deferred retirement account could still net you $136,725.48. Bump that up to $75 per month and you’ll be looking at $205,088.22. Not too shabby!

40 – 67

If you’re here then you are squarely looking at retirement …. perhaps. In Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook I have a worksheet that asks you to take a look at where you are and where you’d like to be. If you’re path is not heading in the direction you’d like it’s not too late to change.

You’ll need to do a little more to catch up, but it’s not impossible. A monthly $200 investment with an 8% return could turn into $229,797.95. Use the Social Security Administration’s estimator to find out how much you’ll get per month once you’re retired. You may find out that you need to work a few extra years. You may find out that you’re fine. Ether way, knowing is better.

If you haven’t begun investing for retirement yet, don’t be downhearted. The time is now. Don’t wait another day. Contact Human Resources at your job and find out how to start investing. Find a fee-only planner and take a comprehensive look at your financial situation. Buy a book to learn the basics and get started.

Working hard won't get you what you want. Working smart will.

Working hard won’t get you what you want. Working smart will.

It begins now.

 

Shay Olivarria is the most dynamic financial education speaker working today. She speaks at high schools, colleges, and companies across the country. 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, among others. To schedule Shay to speak at your event visit www.BiggerThanYourBlock.com