Debt Problems

Your Mid-Year Money Check

This year is more than half gone. Amid your summer vacation and plans for fun in the sun, find time now for your mid-year financial checkup.

Like many, you probably picked a financial goal for this year, such as pay off debt or generally get your financial house in order. Now reevaluate your intentions and take a good look at where you stand. Start reviewing the following:

Spending plan. Cash flow management is key to a successful financial future and knowing where your money goes a must in creating a plan.

Who Really Is Rich?

Wealth is defined by net worth, not income. A high income doesn't equal wealth; it equals a better opportunity to build wealth. Not everyone is wise enough to take advantage of that opportunity.

"How much money do you make?" We don't ask people that question, but we'd love to know the answer. In this country, we fixate on a person’s annual income. That's the primary measure we use to determine social status and define success.

More Money Isn’t the Answer

How many times have you heard people say “If only I had more money.”? When you want to purchase a new car or a house, or pay down bills such as credit card debts and student loans, you can easily fall into the trap of thinking that more money is the answer to your problems. Most often, it is not.

The question to face is how to manage money – not how much you make. Granted, folks need a certain amount of money to survive. Think of it this way: If you are poor at managing the money you currently make, how does an increase in income make you a better money manager?

The College Debt Bane

Here is a vital college education tip: Don’t take on too much student debt. Otherwise, you risk ruining your future.

As you finish up your secondary education, thinking about the harsh reality of college debt is difficult to do. High school graduation is a time of optimism and possibilities. Commencement speakers all over the country urge graduates to follow their dreams and reach for the stars.

But when it comes to funding the education you need to fulfill those dreams, you might be better off with a dose of negativity and pessimism.

To the Graduates of 2014

June is graduation month. Amid all the lofty rhetoric from ceremony speakers, graduates too seldom get the most practical advice they need to prosper and succeed in life. Here are my thoughts on that, a subject with a personal resonance for me.

I remember when the boy was three years old, and his family had just moved in two houses over in our cul-de-sac. I was working outside and here comes this little boy pulling a small, wheeled suitcase. Surprisingly social at a young age, he introduced himself and asked, “Do you want to see my cars?”

Need for Financial Literacy

April was Financial Literacy Month. What did you learn? Do most of your neighbors keep a household budget or save for retirement? Does your cousin live hand-to-mouth? Is gold worth its own weight?

Money habits of the average American reveal that only 40% of adults use a budget and track spending. More than three out of four adults (76%) live paycheck to paycheck, half maintain three months’ expenses in an emergency fund and more than a quarter (27%) have no savings at all.

Advising Your Future Self

How do you encourage yourself to do something that you swear today you’re going to do? Easy: Send yourself an email today for delivery to you in the future.

“Send your future self some words of inspiration. Or maybe a swift kick in the pants,” reads the introduction on futureme.org, where you write and store emails to yourself for eventual, scheduled delivery.

You can write to yourself on any subject, of course – personal, professional, familial. How can you use this tool to commit yourself to a financial or savings plan?

401(k) Loans: Pro and Con

Tapping your tax-advantaged retirement savings seems like a desperate financial move (because it is), yet also a sound one in specific circumstances. Best know what you get into with 401(k) loans in terms of time, payback and risk.

Many holders of 401(k)s do in fact tap their accounts. According to 401k.org, about 20% of Americans eligible for a 401(k) loan have one, with balances averaging $7,600.

Planning for College Costs

Higher-education costs border on absurd, now topping $60,000 per school year. That’s a lot of money for a degree, not to mention an amount just out of reach for a lot of people. Your first homework as you ponder your kids’ education? Options to afford college.

A good education helps you think, read and write critically – no doubt all valuable qualities in life, work and the financial world. The big question: Is it worth some $240,000 to learn these skills in most four-year education programs?

Whether you answer yes or no, college can cost less.

The Debt Burden Worsens

Enormous debt, which plunged us into the Great Recession, is still a problem. After some efforts to whittle it down, the nation’s debt load is swelling again – on the federal, state and local government, household and corporate levels. No one seems willing to fix the problem.

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