Why Isn’t Personal Finance Taught in Schools?

Chemistry, English, Math, Spanish, U.S. History… where’s the finance class?! I asked myself this question in high school, as I flipped through the course catalog, looking for some sort of Introduction to Business or Basic Finance class. Because I had never had the opportunity to take a business or finance class, I started out my first year of college as an “Undecided” major, only knowing that I was interested in business but unsure of what that entailed. I had to use my first year of college to navigate the business school with help from college counselors and professors, eventually choosing to major in Finance and minor in Accounting. Introductory courses in high school would have helped me tremendously in college preparedness and starting my educational life on the right path.

Only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance. Data released from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s Investor Education Foundation reveals that high school students who are required to take personal finance courses have better average credit scores and lower debt delinquency rates as young adults. The study found “notable improvements” in credit outcomes for 18-22 year olds in three states – Idaho, Georgia and Texas – where financial education mandates are considered rigorous by the Council for Economic Education.

Personal Finance in Schools

Photo Credit

Teaching high school students some basic information about student loans and credit cards would set them up for success for their entire lives. When they first step foot on a college campus they would be better prepared to understand what they’re signing before being attracted to credit card vendors on campus enticing them with a free t-shirt. A lot of parents don’t teach their children the basics because they may not understand it themselves. Public high schools in every state should be required to offer a personal finance course for those interested. It can save students from making financial mistakes early on that put them behind for years to come. Basic material covered should include:

  • Student loans
  • Credit cards
  • Car loans
  • Savings accounts
  • Investing
  • Mortgages

Wait…this sounds fun! Can I teach it?

Why do you think more schools don’t offer business classes? Did your high school offer a finance class? Let me know in the comments below.

 

When Will You Retire?

As much as we all like our jobs, let’s face it, we’d rather be on a sandy beach with a drink in our hand enjoying retirement. How soon can that happen?

Tahiti Beach

Photo Credit

That’s a tough question for most people. There are so many uncertainties around healthcare, family concerns or paying the bills without a steady income. As Millennials we may think we have years before we even need to start thinking about retirement, but beginning the planning now can go a long way.

Let’s look at three questions that should be answered before considering retirement:

  1. Do you have enough saved? Take the time to outline what your expenses will consist of in retirement and whether you have enough to do what you want to do. Do you want to travel? Detail the cost of the trip and research how much you will need to live your retirement years like you always imagined.
  2. Do you want to quit working altogether? Maybe you want to start with a part-time gig and slowly dial back your hours before completely quitting cold turkey. That part-time income may help you with day to day expenses.
  3. Where will you live? Do you want to downsize or move to a more affordable location? Will you sell your home to do it? You’ll want to consider the cost of living, access to healthcare, weather and proximity to family.

It may seem like a fantasy right now to take the leap and quit your job forever, but this is a helpful mental exercise to get you thinking long-term and understand what it will take to get where you want to be. Begin saving now and remember; it’s never too late to start planning for the future– the more time on your side, the better.

When do you see yourself retiring? Let me know in the comments below.

What Happened to Alfred Angelo?

This week brought some surprising financial news to the wedding world! After over 80 years in business, Alfred Angelo unexpectedly closed its doors – leaving both brides and employees desperate for answers. They officially filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy earlier this month with no public warning of any looming financial trouble occurring within the company.

Alfred Angelo                                                                  Photo Credit

Choosing Chapter 7 bankruptcy means they are going to completely liquidate all assets and close their doors rather than restructure their finances. According to the New York Times Alfred Angelo said it had no more than $50,000 in assets, but more than $50 million in liabilities. That’s a debt ratio of a 1,000 to 1 – which means that for every $1 in assets, the company has a $1,000 in debt. Alarm bells should have been going off long before this point. How can a company leave its own employees and thousands of brides scrambling?

I bought my wedding dress from Alfred Angelo in 2014 and can’t imagine how stressed these brides must be! With all the negative attention this store is receiving, I’m going to try and put a positive “learning experience” spin on it (too soon?). This can be used as one example of why I stress the importance of an emergency fund. If brides have an emergency fund on hand, they are able to go purchase another dress with less stress while waiting for their refunds. Companies like David’s Bridal are seizing the opportunity to offer expedited shipping and discounts for brides affected by the closures. An emergency fund should consist of having about 6 months of expenses readily accessible – and as we learned this week, can be used for more than an unexpected car repair.

For more information, the Alfred Angelo website directs you to email their Bankruptcy trustee at alfredangelo@mjstrustee.com.

Were you or someone you know affected by the Alfred Angelo closures? What do you think of the way the situation was handled? Let me know in the comments below.

 

How Much Money Do You Make?

Is that question too personal? Why? From a young age we are taught that money is a taboo topic – that it’s rude to ask how much your friends’ parents make or to talk about how much your parents’ make. Why is that? What if we knew exactly how much all of our co-workers made? Would that level the playing field, and maybe even begin to carve in to the wage gap we see between men and women in the same job? As a state employee, you can see how much I make on transparentnevada.com. This goes a long way at my company to pull back the curtain and begin an open dialogue that you don’t find at other companies.

Buffett

I think being open and honest about every aspect of your financial life is a good start down the path to financial freedom. Money isn’t a shameful topic – we shouldn’t be driven by the fear or embarrassment we feel. If you’re in credit card debt, let’s talk about how you plan to get out and see where you are in a year. You shouldn’t have to carry that burden alone. If you’re taking on student or car loans, devise a timeline with your family to pay them off and decrease your financial burden. It’s time to own the emotions we tie to our finances and begin down the path to a comfortable and rewarding future by realistically working towards our goals.

How do you feel about others knowing how much money you make and why do you feel that way? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Are the Rich Smarter Than Us?

Have you ever wondered how the wealthy got that way? Why do they get to be rich while the majority of us commute to work every day and put in long hours? I mostly have these thoughts when my alarm goes off on Monday mornings, but I wanted to dive deeper into the specific actions we can take to follow in their footsteps.

piggy bank

I read an interesting article from Market Watch entitled “10 Things Rich People Know That You Don’t”. I was a little indignant at the title – are they really smarter than I am or are they just taking intentional steps towards financial freedom every day? Let’s look at five of the most important actions the author recommends we take and if they’ll work for you:

  1. Start Early: This can be a very important step relating to starting to save for retirement. The earlier the better! Remember that more time allows your money to compound and grow even faster.
  2. Automate: Having your paycheck automatically contribute to your retirement and your bank automatically transfer a predetermined amount to your savings accounts takes the guesswork out of saving and makes it feel like you’re not “missing out” on any money when you do it manually.
  3. Maximize Contributions: If you’re leaving any employer match on the table it’s basically like taking a pay cut and not doing anything about it. Make sure you contribute enough to receive the maximum contribution from your employer.
  4. Live Like You’re Poor: Increasing your expenses can be easy to do when you get a raise – you earned it after all! When you get annual raises or promotions try to continue living within your means without increasing expenses. Of course, you can reward yourself for that promotion or bonus pay, just don’t make it a long-term habit.
  5. Be Goal-Oriented: Setting financial goals and a budget can be very powerful – if you’re motivated by them. Set a target balance you would like to see in your savings account six months from now and work to achieve it. You will feel great when you meet it or learn what adjustments to make when you fall short.

These five steps really can make us just as smart and successful as those wealthy people. Will these five steps work for you? What else can you do to achieve your version of financial freedom?

 

Investing Made Easy

I’ve always been fascinated by the ups and downs of the stock market and learning how to use it to my advantage. In college I took an investing class and was assigned the book “How to Make Money in Stocks” by William O’Neil, founder of Investor’s Business Daily. The fundamentals of this book have stuck with me and I thought I’d share his winning formula for making money. He makes it easy to remember with the acronym CAN SLIM. Let’s unpack his system and see what works for you:

C: Current Quarterly, Earnings per Share. According to O’Neil quarterly earnings per share of the stock you want to purchase must be up at least 18% or 20% – the higher, the better.

A: Annual Earnings Increases. There must be significant (25% or more) growth in each of the last three years and a return on equity of 17% or more.

N: New Products, New Management, New Highs. Look for new products or services, new management, or significant new changes in industry conditions.

S: Supply and Demand – Shares Outstanding plus Big Volume. Any size capitalization is acceptable in today’s new economy as long as a company fits all the other CAN SLIM rules.

L: Leader or Laggard. Buy market leaders and avoid laggards. Buy the number one company in its field or space.

I: Institutional Sponsorship. Buy stocks with increasing sponsorship and at least one or two mutual fund owners with top-notch recent performance.

M: Market Direction. Learn to determine the overall market direction by accurately interpreting the daily market indexes’ price and volume movements and the action of individual market leaders. This can determine whether you win big or lose.

These are some basic fundamentals to use when choosing where to invest your money and what stocks will earn you the largest return. Remember that it’s okay to start small and make your money over the long-term.

How do you choose stocks? Let me know in the comment below.

Am I Ready To Buy A House?

Buying your first house is an exciting time. The process of doing research on different neighborhoods, going to open houses, putting in offers and finding your dream home is so much fun. We bought our first home in 2015 and my brain is still wired to check out EVERY house I drive by with a “for sale” sign in the yard – it never really leaves you. But how do you know when you’re ready to commit to the largest purchase you’ll ever make? Let’s look at answering some of these basic questions and see what will work for you.

My house

Our first home

If you’re tired of paying your landlord every month and ready to invest in property of your own, start by asking yourself a few questions:

  1. How is my credit score? This is one of the first thing lenders will look at and it reveals a lot about you. Make sure you are paying down your debt and correcting any errors on your credit history before house shopping. You are allowed one free credit report a year from annualcreditreport.com.
  2. What monthly mortgage payment can I afford? Your housing costs should be no more than about 30% of your monthly income. For example if you make $4,000 a month, your mortgage, including insurance and taxes, should not be more than $1,200. This should leave a comfortable amount of room in your budget for the rest of your monthly expenses.
  3. Do I plan on living in the house for 5 or more years? Earning equity in a home takes time and you don’t want to have to sell the house in a few years before you’ve had a chance to earn any. Selling a home can also be expensive due to realtor fees and closing costs. You may want to find a place to call home and set some roots to make this big investment.
  4. How much do I need for a down payment? The traditional answer is 20 percent, but lately many of my friends have done less than that and instead opted to pay the private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender from losing money if you end up in foreclosure. You will pay more each month since you didn’t have that 20 percent down payment, but you’ll have to decide what is best for you. Personally, I felt more comfortable putting 20 percent down, but that also meant I had to start saving earlier.

It’s important to take your time and not rush into any purchase too quickly. Evaluate all your options and make sure you’re able to answer these four questions before you sign on the dotted line.

What are your biggest concerns when buying a home? Let me know in the comments below.