Category : debt

Study Abroad at 37? How to Hoard Cash for Return to College

This is part two in a three-part series addressing how people can save for college or reduce or eliminate student loan debt.  In our first post, we shared some tips that are “better than faking your death” to pay off student loan debt. In this sampler tray (or beer flight) of savings ideas, we’ll share how adults who are looking to return to college can find financial assistance or reduce the cost of post-secondary education.

We covered the reasons why in more detail in our first post, but we’re chatting about college savings and student loan debt for two reasons:

  • First, plain and simple. The quicker you can wipe out debt, the quicker you can start saving properly for other life events.
  • Second, we recently launched a personal financial advice service. Clients can access it via mobile or desktop using the chat feature on the bottom-right of the screen. Since we’ve launched, the topic of student loan debt has been a top question posed by our clients.

A Happy Hour of Options for Adults Wanting to Return to College

So maybe you’ve always eyed going back for that graduate degree. Perhaps you launched yourself into the workforce early and never quite finished your undergrad. Or you’re looking to make a career change. Whatever your reason for returning to the BIG U, many options exist for scholarships, financial assistance and strategies to reduce your overall cost.

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Student loans :(

Faking Your Death to Pay Off Student Loan Debt? 6 Better Ways

How much do you owe in student loan debt? Enough to consider fleeing the country? (All of a sudden I get why many recent U.S. college graduates want to backpack Europe and never return.) Or worse. You contemplating faking your own death?

According to The Wall Street Journal, the number of Americans with federal student loans grew to 42 million in the last decade. (1.) In that same article, they quote a gentleman whose solution to dealing with his student loan debt is to stretch it out until he dies.

Don’t believe me? Read the entire Journal article. (And BTW … only Federal loans discharge with death. Private loans do not.)

Now that I’ve thoroughly depressed you, you may be asking, this isn’t about retirement or my 401k.

Why Are You at blooom Talking About Student Loan Debt?

We’re addressing student loan debt for two reasons.

First, you’re right, we focus a great deal on helping you with your retirement. We want you to wipe out this student loan debt so you can save more for it. But we also recently launched a personal financial advice service that clients can access via mobile or desktop using the chat feature on the bottom-right of the screen.

Once we launched the service, how to deal with student loan debt was one of the most frequently asked questions posed to me and my advisor team.

We’ve seen so many varied inquiries about student loan debt that we’ll be running a three-part series:

  1. Tackling debt: This post will help if you currently have student loan debt and you’re looking to pay it off faster (if you’re exploring forgiveness options, I recommend reviewing the following guide.
  2. Working adults returning to college: Later this summer, we’ll talk about how non-traditional students or working adults who want to go back to school can proactively address (read: avoid or take on as little as possible) student loan debt.
  3. New college students: Our final post will provide tips and resources to high school students and parents on ways to avoid student loan debt.

Who knows? Perhaps we’ll receive some real-world triumphs of people who’ve defeated this insidious whack-a-mole known as student loan debt (Hint, hint. If you’re a victor, message us with your story. Let us celebrate your achievement with a proper victory lap).

First, the Simplest Thing You Can Do to Get Out of Student Loan Debt

Okay. I’m NOT going to be jerk and say the simplest way is by never getting into student loan debt in the first place. Too late for that.

So …

1. One of the simplest things you can do is set up automatic payments. It works for saving and it works for tackling that debt head on. To sweeten the deal, some services even offer discounted interest rates if you set up auto-pay.

Auto-pay

We like it simple here at blooom. Set it and try to forget it.

How About the Most Effective Ways to Tackle Student Loan Debt?

I’ve covered the simplest tip, but what about the most effective. My next five tips could provide the points to pierce that ballooning student loan debt.

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My Retirement Vision

Wanted: Superior Retirement! Rocking Chairs Need Not Apply

Retirement used to be a word that had a very clear definition to me. Basically, it meant you stop working, eat dinner at 4:30 p.m., and spend your golden years sitting in a rocking chair.

When I was a young man this was my vision of retirement. You kick back enjoying the fruits of decades of labor. It seemed perfectly logical at the time. Didn’t everybody wake up at 6 a.m. and work 60-plus hours a week in a job they couldn’t stand for 40 or so years?

Over time my perception of retirement has changed dramatically. But no matter what my vision of retirement looks like, the path to get there is the same…ACHIEVE FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE.

Now I like to think of myself as a 45-year-old millennial. Yes, I know that sounds odd. But I do respect my younger counterparts’ idea of retirement. Who wouldn’t want a future that involves doing what you love and taking time to see the world?

Also, the idea that happy is the new rich — a life less focused on acquiring stuff and more about real experiences connecting with people — really appeals to me. This mindset helps when it comes to financial independence. You need less money if you have less stuff.

So if this is what the typical millennial believes in, I swipe right. Let’s take a moment and travel through how my retirement vision has changed:

1. My 20s Retirement Vision…

In my youth, I had a lot of young man wishes. I’m going to make millions of dollars, purchase a mega mansion with an eight-car garage for all my high-end sports cars, and travel the world on my yacht Lonely Island style.

Now, those ideas make me think…That is WAY too much house to clean! How much would tires cost for that car? And if I’m really being honest, I get seasick standing on a dock.

At some point, adulting does happen and perceptions can change. And no matter what you envision retirement to look like, a plan is a must (if you’re currently in your 20s and can set your plan now, you’re one of the lucky ones).

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Spend Your Tax Refund Yet? Stop! How To Do it Right This Year

From where we sit, getting a tax refund is a sin. But we all sin a little, right? And most don’t know that paying the U.S. Government more than you should in taxes is on the wrong side of the moral compass. “Wait,” you say, “I thought giving was good.”

In this case, “overgiving” is not good. You’re essentially spotting Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. But that’s why we’re here to help!

If you’ve already overcommitted this past year, we’ve got at least 5 solid tips for what to do with that extra cheddar.

But, first the public service announcement …

1. More than $500 on your tax refund? Take a look at your W-4

Your W-4 is a form your HR department handed you when you were hired. You might recall it being this weird questionnaire that computes how much money should be withheld in your payroll taxes. I’ve known people who just phone a friend to get the number of allowances: “Johnny does 7, so that sounds good to me.”

Bad idea.

There are many online calculators available that make more sense than the actual form:

Use them. Get your number and then call your HR department to compare what they have on file. If it’s different, change the allowances you’re claiming.

One of our founders, Kevin Conard, likes to use this opportunity to encourage people to increase the amount they’re saving into their 401k. If you’re increasing the allowances you may not notice a difference in your paycheck. Solid plan.

2. Build Your Safety Net

A lot of the other tax refund tip lists have pay off debt listed first. Not going to argue exactly (I’d be contradicting some of my previous tips). But I will pitch an alternative point of view by focusing on your emergency fund with this particular “windfall.”

In my experience, psychologically, building an emergency fund can be a hard tip to grasp. Bad things happen to other people, right? Thus, no emergency fund. Then where do they go – their credit cards. See the vicious circle?

Take your tax refund and either 1.) contribute to your existing emergency fund (Go you!), or 2.) open a savings account to establish that safety net. I typically recommend an online savings account because of the likely preferential interest rates and convenience.

3. Get Rid of the Bad Mojo, i.e. DEBT

Already have a relatively robust emergency fund? Awesome. Then go after the parasite of the financial world – bad debts.

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There is no check engine light for your retirement account

When is the last time you opened the hood of your car and looked at your engine?

If you are like me the car would need to be billowing smoke, dead, or squealing like a cat got caught in the fan belt. And I’m being honest, even when I do look, it’s a mysterious and complicated set of cables and parts that I just don’t really understand.

I imagine most other Americans feel the same way. And when it comes to the average individual dealing with their 401k options and making decisions they’re often staring at a set of complicated and mysterious set of choices that are just plain hard to understand.

Unfortunately, 401k investors are perfectly fine making “educated guesses” where to place their hard earned money, but none of us would guess at where the oil goes and then blindly start filling up different parts of the engine.

So why is it that hard working Americans are more likely to get help changing their oil than managing their investments?

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