Category Archives: College Money

The Year of Bravery

Loving this Mark Twain quote. And I might have to steal her annual theme--love how much being brave in 2018 has changed her life.

Hey, hey, everyone. It’s been a hot minute.

To be honest, life has been crazy around here. The new school year is starting soon–both for my kids and myself. I’m learning that promoting a book can be just as much work as writing one. Plus some other personal stuff has been going on that has nothing to do with money but has added to the insanity.

I’d say I’m overwhelmed, and that would be partially true. But the circumstances I’ve put myself in are of my own doing.

Despite all the craziness, all the self-imposed stress, I’m in this place right now because of a decision I made at the beginning of the year. Actually, it’s one I made in late 2017. But 2018 has been bearing the fruit of my decisiveness.

The Year of Bravery

I realized about 8-10 months ago that I wasn’t entirely happy with the way I was living my life. Yes, we all have challenges. And, yes, those outside influences can really take over.

But in my specific circumstances, there were things I could have been doing to make things better. Steps I knew I could take, and goals I could pursue.

But I wasn’t. Because of fear.

I don’t like living my life from a place of fear, but I felt I had been cornered. Adulthood and motherhood both come with so many responsibilities that sometimes you feel saddled down by it all, and lose yourself in the process.

I thought back to a quote I saw on my history teacher’s door in high school that really changed the way I have (mostly) handled challenges throughout my life:

If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.

I knew I had to make a shift. I knew it was time to get out of my frozen state and start taking action towards the things I wanted–no matter how scary or unrealistic taking those actions seemed to be.

I dubbed 2018 the Year of Bravery, and have tried to live my life over the past eight months in that mindset. I’m not going to lie. At moments it’s been hard. Really, really hard. But with the pain of change, there comes transformation. I can see my life and attitude morphing before my eyes, and I’m proud of what I’m becoming.

The Feminist Financial Handbook

Late last year, Mango Publishing contacted me to see if I’d be interested in writing a book on feminist finances. It wasn’t the first book offer I’ve received, but it was the first one with agreeable terms. Still, writing a book is a lot of work, and it would mean boldly attaching my name to my opinions–and then promoting it.

For most of my blogging life, I was anonymous. I’m not ashamed of my work, but I do prefer the work to stand on its own–its own merit, its own two legs. Fame and recognition is not only something I don’t seek, but is something I actively try to avoid.

I don’t think I’m going to get famous for writing a niche personal finance book. Haha. But I do know I’m going to have to shout my own name from the rooftops, which makes me extremely uncomfortable.

But I decided to do it anyways. This decision was made with encouragement from my friends and peers. It was made because a book like this needs to exist, period. And it was made because 2018 is the Year of Bravery.

This weekend, I got an email from my publisher notifying me that The Feminist Financial Handbook is officially an Amazon #1 New Release:

The Feminist Financial Handbook Amazon Number One New Release

 

It’s super exciting, and I’m humbled by all of you who have expressed interest and preordered. If you want to learn more about what’s inside, you can do so here. Or, if you’re already sold because feminism + money is where it’s at, you can preorder your copy here.

I took a risk by putting myself out there. And although I still feel some trepidation, I’m glad I did. Writing a book is something I’ve always wanted to do, and however this whole thing turns out, I can look back on my life without the, “What if?”

Traveling Across the World

pikachu japan

When I was a child, one of my best friends was Japanese. We only lived close to each other for a couple years, but our bond was deep. We kept touch even after she returned to Osaka and my family moved to Pittsburgh.

Right around the time I started blogging, she came to visit me. It was the first time we had seen each other since our tear-filled goodbyes, and brought me so much joy. I’ve always wanted to visit her in her home country, but it always seemed like an impossible dream.

I was sitting on a bunch of airline miles last year, and was waiting for a time when my whole family could go with me on this adventure. But I had been waiting for a while, and the more time wore on, the more apparent it became that there was going to be no perfect time when we could all go and have a good time. So I asked my sibling if they wanted to come with me.

They jumped at the invitation, and in Spring we finally got to visit our childhood friend and see her wonderful, amazing family for the first time in over twenty years. It was the most amazing trip of my life, but it’s one that almost didn’t happen. Because I took the plunge, despite the fears of regret that I might create by not bringing my children along, I had one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and saw some of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Well, it was also because my friend and her family are amazing, generous people. Actually mostly because of that.

But you get the idea.

Returning to School

National program to get student loans forgiven

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while. As the primary breadwinner, though, it seemed irresponsible to threaten my own time with more responsibilities as I’m already pressed for time enough.

But we make room in our lives for the things we value. And education is way up there for me. I’m excited to see the new paths this venture will lead me down, and all the new things I’m going to learn.

I start classes next week. I’m oddly nervous about my age even though I’ve never been a traditional student. I’m also worried about the time aspect.

But the last time I did this school thing, I did it while carrying and then birthing children. If I can handle that, I can definitely make this work.

So while I have some jitters, I’m also incredibly psyched to step back into the halls of scholarship.

If the Year of Bravery has taught me anything, it’s that I won’t regret this decision.

The Feminist Financial Handbook

This book is so needed! Excited to be one of the first to get my hands on The Feminist Financial Handbook. Fighting the patriarchy and kyriarchy while building my wealth.

I’ve mentioned in passing that I’m writing a book.

Well, I can now say that I’ve written a book.

That’s right, guys. It’s getting real up in here.

Now that the manuscript is done, I wanted to tell you guys a little bit more about the project, what it entailed and what comes next.

The Feminist Financial Handbook

Even before I was blogging about money, I was interested in personal finances. I’d read book after book on how to make my money better. There were some crazy great hacks. Like opening CDs before the Recession. Or investing your money starting young so you could take full advantage of the power of compound interest.

And I was all, “I can’t wait until I can do this stuff!”

I wrote out goals and future budgets, but something was missing. That missing thing was an income which met more than just my baic needs so I could do things like save and invest. I was great at money management; I just didn’t have enough green to do all the responsible things I wanted to do.

I now recognize that there were some systemic road blocks in my way at that point in my life. I also recognize that there are women out there who face far larger and more frequent road blocks than myself.

And that’s the piece of financial advice that seems to always be missing: When you’re motivated, disciplined and hard-working,  yet you can’t seem to get around these massive obstacles, what do you do next?

That’s what The Feminist Financial Handbook is about. It’s about recognizing oppression and its  effects on our day-to-day personal economies. Without minimizing these struggles, it looks at ways you may be able to get a leg up so you can do all those fun things like watch your wealth explode over a period of 30-40 working years through diligent investing.

It’s about being real about the real-life situations so many of us struggle with every single day, and finding ways to take action despite them.

Defining Wealth

The first part of the book looks at how we define wealth. Does money actually  make us happier? I don’t want to spoil too much, but the answer is sometimes.

In this part of the book, we also take a deep dive into the things that actually can make us feel more content, and counting them holistically in our personal wealth equations. Because while money scarcity is no good, a relentless pursuit of cash isn’t healthy, either.

Earn More

It’s no secret that women tend to earn less than men. The gender wage gap is real. But I tend to think the commonly cited reasons behind it are sexist and fictitious. Some of these arguments include:

  • Women gravitate towards lower-paying fields.
  • Women don’t negotiate.
  • Women carry babies in their wombs.

These are all poor justifications for paying women less, and some are straight up untrue. in the book, we tackle each one of them.

Gender is not the only reason for lower pay, though. Whether you’re a single mother, disabled, a woman of color, transgender, gay, or bi, society is going to punish you economically. It’s not right. But there are some workarounds for financial success, even within a system that would have you believe you’re worth less.

You’re not worth less, by the way. And this whole section of the book outlines why that is and what we can collectively and individually do about it.

Save More

Not only is there a wage gap, but there is also a gender-centric investing gap. This gap starts young, and can result in poverty in old age. We take a look at some of the basics of financial planning and how to become more aware of any internalized sexism that may be affecting your investing decisions.

We also look at how you or your child can go to college for free–or sometimes even get paid to go back to school. I promise this is real. These strategies have worked for me in real life, and are backed by a professional in the higher education industry.

And, of course, we look at budgeting. Not just budgeting, but judgement-free budgeting. Just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to spend the money you earn, or that you can’t stash it all away in pursuit of financial independence. But to do either one of these things, you’re going to need a budget.

When One Thing Affects Everything

Ladies, we put up with some intense experiences in our lives. Because of the normalization of sexism and other -isms, we suffer much higher rates of mental illness and domestic violence. Both of these areas have real, long-term affects not just on our mental health, but on our finances.

We also tend to make less money than our male counterparts when a child is diagnosed with an illness or is pronounced differently abled. And that’s on top of the gender pay gap.

This final section of the book looks at all of these things, offering up solutions for living a wealthy life in spite of the effects oppression can take on our bodies, minds and finances.

Pre-Order The Feminist Financial Handbook

Believe it or not, these are just some of the topics covered in the book. The pages take a deep dive into so many issues–issues not typically discussed in the personal finance sphere. Because they’re hard issues to tackle, and there aren’t always easy solutions.

But at the heart of the matter is hope. Hope that we can fight the system to build a successful career for ourselves as women in business or a fat e-fund as homemakers. Hope that you can build a wealthy life even when the system would stunt your cash flow. It affirms that you are worth it and capable no matter what society tells you, because there is no “right” way to be a successful woman with motivation.

Now that we’re getting ready to launch, you can pre-order today from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I’d be so grateful if you could hop on board and join the waitlist so you can be one of the first to get your hands on a copy!

I can’t wait to hear what you think. It’s been a huge effort to produce, and I hope it opens up a lot of conversation about what we can do to make the economic plight of women better, whether we’re talking about society as a whole or ourselves as individual females.

This book was very much a collaborative effort. Because I cannot speak with experience to all the different issues women face, it largely features the experiences of others. These are the amazing women who gave so much of their time and heart to the effort:

 

You’ll Need to Consider These Things if You’re Going to College

This post is brought to you and contributed by Abby Locker.

nontraditional student

Making the decision to further your education is a huge one. A college degree, when obtained, opens the doors for graduates to pursue their career goals. Though not required for every field, going to college can help to expand your knowledge in an area you wish to work. Going to college brings with it a lot of personal and financial responsibilities. To ensure that the next few years of your educational journey are successful, it is ideal that you lull these factors around in your mind before enrolling.

Personal Lifestyle

Your studies will consume a huge chunk of your time. Unless you’re a new high school graduate, you’ll need to review your current responsibilities and lifestyle to determine where, if at all, college fits in. If you already have a full-time job, for instance, will you be able to handle your professional duties while also going to school on your time off?

How much time do you get off?

Is this enough time to fully engage in your education?

If you’re a single parent, do you have someone to watch the children while you attend classes?

Will class schedules interfere with your duties as a parent?

College Major

What is it you want to study when you go to college? This is not only imperative to determining how further education will fit into your current lifestyle, but also necessary for narrowing down your options for school. If you’re interested in fashion graduate programs, for example, you’d look for a fashion or creative arts college that focus on these studies. As graduate programs can be rigorous, you could review sample schedules or program descriptions to determine what the course load would be like.

Method of Study

Getting a college education has become easier than in previous times. Before, anyone interested in going to college would be required to physically attend school. Now, there are more options. Students can go part-time, attend night school, or consider online degree programs. As each method has it’s pros and cons, it is imperative that you make this decision, again, based on your personal lifestyle. If you work a full-time job, you’d likely prefer a part-time schedule at nights. If you’re a mom, you may prefer to earn your degree online.

Finances

Here’s a big factor for a lot of college students – the cost of tuition. Are you able to pay this on your own? If not, what options does the school provide for paying? Some offer internships, grants, scholarships, payment plans, and an option to apply for financial aid. If this isn’t enough to cover the costs, then you’ll need to consider borrowing the money such as by applying for a student loan.

Choosing a School

Have you weighed all the above factors? Is going to college something that you’re interested in doing? Now comes the more taxing part of the process: Choosing a school. There are literally thousands of schools across the country. Knowing which is best for you comes down to more than affordability, here are some quick tips to keep in mind:

  • Programs offered
  • Proximity to home
  • Size (class sizes)
  • Studying methods (online, night school, full- and part-time)
  • Student resources (career services, tutoring, etc)
  • Accreditation
  • Scheduling
  • Financial assistance
  • Clubs and organizations

Try to narrow your search down based on the above criteria. Then, schedule a campus visit to learn more. Here you can talk with administrators and get more in-depth answers to some questions you may have about the school.

Choosing to go to college does present some personal and financial challenges. Be that as it may, if you’re able to graduate successfully, the reward is great. To ensure you are making the most informed decision about going to college and that you select the right school, keep the above factors in mind.

If you can find a school that fits your schedule, is affordable, has programs you’re interested in, and allows you to continue living your day to day life without any interruptions, it’s worth enrolling in.

The Legacy of an Education

I hope my grandchildren get this same legacy from me. And I love how she's going back to college for free.

My grandfather–who was from a family of refugees–settled in his home country when he was a very young boy. The family started a successful restaurant, and everyone was expected to pitch in and follow the family tradition.

But my grandfather had other plans. His goal was to get as much education as he could so he could travel the world and settle in the US.

His father was not pleased.

His sisters would sit awake at night watching over his bed as he studied under his wool blanket by candlelight. This was in a time before electricity was a common utility, and they were afraid he was going to burn the house down.

His mother supported him wholeheartedly. She advocated for him to his father, and did everything in her power to make sure her son was able to achieve his goals.

It worked. After serving his country, attending university in Europe and being among the first to join NATO forces, he was able to move to America. He eventually landed a job in his technical field, and was extremely well-respected in the community throughout his entire life.

He was also well-respected back home. He’d go back to visit, but also to be a witness at weddings and serve in other honorary roles. His hard work had inspired so many of his nieces and nephews to pursue an education that a large portion of them ended up with good jobs on different continents, one of them even following in his footsteps and emigrating to America.

Living Up to the Legacy

Needless to say, I grew up knowing an education was important. There was no question in anyone’s mind that I would go to college and perform well. Work ethic was important, and it was important to apply it to areas where you’d reap benefit–like education.

A series of unfortunate events led to me leaving school early, though. I can’t tell you how much I felt like I had failed. But eventually, as a nontraditional student, I finished my desired degree without debt.

Over the past couple years, I’ve realized that my interest in money has shifted from the “how” to the “why.” I’ve realized that my passion lies more in understanding the relationship between people and systems vs dollars and cents. Monetary wealth is good, but not if we lose our soul or empathy to it.

I want to explore more of these nuanced relationships. And I want to do it through getting another degree. So in late August, off to school I go.

Financing College

I started by looking for schools that had programs that matched what I wanted to do. I toured them, talked to faculty, and got a feel for how my studies would be handled as a nontraditional student.

I eventually decided to choose from among the state schools as tuition was much, much more affordable. And the programs weren’t necessarily lacking in any respect when compared to the more expensive private institutions.

Scholarships and grants will be funding the whole thing. I’m hoping I’ll even be able to pull in a little extra money like I did last time I attended school, but we’ll see.

Either way, I’m excited to be going back. I’m excited to pursue more education even though I’m so very far from being a traditional student. Even as I continue to work full time. Even though things didn’t work out the way we all thought they would, I know my grandfather would be proud.

Thanks for the EE bonds, Grandpa. Some of them have finally reached full maturity, and knowing that you were saving for my education pushed me to be my best academic self then, and continues to do so now.

Start Saving for Your Child’s College Education Today

Today’s author–Dr. S–is a dad, husband, and finance professor. He discusses personal finance and financial independence on his site, Bull in Captivity.

 Wow, this is a must-read. Really shows the importance of starting to save for your child's college education early--like right now early.

Making sure that our children start their lives off without financial stress is a goal I can get behind. Turning 18 and jumping into reality is tough enough already. Adding the burden of student loans and financial hardship is not a comforting send off.

Unfortunately, college tuition is on the rise, and many students face the reality of not being able to afford higher education without supplementing their part-time income with student loans.

College Board estimates a 2017 annual college budget of $25,000 for state colleges and $50,000 for private schools. Parents seeking to reduce their child’s reliance on debt for college can start saving for their child’s education. But saying, “Start early,” isn’t good enough. It’s important to see the impact of early savings.

Importance of Starting Early

Because of the short time span of fewer than 20 years, college funds have a limited amount of time to take advantage of compound interest. This means that you should start investing as soon as possible. This timeline is equivalent to someone beginning to save for traditional retirement at 45. It’s not impossible, but the timeframe is considerably shorter.

Look at these three examples: Monica, Rachel, and Pheobe. Monica starts saving for her child’s college education as soon as the baby is born. Rachel waits until her child is eight before saving and Pheobe begins on her child’s 13th birthday.

Here are the results assuming that they all contribute $100 per month ($1,200 by the end of the year) and earn 8% on average per year.

compounding interest on college savings

As you can see, Monica has more money in the college account than both Rachel and Pheobe. The higher balance is not only due to the additional contributions Monica saved, but the interest on these investments.

Monica is earning compound interest, or interest on interest, the most powerful force, as described by Albert Einstein.

In its basic form, compound interest means that after year 1, Monica invested a total of $1,200. In year 2 though, in addition to contributing $1,200, she earns interest on year 1’s contributions. In year 3, in addition to another $1,200 in contributions, she earns interest on year 1’s contributions, year 2’s contributions, and (here’s the compound interest) the interest she earned in year 2 on year 1’s contributions.

I know it’s a mouthful, but the interest is acting as another contributor to the account. This is why starting early is so important. The sooner the savings begins, the more chances for compound interest.

Riskiness of Investments

In the previous examples, I assumed a return of 8%. This return is not unrealistic but is a return expected for stocks–which are risky.

As college nears, the account should not be invested in very risky investments. The worst thing that can happen is that the summer before your child starts college the stock market crashes and there simply is not enough time for the account to recover.

To mitigate this risk, the account will be invested in less risky assets as college approaches, for example, bonds. Here is an example of an asset allocation that becomes less risky as college drop-off day nears.

529 asset allocation

The average expected return for the portfolio is highest at the beginning of savings and drops as college gets closer. Higher risk, higher expected return. The lower risk only makes problems worse for Rachel and Pheobe in our example above. Not only do they have a shorter timeline to invest than Monica, but the returns they have available for compounding are less than Monica.

conservative 529 during childs senior year before college

Reusing the same table as before, but with the new expected returns, we see that the results are only amplified. Monica still does better than Rachel and Pheobe, but Pheobe’s account is not looking good.

Is it too late?

There are a few options available if you have not started saving as early as you would like for college education.

  1. Start now!
  2. Increase contributions. Instead of $100, you may have to invest $200 to get to the same goal as if you started saving when your child was born.
  3. Lengthen the timeline. Delaying college for a year or two through a gap year or community college are great ways to give you more time to save.
  4. Remember that every dollar helps. Just because you can’t pay for every dollar of your daughter or son’s college education does not mean you have failed. There are plenty of ways for students to pay for college including part-time jobs, grants, scholarships, and finally loans. Depending on the degree, a few loans are not the end of the world for your child. The loans would be even higher without your help.

College Savings Accounts

A 529 plan is the most popular college savings account. The withdrawals from this account must be used for school or a penalty is placed on the account, so if your child decides not to go to college, this could be a problem.

The IRS has a great Q&A resource on 529 plans.

Many states offer college plans with tax deductibility benefits. You will be able to save for college pre-tax, which helps you increase contributions. Many of the requirements and benefits for college savings plans are state-based so doing a brief search on your state’s options will give you a wealth of information.

Have a disabled child? Check out ABLE accounts.

Other options include a traditional brokerage account which is just an after-tax investment account. There are no tax benefits, but you can use the money for anything including buying your child’s first home or even starting a retirement fund for your child if college is not an option.

At the end of the day, any benefit you provide for your children going to college will be a big help. However, starting early means a bigger account from both your years of contributions and more importantly the help of compound interest.