Global economics and history classes are all well and good, but how about classes on retirement contributions, tax filing, or other financial lessons for the real world?
If you live in the United States, chances are you didn’t learn how to balance a checkbook or understand a basic budget in high school. That’s because, according to Forbes, there are only 17 states across the nation that “require high school students to take a course in personal finance.”
The numbers don’t stop there. According to a Bank of America and USA Today 2016 survey collaboration, only 31% of young Americans aged 16 – 26 felt their high schools taught them good financial habits. On top of that, only 58% of those young people had started a savings account while only 27% of those surveyed aged 22 – 26 had contributed to a 401K.
Despite these statistics, Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy says finances should be taught at many levels of education and start at an early age:
“Personal finance education should start early at both home and school. Ideally, personal finance concepts should be taught in elementary, middle and high school, and should continue into college. In mathematics, you start with counting, move on to addition and subtraction, and then move on to division and multiplication. You need to learn letters before you can read. Personal finance education should be a cumulative process, with age-appropriate topics taught each school year. The reality is that many states and school districts do not provide any substantive personal finance education until high school, if at all.”
If there is interest accruing, your money isn’t just sitting there doing nothing. “Understand the miracle of compounding—where your money earns interest, then your interest earns interest, and then that interest earns interest, and before you know it, you’ve got a lot more than when you started,” Stanny wrote.
Money grows if you help it
Investing (and knowing how to do it well) is something a lot of folks don’t quite understand, especially coming out of school. Unless they studied finance, there is a lot of confusion about the world of stocks and bonds and mutual funds.
But Stanny advises against waiting too long to start investing. Even if it’s just a little at a time, the more you invest the more it will grow. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should invest in anything or everything. Be sure you understand your investment choices. “Otherwise, you won’t know what you’re buying; you won’t know when to sell; and you can’t accurately evaluate the advice you’re given.”
“Learn about investing,” she wrote. “Take a class. The only way to make sure your money grows (enough to buy a castle and also maintain it!) is by putting at least some of your cash in long-term assets (like stocks & bonds) that will grow faster than inflation and taxes will take it away.”
How to build and maintain a credit score
Austin Netzley wrote for Insider that, despite how boring it be, it’s important to get a credit report to not only know the status of your credit score, but to also get the clearest understanding of your debt-credit life.
“You may be (like I was!) surprised to see some open lines of credit that you thought you closed or still have a balance on,” Netzley wrote. “The starting point to fix your finances is to get super clear on your current situation, and a credit report will help you do just that.”
Champlain College also supported knowing (and understanding) one’s credit because having a low score can be seriously detrimental to one’s livelihood.
A person’s credit score and borrowing history affects their daily life, they wrote. Doing everything from purchasing or renting a home/apartment, acquiring insurance, or sometimes even getting a job can be impacted by one’s credit history. They went on to explain that a high credit score could save someone upwards of $100,000 in interest payments during their life.
Having more than one income
This idea is crucial, particularly as fears of a recession swirl around the media. Economic experts like Netzley point to making one’s income as “recession proof” as possible. One way to achieve that is to secure multiple streams of income.
Netzley explains that there are three forms of income:
Working income: Do work once, get paid once, such as through a salary or hourly wages
Residual income: Do the work once, get paid over and over again, such as by producing and selling a book or programs
Passive income: Do no work, get paid over and over again, such as through investments
By cultivating multiple revenue opportunities people are not only protecting themselves from potential economic downturns, they are also creating ways to make money in their sleep and freeing up their time.
Start as young as possible
Instilling financial literacy at a young age is important, particularly since young people are met with so many financial decisions so quickly after high school and college.
“The number of financial decisions an individual must make continues to increase, and the variety and complexity of financial products continues to grow,” Champlain College wrote. “Young people often do not understand debit and credit cards, mortgages, banking, investment and insurance products and services, payday lending, rent-to-own products, credit reports, credit scores, etc.”
How Do You Become Financially Literate?
Financial literacy is within reach—and often free.
From setting aside money in a piggy bank to scoring the best mortgage rates, financial literacy helps people make decisions that benefit not only their financial present but their financial future. And while this sounds good, for many people, it can feel easier said than done.
Unless you know where to look, it can be hard to come by financial literacy resources. And without proper instruction, it’s difficult to know which concepts and skills are most important to acquire.
Want to become financially literate? Here’s how.
How do you gain financial literacy?
To become financially literate, find a trusted source of financial information. Learn the fundamentals of personal finance and apply them to the financial habits and decisions in your life.
A good place to start is with Jump$tart Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for financial education. This organization covers relevant concepts in its national standards, which identify six core areas of knowledge needed to gain financial literacy:
Spending and saving.
Credit and debt.
Employment and income.
Risk management and insurance.
Resources for becoming financially literate
Financial education can be acquired in person and online—often for free. Some sources of educational resources include:
Federal, state, and local agencies.
University extension programs.
Libraries and community centers.
Banks, credit unions, and financial service providers.
Nonprofits with financial education services.
Below are several specific organizations that provide free online resources:
EconEdLink: The Council for Economic Education provides classroom-tested online finance lessons geared toward K-12 students.
Better Money Habits: A collaboration between Bank of America and Khan Academy, this site features animated videos that cover financial literacy basics (such as budgeting, saving, and debt) as well as more in-depth topics (college and retirement).
Money Smart: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) created a program for people of all ages to provide tools and resources for increasing financial literacy. This includes free lesson plans for educators and personal financial management videos for the public.
OppU: At OppU’s core is a standards-aligned, free online financial literacy education curriculum. It covers the fundamentals of personal finance through interactive videos and quizzes based on four modules: spending, credit, budgeting and saving, and debt and loans. There’s also an extensive resource bank of tips and materials (worksheets, videos, and ebooks) published on the OppU Answers blog.
In 2016, only 37 percent of respondents passed the FINRA quiz with ‘high financial literacy.’ That means almost two-thirds of respondents had room for improvement.
There are many benefits of financial literacy. Financial literacy is what helps people distinguish between good and poor financial decisions, ultimately leading to either a difficult life or one that is successful and fulfilling. Bankruptcy? Not so great. Saving money in a retirement account? Wise choice.
Without financial literacy, financial decisions and habits lack an informed foundation of knowledge. This can lead to dire consequences.
Frequently asked questions about financial literacy
What is financial literacy?
By definition,financial literacy means having the knowledge and skills to effectively manage money. A high level of financial literacy enables people to control their finances and understand the impact of their decisions on their financial stability. For instance, financially literate people know that treating credit responsibly leads to a higher credit score, lower interest rates, and greater opportunities to finance their goals.
Why is financial literacy important?
Financial literacy is important because it helps people make informed decisions about their financial lives. People who possess financial literacy are equipped with the concepts and skills they need to pursue financial health.
Ask the experts: How do you gain financial literacy?
Read books. Reading financial books will definitely help you become financially literate. Some of my favorite books are “The Total Money Makeover,” “Rich Dad Poor Dad,” “The Millionaire Nextdoor,” “Rule 1,” and “InvestED.”
Take a course. Taking a course whether free or paid can really give you a leg up when managing your finances. There are many courses available such as learning to budget, learning about credit, learning how to save money, and investing. Many libraries offer free budget and finance workshops as well so be sure to keep a lookout for what may be available in your area.
Read a blog. Blogs are free. Many of them are run by financial experts who have experience with managing money and becoming debt free as well. Most of them have a personal connection to their readers so if you feel that you learn best from people who have actually gone through what you are going through, then reading a personal finance blog might be right for you.
Go to a conference. Going to a conference is another way to learn about finance topics. These conferences are not free but by attending, you can make connections and network with like-minded people.
Marissa Sanders is a personal finance expert and financial coach. She is passionate about helping women become financially literate and explains how to manage money in a simple and less intimidating way. It is Sanders’ belief that all women can flourish in their finances and her passion is to make it happen.
Jim Wasserman, retired teacher of economics and media literacy and writer at Your Third Life
Start by admitting that you need to learn more. Too many people, daunted by the many paths to financial success (and afraid to admit their own ignorance) grab one path and then defend it to their own demise, like a financial Alamo.
101 yourself. Financial literacy is gaining traction and becoming a more popular topic in schools. Find a great financial literacy education site (like Next Gen Personal Finance) or a wonderful book series on teaching behavioral economics, media literacy, and financial literacy (Media, Marketing, & Me).
Consult others ahead of you in the game. When I hike a trail and meet others coming the other way, I ask them what is ahead (or read the experiences of those who have walked the trail). There are great websites (like HumbleDollar or MarketWatch) where people share their experiences. Some are applicable to one’s situation, some are not, but they get you to think about what you want and how to get it.
Distinguish wisdom from tradition. There are standard ways to financial well-being, and to the extent they are based on accumulated wisdom (don’t overspend, max out your 401K) they should be followed. But be ready to say that, just because it was done before, it shouldn’t be done now. Term life insurance may not be the best vehicle for saving anymore, and many have achieved financial independence by moving abroad (myself included).
Jim Wasserman taught economics and media literacy for more than 20 years. Retired from the classroom, he continues to write on education, economics, media literacy, and financial literacy. He has a three-book series, “Media, Marketing, and Me” (teacher’s guides for introducing media literacy and behavioral economics to elementary, middle, and high school students), publishing in 2019. With his wife and two feline overlords, he also maintains a blog, yourthirdlife.com, about exploring the world during retirement.
The first way to gain financial literacy is to visit your local bank branch and talk to the officers who work there. Most bankers are more than willing to share their advice and opinions on different aspects of finances. By visiting a few different banks and asking questions about finances, you’ll quickly build up financial literacy.
The second way is to take a free class. Many community centers and schools now offer financial literacy classes due to the importance of understanding your finances. Simply Google ‘financial literacy class’ and your town name to find out if a free class is offered in your area.
The final way consumers can gain financial literacy is by reading the business section of the newspaper every weekend. Most business decisions are made based on money. If you can read and understand why corporations make the decisions they do, you will be practicing your financial literacy.
Logan Allec is a CPA and owner of the personal finance website Money Done Right. After spending his twenties grinding it out in the corporate world and paying off more than US$35,000 in student loans, he dropped everything and launched Money Done Right in 2017. His mission is to help everybody—from college students to retirees—make, save, and invest more money. He resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife Caroline.
How did you gain financial literacy? Tell us your story on Twitter at @OppUniversity!
Going Global? How to Save Money on International Travel
by Amanda Finn
Traveling internationally can get expensive—and fast. But there are still plenty of ways for you to cut expenses and experience more of the world for less.
Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean you have to go on vacation. But if you feel so inclined, and are setting your sights on international destinations, there are a plethora of ways to throw your budget out the window. If you’re planning on going across the pond or across the globe, a little preparation could save you big time in the long run.
Obviously, you aren’t taking to the skies without at least a little planning, but there may be some things you haven’t considered for your budgeting arsenal—especially if you haven’t been overseas in a few years. Whether it’s creating a physical budget, getting a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees (Visa cards will be your best friend for this as they’re widely accepted) or being flexible with your destination, there are plenty of ways to make sure you don’t overspend.
Be choosy with hotels.
As wonderful as it might be to wake up to the sight of the Eiffel Tower or Big Ben, you will be paying for that sight more than for the hotel itself. Unless you’re totally sold on that hotel room view, it’s best to stay a little bit away from the center of the city or major attractions.
Sure, it would be a fun wake-up or goodnight view, but how much time are you actually going to be spending in your hotel?
Hopefully, if you’re in Paris or London you’ll be seeing those famous views more up close than just from the window of a cozy room. Not only would getting a hotel a little bit off-center save you some money (or a lot of money) it may also mean seeing things you might not otherwise see.
Skyscanner (a great way to scout cheap airfare across the internet) suggests the same price saving advice.
“If your hotel room has a view of the Eiffel Tower chances are it’s going to be tiny and very overpriced,” according to Skyscanner. “Instead of blowing all your money on a city centre location, opt for a hotel outside the city limits where you can still enjoy all the attractions during the day but get to retreat to a quieter (and cheaper) location to rest your head at night.”
This seems like a no-brainer, but with a little research you can find some of the best local cuisines that will come at a cheaper price than any chains or imported restaurants.
Smarter Travel goes one step further and advises not asking hotel concierges for advice about where to eat and take to local food blogs for advisement instead.
“They tend to have a set list of pricey or touristy spots near the hotel that they suggest,” according to Smarter Travel. “Instead, ask bartenders or baristas where they personally like to eat, or consult travel guidebooks and their companion websites for lists of the best cheap eats in a city. The ‘Rough Guides’ and ‘Let’s Go’ series of guidebooks are two good choices.”
You definitely need to look into restaurants beforehand or ask around before eating out just to make sure it’s reputable, but broadening your palate will colorize your experiences. Of course, just like in your own town or city, you want to know enough to not end up in a … messy situation afterward. Read reviews and get a sense of the cleanliness of the place before you venture in.
This advice is particularly important when taking street food into consideration. Even Smarter Travel suggests being cautious of street vendors. There is a way to find great treats on the street, but there are many ways it can go wrong as well.
When it comes to ordering on the street, Smarter Travel offers some tried and true thoughts on food safety: “Be sure your dish is served hot, and take a look at the cart or kiosk before ordering. Does it look clean and well kept? Is it busy? (The fewer the customers, the longer the food may sit before being served.)”
Life Hack recommends the grocery shopping route as another way of saving some money. You can eat like a local and make your own food to go or picnic somewhere nearby.
Be a flexible traveler.
If you’re searching for airline deals, you’ll obviously be better off not having your sights totally set on one destination or one set of dates. The more flexible you can be, the more options you’ll have both budget and destination-wise.
Frugal Travel Guy (FTG) suggests the flexible approach to save as much money as possible while still getting that international travel adventure.
“Of course, flight ‘deals’ always work best when you’re able to keep an open mind,” Holly Johnson of FTG said. “If you are willing to consider multiple destinations or even plan your trips around airfare deals, you can explore new corners of the world and save money in one fell swoop. For example, if you’re willing to travel anywhere in Asia and wait until a deal comes along, you’re more likely to find a sale than if you were only willing to fly into Phuket, Thailand or Beijing, China.”
The other thing to keep an eye out for is airfare sales. Sales and mistake fares happen on occasion, and if you’re lucky enough to find one, snag it.
Johnson said she has seen economy flights from major US cities to places like Europe, Asia, and South America for less than $500 round-trip! Especially for some Asian destinations, that’s a bargain. Economy flights to Beijing, for example, can start at $1,000 so it’s definitely worthwhile to keep an eye out for deals.
You should also try to book flights in the afternoon as prices tend to be lower. There is a rumor that Tuesday afternoons are the cheapest time to book flights, so that’s worth a try too.
House-sitting for free accommodation.
If you aren’t opposed to roughin’ it out of a hotel, house-sitting while traveling abroad is a great way to score free accommodation while also getting the chance to live like a local during your travels. Ordinary Traveler suggests turning to Trusted Housesitters to get yourself in the house sitting game.
As of June 2019, the yearly membership for Trusted Housesitters is $119/year. That’s a far cry from the cost of hotels domestic or abroad.
“Trusted Housesitters is the best website to connect with homeowners looking for people to house-sit and care for their pets while they are away,” Ordinary Traveler said. “They have the largest selection of houses all over the world. I recommend becoming a member to get the best selection of house-sit gigs and have the opportunity to apply for the most popular locations as soon as they are listed!”
Housesitting is like AirBnb without the price tag, but it does come with the responsibility of keeping an eye on someone’s home or pets. If you’re willing to take on that responsibility you can reap the rewards of the traveler life. To learn more about traveling on a budget, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:
8 Money Habits Parents Should Start Modeling Right Now
Walking the walk is tough. Here’s how to get started—and stay on your feet.
For many kids, “the talk” is a rite of passage. You know: the birds and the bees, and all the other things that parents don’t want to discuss—and kids don’t want to hear.
But what about another talk that can be equally uncomfortable?
How much money do we make? How much do we have for college? How about for an emergency?
That’s right. Having a talk about family money is something that many parents view as important but, understandably, would rather avoid. And “the talk” itself is just the beginning. Then it’s time for parents to follow their own advice, which can be even more intimidating.
The most important habit to model is to discuss money. Talk about it, read about it, ask questions, discuss it. I would much prefer my 9-year-old make mistakes with her money now rather than at 29 or 39, and so we discuss it.
All of our children are bombarded with a view of hyper-reality, hyper-consumerism through social media: Instagram would have you believe that a $60,000 Birkin bag is an acceptably normal purchase, and afterward should be worn while posed on a waterfall in some exotic location, yacht framed in background. That is manufactured reality, and counter-productive if the growth of existing wealth is the goal.
Heaton recommends focusing on three main topics:
1. Work for Money
Work for Money is the start: Children who work for their money either through household duties, school achievement or other earned reward/recognition experiences value the reward. More important, it is less about the amount and more about the transaction itself, and the opportunity to discuss money in a coached, supportive environment. Start as early as possible: a child at 5 can help with small tasks for a piggy bank reward. Once a child has money, they must next understand that even if they can’t see the money it does exist. Last, they can only spend the same dollar once.
2. How Money Works
How Money Works: Earning money is not enough; the child should next understand that income and expenses are a part of having money. How much will you earn, what will you spend the money on by choice, are there set expenses you have to spend the money on to live comfortably? This is the opportunity to explain budgeting, taxes, utilities and other expenses, and plan for small ‘want-to-have’ and large ‘want-to-have’ purchases. It’s also a great time to introduce setting aside amounts for education, sport activities, or charitable gifts for the future. There will also come a time to discuss setting aside a fixed amount for investment.
3. Make Money Work for You
Make Money Work for You: Many families cover the first two points well, but never discuss borrowing and lending, stocks, investments, and asset management. They will discuss saving, but saving is not investing. To start to teach your child about investing, create a graph—for the refrigerator or in an app or spreadsheet depending upon the child’s age—and have your child pick one thing they love that has a public company association: a toy, a movie, shoes, an amusement park, a food. Then start to graph the price together—if you bought one share for $8 this day, it would be worth + or – XX this day. Begin to discuss what a share of stock is, why some are more expensive than others, how you can earn or lose money, and how one buys a share of stock. After a period of time, you may wish to pick a specific stock or fund or other investment of which the child has a keen interest to make a small investment.
All of this is important, but as with most things, effective communication—discussion about money matters—is the start.
When it comes to money habits and children, I believe that it is incredibly important to start early. Laying down the foundation for good money habits is essential. However, having said that, it is super important to allow your children to learn through mistakes as well.
My children get pocket money for completing chores and getting good grades. They have to put money into three different piggy banks. One is for saving, one is for spending and one is for emergencies. Getting your children into the habit of dividing up their ‘earnings’ into these three categories is teaching them early about sensible spending and habits such as always having an emergency fund.
When it comes to my children spending money, we try to talk them through their purchases. We ask them questions such as:
Do you want it or need it?
Is it going to serve a purpose?
Is it going to be useful?
Why do you want/need it?
Is it worth the price tag?
Questions such as this get the children into a habit of analyzing their purchases to ensure that they don’t waste their money.
Of course like any child, they are going to have impulse buys. We allow the kids to make their own decisions when it comes to the impulses. Then, when they don’t have enough money for something they need or really want due to them spending their money on the impulse buy, they learn and teach themselves a lesson.
Watch your own spending habits and if your children are old enough, talk to them about the basics of the family money habits. Children learn a lot from their parents and they pick up the things you do. If you have poor spending habits yourself and your children see you, they are more than likely going to pick it up as well.
As a mom of three kids (ages 12, 10 and 2) and co-founder of parenting website Upparent.com, I have had ample opportunity and reason to consider how to best model and support good money habits to my children—and am always looking to learn more! Some tips that have worked well for our family include:
Don’t be afraid to talk with your children about your household budget, and how you decide where and how to allocate resources based on your family’s finances and values. For example, if we are considering whether or not to enroll one of our older kids in an extracurricular activity, we are open with them about how it would fit into our monthly budget, and how it compares to other monthly expenses, so they begin to understand the process we undergo to decide whether any particular expense is worthwhile for our family.
Discuss and agree on budget limits for certain expenses, such as gifts, to teach an appreciation for thoughtful and deliberate buying habits.
Set personal limits on fun or extra expenses (such as fancy coffee!), to make it clear that even small purchases add up, and need to be accounted for in a budget.
Create a shopping list before heading to the store (or online), to avoid unnecessary impulse purchases.
Budgeting is the most important tool we try to teach our kids. All of their money goes into a jar marked work. Before they can spend that money it gets split into three different jars marked give, save, and spend. 10 percent of everything they work for goes into give, 20 percent into save, and they are allowed to spend the rest as they please.
Our oldest is 10 and it is so ingrained in him now that he rushes to move money from the work jar to the other jars just so he can know how much he has to spend. He’s also pleased that his savings is getting bigger so that he can buy a car once he turns 16.
Let kids earn their money. Our kids do not get allowances. They know that money has a value and if you do something like chores or other form of work, you earn money. This teaches kids that time has value and should be spent wisely. By saving money or investing it, you are giving yourself the freedom to do more things.
Use a save, spend, donate money jar to teach money basics. Just because your kids are young, it doesn’t mean they can’t grasp money concepts. To make it easier to visualize we have three money jars. When our daughter, who is 5, earns some money helping around the house, we let her put her money into the jars she wants. She can either save her money for the future, spend it on something now, or donate it. She loves animals so she has chosen to donate money to the ASPCA.
Don’t spoil. Even if you have the financial resources available, resist the urge to say yes to every request. Before you know it, your teen will be a young adult. Relying on your economic handouts will hurt, rather than help him later in life. Engage in an honest conversation with your teen about wants versus needs.
Have your teen get some financial skin in the game. If your daughter insists on purchasing something she does not need, decide on a dollar amount or percentage that she must contribute from her own funds.
Encourage part-time employment. It is rare for your child to become an olympian or professional athlete. Extra-curricular activities are great for fostering teamwork and self-confidence, but they do not pay the bills as an adult. In fact, select sports teams and one-on-one lessons are costly. It is quite possible for your teen to work part-time and participate in one extra-curricular activity per quarter. Part-time employment fosters responsibility, and earnings can be saved or applied to living expenses such as gas, entertainment, and meals out with friends.
I think the most important skill parents can share with their kids is showing them that saving comes before spending. It’s easy to see parents spending money as kids, but to have a conversation about savings and how important it is is even more important. Growing up, I remember going with my parents to open my first bank account at 8 years old. The idea of making constant deposits and watching that money grow was exciting to me. I’m very thankful that I was taught about savings early on in my life.
Match it. If you have the financial means, offer to match your child’s savings in a Roth IRA. The beauty of a Roth IRA is that you never have to withdraw from it during your lifetime. Earnings grow tax-free and are great savings vehicles for young people.
It’s important to teach your kids that you don’t need to buy everything new or at new prices. Our kids have more toys and clothes than they need because we’ve scored great deals at thrift stores, second hand shops, and at retail stores. Our kids have learned it’s important to compare prices and by doing so they can either save more money or get more things because they are at cheaper prices.
My kids are ages 2 and 5. My husband and I speak about finances in front of them all the time because we want them to feel comfortable with money and have a better understanding as they get older.
We teach our kids the importance of negotiating. To do this we go with them to garage sales and flea markets. They see us both buy and sell items. Negotiation is a skill that can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. This applies when buying a car or house, choosing banks based on fees and interest rates, and even hiring contractors.
My top tip is to write down potential purchases in a wish list on your phone (or notebook if you prefer) and also to allow a measured cooling off period. My son, in particular, is very impulsive and switches between hobbies and passions faster than I can get my purse out—we saw he was making a habit of wasting his money on things that he quickly lost interest in. I started modelling patience by choosing not to purchase something until I’d given myself time to think about it, and making a note of the item I’d seen to refer back to later. I created a list for myself and one for each child.
Now if anybody sees something they want we make a note of it and allow at least 2 weeks to see if it’s still the ‘must have thing’ we originally deemed it to be. (So far so good—yesterday my son went through his list and crossed off nearly everything on it!)
As a brand new father, I get to contemplate all the time on how I’m going to raise financially savvy kids. I think the overarching concept that I go back to is that, as parents, it’s important to lead by example. If you live a life of luxury, say having house cleaners come biweekly, or eat out a couple of times a week, or buy things in the store without hesitation…these are all things kids will pick up on and think are normal. This could teach bad financial habits by thinking these actions don’t have consequences if they are not discussed beforehand.
To me, this means that parents may need to consider sacrificing their lifestyle a little bit in order to not instill a sense of luxury or entitlement in their kids. This means that even if the parents have the financial means to live a certain lifestyle, it may be beneficial for their kids to not live that lifestyle. If kids live their childhood without realizing the value of money, they could be in for a rude awakening when they graduate into young adults.
Whether they realize it or not, parents and other role models pass financial lessons to their kids. To instill healthy habits, model sound personal finance. The youngsters in your life will take note—and walk away with the gift of financial literacy to last a lifetime.
Alexandra Fung is the co-founder and CEO of Upparent.com, a unique new website that makes it easy for parents to discover and share recommendations with one another about local things to do, places to go and products to try as a family. Family and community have long been central to Alex’s life, and after graduating from the University of Notre Dame and NYU School of Law, she served as an advocate for children and families in the nonprofit sector for many years before helping to launch Upparent. Originally from Southern California, Alex currently lives with her husband and three kids in the suburbs of Chicago.
Kath Gilbert is a writer, mother and debt survivor. She blogs about life-design, money and adventure at The Life Spotters.
Lucy Harris is a mother and the CEO of Hello Baby Bump.
Kevin Heaton is a CFO who understands the cycles of wealth, the dynamics of family change and resultant behaviors. His expertise is in developing and implementing focused tactics to protect and manage private assets through the objective application of information tools, infrastructure support and investment strategies. Mr. Heaton is the founder and principal of i3, LLC, a Family Office Private Asset Management firm, and has grown the organization into a team of professionals who provide clients with access to relevant information to make informed decisions, the infrastructure (team and tools), to actively manage their assets and investment opportunities (directly or through managed funds) to (re)invest their capital. As an accomplished speaker and presenter, Kevin’s talks give in-depth analyses of his own experiences in family office asset management and makes even the most complex asset strategies clear with concrete action plans.
Jonathan Huang is the founder of Mr. Centsible, a blog with the tagline “Your Sensible Guide to Personal Finance.” It’s a blog dedicated to helping millennials understand personal finance and reach financial freedom.
Monica Lam is a personal finance blogger at Lucky Mojito. She and her family paid off over $33k in credit card debt and built a net worth of 6 figures and growing. She shares her best money making and saving tips so others can do the same.
Deborah L. Meyer, CPA/PFS and CFP®, is a fee-only financial planner and author of Redefining Family Wealth: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Living. Deborah is the owner of WorthyNest®, an independent advisory firm dedicated to helping parents build wealth. She is Saint Louis University’s School of Business 2019 Distinguished Young Alumni and a recipient of the 2018 AICPA Standing Ovation Award for Personal Financial Planning. Deborah has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Yahoo! Finance and CNN Business and is a regular contributor to Kiplinger. Outside of work, Deborah spends time with her husband Bryan and three sons.
Paul Moyer is the owner and founder of Saving Freak. He has been writing and teaching others about personal finance since 2007.
Caroline Vencil is a money-saving expert, especially when it comes to her family of 6 living on one low income. She is a master of living on a tight budget and still having a full life. Her passion is to teach other women how to make their money work for them and to take charge of their own financial lives.
What healthy financial habits do you want to pass down to your kids? Tell us on Twitter at @OppUniversity.
Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!
If you struggle to understand how compound interest can help build your retirement savings, you’ll find Bobby Bonilla Day very instructive.
On that note: Happy Bobby Bonilla Day! It’s by far the world’s #1 niche sports-finance-based holiday, a time to sit back and reflect on the two most incontrovertible truths that govern this vast and mysterious universe of ours: First, that former Major League Baseball star Bobby Bonilla has it made in the shade; second, that the New York Mets are very bad at business.
What is Bobby Bonilla Day?
Bobby Bonilla Day falls on July 1st because that is the day, every year, that the New York Mets pay Bobby Bonilla $1.19 million. If that sounds like it’s a fairly run-of-the-mill arrangement, it helps to note that Bonilla has not played in the MLB since 2001 and hasn’t played for the Mets since 1999.
Bobby Bonilla was a very good baseball player. He played in the Major Leagues from 1986 to 2001, collecting six All-Star appearances and three Silver Sluggers along the way. He even won a World Series ring with the 1997 Florida Marlins. But the following year, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers midseason who then traded him to the New York Mets the following November.
Bonilla had already played with the Mets from 1992 to 1995, but this reunion was not exactly a happy one as Bonilla’s declining play leading to numerous clashes with Mets manager Bobby Valentine. After the 1998 season concluded, the Mets decided to wash their hands of Bonilla entirely and release him from his contract.
There was only one problem: Bonilla was still owed $5.9 million on said contract. Under these circumstances, teams who can’t find a trade partner will simply pay out the rest of the player’s contract in order to get him out of the clubhouse. If the player is eager to leave the franchise as well, their agent can also negotiate a smaller payout in order to facilitate their release.
What Bonilla’s agent did in this case, however, was slightly different. (Okay, okay, it was a lot different.) Bonilla’s agent, Dennis Gilbert, offered to have Bonilla defer payment for a full decade. In return, the Mets would let that $5.9 million accrue interest at a rate of eight percent annually starting in the year 2000. It’s similar to the structure seen in many life insurance contracts—a fact likely owing to Gilbert’s previous work as an insurance agent.
After the decade had passed, Bonilla would then start collecting a portion of the money every year until 2035. If you’ve ever wondered how compounding interest works on your retirement savings, this deal is a great example: That eight percent annual interest rate on Bonilla’s salary turned $5.9 million into $29.8 million overall.
Bonilla took his first payout on July 1st, 2011. Now, every year, July 1st is celebrated as Bobby Bonilla Day by an incredibly esoteric blend of hardcore baseball nerds, finance aficionados, and aggrieved Mets fans (otherwise known as … Mets fans). For reference, the Mets are paying Bonilla over twice as much in 2019 as they are paying rookie Pete Alonso, whose 27 home runs are good for second in the National League.
How did this deal work out for the Mets?
Frankly: not well!
If attaching an eight percent annual interest rate onto the remaining money in Bonilla’s contract seems like a curious decision by Mets owner Fred Wilpon, it helps to understand some of the surrounding contexts.
At the time that they agreed to defer Bonilla’s contract, the Wilpon family was invested in an absolutely superb New York investment fund that was enjoying unheard of annual returns of 12 to 15 percent. So even with that eight percent annual interest rate tacked on, they were still coming out ahead!
Here’s the problem. That fund’s improbable-seeming success was all thanks to one man: Bernie Madoff. Oops! Those returns that the Wilpon’s had been enjoying were actually just funds from new investors being passed off as profits. When Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis, it took approximately $500 million of the Wilpon family’s money with it.
Here’s the kicker: This is actually the second set of deferred payments that Bonilla has with the Mets. When they traded Bonilla to the Orioles in 1995, the two teams split a $12.5 million payment between them into 25 separate installments. Bonilla received his first payment in 2004 and will receive his last payment in 2028 for a total of $15.3 million.
Be like Bobby.
If you’re debating whether or not you should start contributing to your retirement account, take the lesson of Bobby Bonilla Day to heart. Putting that money aside now and adding some compounding interest to the mix will result in a lot more money down the line. It probably won’t be worth $1.19 million a year, but it’ll still be well worth the wait.
To learn more about the financial side of sports, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:
Don’t let your desire to give awesome, thoughtful gifts to friends and family members drive you into debt—just learn how to give more with less!
You’ve probably heard some version of the 1905 O. Henry story The Gift of the Magi. It tells the tale of a husband and wife who can’t afford gifts for each other, so they each secretly sell off one of their prized possessions.
The wife cuts her hair and sells it to buy her husband a chain for his pocket watch and—in a twist worthy of a Twilight Zone episode directed by M. Night Shyamalan—her husband had sold his watch to afford expensive combs for her hair. Now both of their gifts are useless.
Well, the wife’s hair will grow back eventually and she can just use the combs then. And the husband will still probably look pretty cool with an awesome chain hanging out of his pocket.
Regardless, the moral of the story is that they still have their love, so it doesn’t matter that they can’t use their gifts in an optimal manner. But the real lesson is that they should have read this article! Then they would have known how you can give good gifts within your budget!
Set expectations appropriately.
Don’t be embarrassed to let your friends and family know you’re working on a tight budget. It’s not like they’ll want you taking out an online loan or cash advance just to buy them a present.
If they’re the sorts of people who deserve your generosity, then they’re the sort of people who will be sympathetic to your situation. And if they do have lower expectations, then those expectations are all the more likely to be exceeded. Your gift could even be time spent together.
“This summer, starting now, talk to your friends and family and suggest that you don’t exchange Christmas/holiday gifts this year,” advised Holly Wolf, Director of Customer Engagement for SOLO Laboratories (@SOLO_labs). “While it’s warm outside, it feels planned out, thoughtful, and not just panicked over money.
“My conversations go something like this: ‘I enjoy spending time with you throughout the year. That’s a real gift to me. So rather than exchanging gifts that we really don’t need, let’s commit to spending more time together this year. Let’s hike more/take more walks/hang together more. The holidays are busy and stressful enough. Let’s make them easier for both of us by not exchanging.’
“Nearly everyone I’ve suggested this too has agreed not to exchange. Only one person needed a bit more time to come to terms with it.”
Lina Kristjansen, the co-founder of FiveYearFIREescape, offered a similar approach: “One way to deal with the cycle of gift-giving is to break it altogether. If you want to do it without sounding like a Grinch, you could say: ‘This year we’re saving up for a vacation, let’s just get together instead of exchanging gifts!’ Of course, you can replace vacation with your own goal, like paying off debt, creating a rainy day fund, or a purchase you’re actually excited about.
“People will respect your decision when you share the bigger picture behind it, instead of just saying ‘we can’t afford it.’ Besides, your family and friends will probably welcome the chance to break the gift-giving cycle if you give them the alternative.”
But if you still feel the need to give physical gifts, you have many affordable options that won’t require a personal loan or installment loan to cover.
Dissect a gift basket.
If you think about it, a gift basket should really be called a “gifts” basket, since it contains multiple gifts. On that note:
“If you have several friends and family members you’d like to give gifts to but you’re short on funds, you can always buy one large gift basket and then create smaller gifts using the included items,” suggested Beverly Friedmann, content manager for ReviewingThis (@ReviewingThis).
“By purchasing a (neutral) gift basket you may be able to give several people different items at once, and you can include cards with each. This will likely save you a considerable amount of money in comparison to purchasing individual gifts, and your recipients will never be privy to where their present came from.”
Turn downsizing into giftsizing.
Do you have a lot of clutter and have been thinking about Kondo-ing your living space? Well downsizing could also be an opportunity to make progress on your gift list.
“Several years ago, my grandpa started giving away gifts from his past for Christmas in place of new purchases,” recounted Kelly Shea of TrialandEater.com (@TrialandEater) and TheWabiSabiLife.com. “These gifts come with a personalized note about why he is giving each of us this particular item, and a story from his life. These have turned into mementos that we all look forward to.
“This year, as I downsized and moved, I adopted the same gifting philosophy for people’s birthdays. Items that I received from conferences or other travels, kitchen items I might have otherwise given away, a new chocolate bar, books that I have finished reading—if they make me think of a particular family member I gift them and tell them why.
“This intention based way of gifting not only makes my family members feel like I truly thought of them, but it also cuts down on costs and gifting people items that end up as clutter that they don’t need.
“And they don’t have to be fancy to be appreciated—some items I have sent recently include chocolate and snacks, a free pineapple tote bag I would have otherwise gotten rid of, duplicate kitchen items, makeup samples, and a shirt that no longer fit me that I knew would fit my cousin. It’s kind of like an adult care package!”
Consider used items.
“Used” doesn’t have to mean “bad” or “broken down.” Gently used items can still make very nice, and more affordable, gifts.
“If giving something physical is important, visit a thrift store to look for a gently used gift instead of something brand new,” recommended Logan Allec, CPA (@moneydoneright), owner of personal finance website Money Done Right. “Thrift stores are great places to score great deals on treasures, especially if you are short on cash.”
Making gifts tends to be much more affordable than purchasing them. Also the people you’re giving them to might grade the gifts on a curve. But we bet they’ll actually love them as well!
“While it may seem cliche or even impossible, if you’re very tight on funds you can always make your own gifts,” advised Friedmann. “If you enjoy art, writing, or making items at home (i.e. plants, jewelry, knitting), you may be able to use your skills to put together gifts that are even more special to your friends and family than store-purchased items.
“One of the best gifts I’ve received was a card in conjunction with a self-learned piano song. The sentiment behind the gift is always the most important part.”
Want a specific, relatively easy to replicate example? Read on!
“Since my wife and I were both from large families, our holiday gift list was always quite long,” offered Timothy G. Wiedman retired professor of Management & Human Resources at Doane University(@DoaneUniversity). “And when I was in graduate school, our finances were stretched pretty thin.
“So several years in a row, for many of our holiday gifts, my wife and I made sheets of ‘hard rock candy’ in various colors (red, green, yellow, and dark gray) and complementary flavors (peppermint, wintergreen, lemon, and licorice). As I recall, we used a simple stove-top recipe that included Karo syrup and cane sugar (with confectioner’s sugar topping off the finished candy).
“After the basic concoction reached the proper temperature (somewhere around 300 degrees if my memory is accurate), it ‘cooked’ for several minutes before each coloring/flavoring combination was added; and then it was spread (about 3/8 of an inch thick) on cookie sheets that had gotten a thin coating of confectioner’s sugar.
“Then I took the sheets outside to cool and harden by placing them on our ancient picnic table. We lived in central Ohio, so the finished recipe hardened fairly quickly in December. Finally, each hardened sheet of candy was ‘cracked’ into smallish pieces and given a final ‘dusting’ of confectioner’s sugar.”
Now take this advice and use it in your gift-giving endeavors. There shall be no twist endings for you!
Being generous is awesome, but so is staying within your budget. There are no gifts good enough to to justify taking out a short-term bad credit loan or no credit check loan (like a payday loan or title loan to pay for them. To learn more about stretching your budget further, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:
Logan Allec (@moneydoneright) is a CPA and owner of the personal finance website Money Done Right. After spending his twenties grinding it out in the corporate world and paying off over $35,000 in student loans, he dropped everything and launched Money Done Right in 2017. His mission is to help everybody—from college students to retirees—make, save, and invest more money. Logan resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife Caroline.
Beverly Friedmann works as a Content Manager for the consumer website ReviewingThis (@ReviewingThis)—with a background in Sales and Marketing Management—and is from New York, NY.
Lina Kristjansen is the co-founder of FiveYearFIREescape where she blogs about her family’s early retirement. She quit working at 31 with kids and a house in a pricey city. Her husband retired one year after her, too. She got there through saving, financial savviness, and rental houses.
Kelly Shea is a former financial analyst turned writer and photographer who has a passion for wellness and vegetarian food. She loves sharing her recipe creations and her latest foodie adventures from her travels across the country on her food and travel blog at TrialandEater.com (@TrialandEater), along with wellness and alternative lifestyle topics at TheWabiSabiLife.com.
After 13 years as a successful operations manager working at two different ‘Fortune 1000’ companies, Dr. Timothy G. Wiedman spent the next 28 years in academia teaching college courses in business, management, human resources, and retirement planning. Dr. Wiedman recently took an early retirement from Doane University (@DoaneUniversity), is a member of the Human Resources Group of West Michigan and continues to do annual volunteer work for the SHRM Foundation. He holds two graduate degrees in business and has completed multiple professional certifications.
Holly Wolf is an executive with over 30 years of experience in banking and healthcare.
How to Save Money Every Week
You aren’t going to save all the money you need at once. You need to do it gradually—and these expert tips will help you save on a weekly basis.
Saving money can be hard—especially when you’re first getting started. But the more regular habits you build, the easier it will be! That’s why we reached out to a whole bevy of experts to ask how folks can start saving a little bit of money every week. Here’s what they had to say!
“Set up an auto-draft from your paycheck and put money into a separate account reserved for savings. Just like many people do with their 401(k), split your paycheck into different bank accounts so that it limits the amount you can spend.”
“Instead of driving around town to get everywhere utilize public transportation to get to those non-urgent places. $30 for a monthly transit pass versus $30 a week in your car is a huge difference maker.”
Top and bottom shelves.
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
Top and bottom shelves at the grocery store tend to have the cheapest products. Did you know that the middle shelves are where grocery stores stock the more expensive items? Check the top and bottom shelves for the best prices.
“Spending less is definitely a must for people trying to save money weekly, but just as important is making a bit more money. Luckily, today there are tons of flexible, fun ways to go about supplementing your income. For example, one way to get away from stressors and maintain some freedom is by spending quality time with fun-loving pets.
“Apps like Rover.com can connect you with good paying dog-sitting and dog-walking opportunities in your area. Sitters are able to choose their own rates and have the flexibility of scheduling work around their availability. Rover sitters/walkers can easily find a gig daily and earn well over $1,000 per month. That kind of cash influx goes a long way when trying to save.”
“We all do it. Grab a coffee and a donut on the road. Decide to eat fast food for lunch because we didn’t take time to pack a lunch. Or grab dinner on the way home because it’s easier. Statistics show that Americans spend on average about $100 per month on fast food. That’s $1,200 per year! Imagine what could be done with that $1,200.
“For one week, keep a strict log of how much you spend on outside food. At the end of that week, take a look at how much you spent each day and where you spent most of that money. If most of it came simply from coffee, make a commitment to your financial success that you will limit your outside coffee intake to three days a week. Take the money that you would have spent for the other days and place that into your savings.
“If your money was spent mainly on picking up dinner after work, decide that you will limit that by doing meal prepping a few days a week. With just a few minor adjustments, you will be on your way to better financial security … and possibly, even a better eating plan.”
Make your savings hard to reach:
“Put your savings in an account that you do not have immediate access. A bank account without a card, where you have to go in branch to withdraw. The more work we have to do to access our savings, the less likely we are to burn through it.”
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
“Buy generic and skip the name brands. Did you know most name brands and generics are made in the same factory? Buying generics is a crazy easy way to save yourself some money without expending a lot of extra effort.”
“Simply put, people in the 1950s didn’t have food on the go and easily within reach. Coffee, lunches, snacks to go, it wasn’t a thing.
“If you wanted lunch and snacks you brought the food to work with you, if you wanted a hot drink you waited until you got to work. The millennial age of convenience everywhere has made it so tempting not to save. But taking on this concept is one of the easiest areas to save money. Make your own lunches, whatever the evening meal is, make slightly more or get a loaf of bread, meat, and salad to make a sandwich. My lunches worked out to cost me on average, one dollar during the week, rather than $10-12 dollars it would cost for a drink and food on the go.
“Mid-afternoon will strike and you may be hungry. Try your best to pre-empt that you’ll probably be hungry at around four pm when you do your groceries and buy whatever you would normally go out and snack on. Live like they did in the 50s rather than in the age of convenience and you’ll save money.
“I actually did this and noted down the savings. I was a culprit for taking convenience food up on its alluring offer while I was at work. I was amazed at the results.”
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
“The better organized you are, the better handle you have on what’s in your house, what you are spending your money on, and where things are getting off track. Yeah, getting and staying organized requires effort, but you can save yourself a lot of money and heartache if you stick with it.”
Eat your groceries.
“We are all guilty of buying groceries, and the right after that going to eat out because we have now lost the energy to cook after all that grocery shopping!”
Use the three-day rule for purchases.
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
“Have a limit for big expenditures. If it’s over that certain dollar amount and if it’s not a need (food, shelter, etc) then wait for three days before deciding to purchase. Many times, when you aren’t at the store looking at it, and once you’ve come home and had time to think about it, you’ll realize you don’t really need it after all.
Create a budget and savings goal.
“Prior to each month, create a budget or spending plan for your finances so that each dollar is assigned a purpose before you receive it. By following this plan, you’ll help keep money from slipping through your fingers and going to places you didn’t intend it to. Break the budget out into weeks so that a portion of each week’s income is put into savings.”
Cut the cord.
“Instead of paying high monthly fees for cable and satellite television, take advantage of streaming devices such as NetFlix, DirectTv Now, Sling, and PlayStation Vue. Users save as much as 50 percent on their home entertainment.”
Buy in bulk.
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
“Buy in bulk. You can often get a much better deal per unit if you buy a lot at once. Great items to buy in bulk are diapers, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and meat.”
Give yourself an allowance.
“Yes, just like when you were a kid. Allow yourself a certain amount to spend each week and stick to it. This will help you feel less restricted, as you still have money to spend while also achieving your goals.
Keep the change.
“One of the simplest ways to save money on a weekly (or even daily) basis is to ‘keep the change’ that you receive when breaking a bill instead of spending it. Take that change and place it into a large empty bottle. You will be amazed at how much small amounts of change adds up. Depending on how often you break a bill, you could save several bucks a week.
“Simply dropping fifty cents per day in your change bottle will give you $3.50 by the end of the week. This may not seem like much, but without doing anything extra … if you simply allow this to multiply, you will have saved $182.00 by the end of the year.”
Open an automatic savings account online.
“Online accounts limit access to funds making it easier for the individual to save money. Open an account with zero monthly fees and start off with an automatic transfer as low as $25. It adds up fast.”
Cook more vegetarian meals.
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
“Meat is definitely one area in your grocery budget where you tend to spend more. Consider incorporating a few vegetarian meals into your weekly meal plan!”
Set a limit on when to stop spending.
“This can be $50. Once you get to $50, you are no longer going to spend. The following week do not go past $100 and so on. If you do this every week at the end of the month, you should have saved $200.”
Put your savings to work.
“Every time you successfully score a deal, put your savings to work. Whether you save with a coupon or by comparing prices, move those extra funds into your savings at the end of the week. And always get in the habit of shopping savvy to stretch your dollars so you have more to apply to your savings goals.
“For instance, always look for coupon codes via sites like CouponCause.com which offer over 50,000 online deals to over 11,000 popular retailers like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and JCPenney for free shipping and money off your order.
“Also, compare prices using free shopping apps such as Flipp to review store circulars and deals all from your phone so you always know who has the best offers on the items you need/want to buy so you don’t waste time driving around town.”
Kristen, Mom Managing Chaos:
“Get an accountability partner. Having an accountability partner can help you stay on track and steer you away from bad decisions.”
“Having a social life is great, but if you’re not careful it will cost you. You don’t have to go to every event you’re invited to, especially if it involves spending money you did not plan to spend.”
“Finally, be consistent! Think about the long term benefits. Nothing beats consistency and a week of saving will inspire you to save for a month, and then two months and so on. The joy of seeing your savings account grow will be an inspiration to continue on.”
The more savings you have, the less likely you are to need to rely on a personal loan, installment loan, or online loan in a time of financial need. To learn more about saving money, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:
Kinika Armstrong is the founder and financial coach of Essence of Finance (@essenceoffinance). She is a certified financial education instructor. She is also a law student. After her studies led her to some alarming statistics about the saving habits of millennials, Kinika started fiercely sharing information and tips with her friends and family to help them to improve their circumstances and save for their goals. Through her business, she pursues her passion for helping millennial women manage their money!
Joy Hearn is an extreme saver to who specializes in helping people save money. Her formula is simple: spend less, save more. In 2017 she created Cards and Clips, a Facebook page that gives weekly tips educating people on how to slash their grocery bill in half by 50 percent or more. Soon afterward she began sharing tips on how to save not only on groceries but on anything. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
Five years ago, Phoebe Howlett was diagnosed with illnesses that made her so ill, they said she would never be able to recover to lead a normal life again. However, she completely changed her lifestyle, diet, exercise, and attitude to life—and with these changes came her recovery. She now wants to show that everyone can make the most of their life, creating The Chance of Choice.
Kristen aka Mom Managing Chaos is frugal living and budgeting enthusiast. She lives for spreadsheets and list making. She started Mom Managing Chaos back in early 2018 with a passion for helping others simply and organize their life and finances so they can spend time living, not simply surviving.
Shelley Meche’tte (@ShelleyMechette) is a Certified Life Purpose Coach, Speaker and Women’s Change Agent, dedicated to the empowerment of women through strategized personal and professional development. She is the author of 70 Days of Happy: Life is BETTER When You Smile and the founder of the organization The PowHERful Woman. Shelley has been featured in Ask Men, Great Work Life, UpJourney and more. She has also been seen on The Chundria Show and The YES! Show.
Ben Watson, CPA is the virtual CFO of DollarSprout.com (@DollarSprout) and founder of Fiscal Fluency, a personal finance and business coaching company. He equips small businesses and entrepreneurs with the skills and accountability to manage their businesses with confidence rather than fear. He’s also the co-creator of the Business Launch Kit—an online course with simple to follow steps of how to create your own business without making a mess.
Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer-savings expert, writer, and TV personality who is dedicated to helping Americans find simple ways to spend less and save more without sacrificing their lifestyle. She is a regularly-featured contributor for popular shows like Today, Good Morning America, FOX & Friends, and KTLA Morning News. In print and online, her advice has appeared in popular media such as New York Times, USA Today, Money Magazine, Cosmopolitan, People, Consumer Reports, Reader’s Digest and many, many more. Read more about Andrea at AndreaWoroch.com or follow her on Twitter.
Should You Get Dealer Financing?
If you have bad credit, dealer financing might be your best option for buying a car. But dealer financing is still notorious for inflating your costs.
Since the dawn of time, humankind has wondered: What is dealer financing? The car dealer was trying to sell them on the option after they selected one of those Flintstone cars where you use your feet to move it. (Which begs the question: Why have the car at all?)
Thankfully, car science has come a long way, and we now know what dealer financing is. But is it right for you? In order to explore the ins and outs of these mysteries, we have prepared an article to explain what dealer financing is, whether it’s a good option, and what alternatives exist.
This is that article. Prepare to begin reading it in three, two, one …
What is dealer financing?
The last time you passed by a car dealership, you may have noticed a giant “Buy Here, Pay Now” sign in between two of the wavy inflatable giants. This likely indicates that they offer dealer financing.
On a basic level, this is exactly what it sounds like. It means that you can get financing—namely secured personal loan to buy a car—at the dealership itself. The dealership may lend you the money directly, or it might work with third-party lenders to offer you a deal on the spot.
Much like a mortgage, this auto loan is paid off over time and your car serves as collateral. That means if you don’t pay, you’ll lose the car along with all of the money you’ve paid towards the principal and interest.
Is dealer financing a good choice?
Now you know what dealer financing is. Is it a good option to consider when you’re looking to buy a car?
“It’s an open secret in the automotive world that financing is where a dealership really makes its money,” explained Jake McKenzie, content manager at Auto Accessories Garage (@aagarage). “Some customers may think they just agreed to a great deal on their new car and so they let their guard down. What they fail to realize is that the financing portion of the deal is where car salesman really put their sales tricks into use.
“Most dealerships are staffed with salespeople who are experts in making bad financing options sound good, and in most cases, customers are out the door before they even fully grasp what they’ve signed on for.”
You should be somewhat suspect when it comes to dealer financing. Although they might care less about your credit score, the rates are likely to be much higher than the alternatives. If you are considering dealer financing, take McKenzie’s advice and don’t just accept the offer you’re given. If the dealer is working with an outside financer, then they’ve likely been given a quote known as the “buy rate.”
The dealer may very well be offering you a higher rate than the buy rate so that they can get additional money out of you that you wouldn’t pay if you were working with that lender directly. Ask the dealer what the buy rate is and don’t hesitate to try to negotiate the rates as low as you possibly can.
“Dealer financing is different from standard bank financing in that the dealer does the searching and uses their connections to get you financing,” warned Sean Pour, co-founder of SellMax (@sellmax). “But, typically this will be at a higher rate than if you were to go to your bank directly.”
Dealer financing alternatives.
As you may have realized from reading the previous section, dealer financing is rarely, if ever, going to be the ideal way to buy a car. Some would say it’s not even worth considering as an option.
“As a rule and without exception the best option for buying a new car is paying for it outright,” declared McKenzie. “However, paying in cash is just not realistic for most car buyers, so financing through a third party like a bank or credit union is the next best option. Financing with the dealership shouldn’t even be seen as a last resort, but as something to avoid altogether.”
Of the two experts that we talked to, the other didn’t go quite as far, but still viewed dealer financing as an absolute last resort.
“In terms of better alternatives,” began Pour, “yes, there are better alternatives. After witnessing thousands of deals, the ones who always got the best rate were individuals with good credit, who went directly with a bank they had a relationship with.
“But if your credit is a little shaky, then using the dealer to get your financing might be the only option because they have the know-how and connections to get it done when other conventional banks might say no.
“Other options include getting a co-signer on the loan. If you have a family member or relative who trusts you, if they have good credit, they can essentially promise the bank they will be responsible if you don’t pay and secure you a better interest rate with a conventional bank.”
You could also consider leasing a car until your credit improves, though you also may need a co-signer in that instance as well. Unfortunately, if you don’t have access to good public transportation, a car may be required for work and … everything else. Do your research to make sure you aren’t taken advantage of!
Cars and auto loans can be a real money suck. If you’re not careful, it could even be the thing that knocks your finances out of alignment, leaving you relying on short-term bad credit loans and no credit check loans (like payday loans, cash advances, and title loans) to make ends meet. To learn more about auto-related financial issues, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:
Jake McKenzie is the Content Manager at Auto Accessories Garage (@aagarage), a fast-growing, family-owned online retailer of automotive parts and accessories. He manages all written content for the website including research guides, product descriptions, and other informative articles. He also enjoys attending the annual SEMA Show, the premier automotive specialty products trade event held every November in Las Vegas. Jake often lends his opinions and expertise to a variety of online blogs, websites, and news sources.
Sean Pour is the co-founder of SellMax (@sellmax), a used car buying company based out of San Diego, California. Sean has over ten years of experience dealing with the purchasing and selling of used vehicles. He graduated with a degree in computer science from San Diego State University.
3 Tips for Managing Money in the Gig Economy
by Jessica Easto
If you’re not budgeting your money properly and building up your savings, you could end up struggling to make it from one paycheck to the next.
As you’ve likely heard, participation in the gig economy—short-term contracts, temp work, freelancing, and the like—is exploding. Recent studies estimate that 25 to 30 percent of all workers have done some form of independent work in the last month.
There is no one type of gig worker—they span all ages, genders, races, and levels of socioeconomic status. Some people rely on gig work because they cannot find full-time traditional employment that pays the bills. Other gig workers don’t want to find traditional, preferring the flexibility and control that gig work provides.
Whatever your reasons for getting into gig work, the challenges it poses cannot be overlooked. Workloads are often unreliable and paychecks may be unsteady, which means proper money management is of the utmost importance.
Due to the work’s inherent unpredictability, gig workers can be vulnerable to risky loan products such as no credit check loans and bad credit loans. These short-term loans are often called payday loans because they are marketed as cash advances on paychecks for when money gets tight at the end of the month—a real concern for many gig workers.
These loans may seem like a “band-aid” option for a gig worker trying to make ends meet while they chase down a paycheck or struggle to scrape together enough paying jobs. But between their sky-high interest rates and hidden fees, these loans can be more like a debt trap recipe—and they are better avoided if at all possible.
How do you avoid short-term, high-interest loans? We’re glad you asked. The trick is stellar money management, and we have a few financial tips specifically designed for gig workers.
1. Define necessities.
Everyone needs a budget—a way to track money in and money out—but it is even more important for folks with fluctuating monthly income, like gig workers. According to Jacob Dayan, CEO and co-founder of Community Tax (@communitytaxllc) and Finance Pal, “the first step to creating a budget based on a fluctuating income is to know what expenses you absolutely need to cover each month.” These are expenses related to things like housing, groceries, bills, and transportation.
Marina Babaian, the founder and CEO of Mbridge Consulting Group—a woman-owned business and consulting firm that provides accounting, payroll, and business management services to start-ups, small, and medium-sized businesses—agrees.
She recommends eliminating all unnecessary expenses, including subscriptions (sorry Netflix!), to make sure you have a really good fix on what you actually need to spend. “A monthly or even weekly budget is needed to understand what your necessities are,” she says. Once those are mapped out, the trick is to spend accordingly.
After your necessary expenses are covered, Dayan suggests working “some savings into your budget as well, no matter how small.” He recommends a technique called the 50/30/20 rule: “50 percent of your income for necessities, 30 percent for discretionary spending, and 20 percent for savings.”
It may seem unnecessary or difficult at first, but building a cushion will help in the future when an unexpected expense or lull in work crops up.
2. Save for taxes.
Don’t forget another key expense: taxes. “When you are self-employed,” explains Dayan, “you don’t have the ‘luxury’ of your taxes being automatically deducted from each paycheck.” You have to pay them all yourself, usually in quarterly installments. Additionally, without the help of an employer paying a portion of your taxes, you’ll be covering the whole burden yourself.
This means you’ll likely owe the IRS and your state more taxes than you are used to. Dayan recommends setting aside a full “25 to 30 percent of your income so that when it comes time to pay your taxes, it’s already taken care of and you won’t have to worry about where the money is coming from.”
Earlier this year, the IRS announced plans to “focus on self-employment tax compliance.” According to an audit they did, the agency found that noncompliance from gig workers contributed $69 billion to the annual tax gap, which is the difference between taxpayers owe and what they actually paid.
Dayan suggests opening a separate bank account that is specifically for your taxes. That way, you won’t accidentally spend the money you need to pay your tax bill and end up owing the IRS even more money in fines. If you save too much, then you’ll have a bit left over to put in savings for that inevitable rainy day.
3. Maintain or build good credit.
“It is essential that while working in temp jobs your credit remains good,” says Babaian. “If times get tough, you’re going to need good credit to give you some flexibility.” Good credit is essential to get the best terms on installment loans, such as auto loans, mortgages, and personal loans.
A 2017 poll by Upwork found that paycheck instability led 63 percent of full-time freelancers to dip into savings at least once per month (compared to only 20 percent of full-time non-freelancers). But what if you’re one of the 51 percent of workers who don’t have much in the way of savings?
You may turn to something like a credit card if you can qualify for one—and that is all well and good if you can keep up with the payments. If not, credit card debt can start impacting your credit score, which will make it even harder in the future to find financial products that you qualify for. Credit card debt, by the way, is at a record high—the average American holds a balance of more than $6,000.
“If you’re struggling to pay off your credit card balances,” says Babaian, even paying “one dollar over the minimum balance requirement will keep your credit rising.”
Short-term solutions may be especially appealing to young people who haven’t had time to establish good credit and may already have a sizable chunk of debt in the form of student loans. This is a big concern for a lot of gig workers, seeing as 47 percent of all millennials work in the gig economy, according to that same Upwork poll.
At the end of the day, it’s important that gig workers manage their fluctuating income wisely. This means having a good fix on your necessities and creating a budget, making sure you stay on top of your taxes, and trying to maintain or improve your credit as best you can.
To learn more about managing your money, check out these other posts and articles from OppLoans:
Jacob Dayan is the CEO and Co-Founder of Community Tax, LLC (@communitytaxllc) and Finance Pal, LLC. He began his career in Wall Street New York at Bear Stearns working in the Financial Analytics and Structured Transactions group. He continued to work in Wall Street until early 2009. When he then left New York and returned to Chicago to be with his family and pursue his lifelong dream of self-employment. There he co-founded Community Tax, LLC followed by Finance Pal in late 2018.
Marina Babaian is the founder of Mbridge Consulting Group and its lead CPA. She has a diverse background working with highly regulated fintech companies, global start-ups, corporations, and dozens of public and private organizations. She began her career in the start-up sector and has risen to become a leading subject matter expert in that world. Being an alumnus of Woodbury University, she’s taken an unconventional approach to traditional accounting practices through innovation and creativity. Working with various industries and companies, Marina discovered what many companies lack and that is a proper infrastructure and fundamentals needed to help a company become scalable due to the high cost and low resources. She has bottled her success to a science and has formed the Mbridge Consulting Group to solve this problem.
How Do Variable Interest Rates Work?
Variable rates can go up or down based on the performance of a “benchmark” rate, and this movement can mean higher or lower costs.
Taking out a personal loan can often mean getting bombarded by financial jargon. Here at the OppLoans Financial Sense Blog, it’s our goal to demystify a lot of these terms and break them down into simple language that a layperson can understand. So if you’ve ever wondered what exactly a “variable interest rate” is, you’ve come to exactly the right place!
What is a variable interest rate?
When it comes to borrowing money with a personal loan or a credit card, there are two kinds of interest rates that you’re going to encounter: fixed and variable.
“A variable interest rate is an interest rate on a loan or security that moves up and down over time,” explained Joe Bailey, Operations Manager at My Trading Skills (@MyTradingSkills). “It owes its fluctuation to being based on an underlying benchmark rate/index that changes from time to time.”
In contrast, he continued, a fixed interest rate does not fluctuate but remains steady throughout the life of the product.
When you’re borrowing, lending, or investing money, its all about managing your risk. Do you want smaller rewards that are much safer to achieve, or do you want to shoot for greater rewards that come with a higher likelihood of the whole thing going south?
So it is with variable interest rates: Sure, you can see lower rates, but you risk getting stuck with higher ones.
“The advantage here is if the underlying interest rate/index declines, so will the interest you will pay on your loan or security,” said Bailey. “Conversely, if this underlying interest rate/index goes up, you’ll end up paying higher interest on your loan facility. This means you will have to pay more money back to your lender.”
Here’s an example.
How do variable rates determine whether they should move up or down? By tying themselves to another interest rate and following its movements.
“In laymen’s terms, variable interest rate means an interest rate which is based on a benchmark interest rate or an index or simply market rates,” said accountant and blogger Rishit Shah of TallySchool.
Shah offered the following example to illustrate how this relationship works.
“You take a loan at 8 percent variable interest rate based on LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate). Now, if the LIBOR goes down, your interest rate also goes down. Similarly, if the LIBOR goes up, your interest rate also goes up.
“Therefore, it is called a variable interest rate because it varies or changes on the basis of some other benchmark rate, which in our example is LIBOR.”
Shah also clarified that variable rates are also sometimes referred to as “floating” or “adjustable” interest rates.
Benchmark rates: The prime rate and LIBOR.
In Shah’s example, he used a loan that was tied to the London Interbank Offered Rate or LIBOR rate. This is the rate that banks use to lend money to each other, and it is often used as a benchmark rate in foreign transactions.
For U.S. borrowers, on the other hand, a different rate is often used. If you live in the U.S. and are applying for a loan, that loan will likely be tied to the “prime rate” which is the rate that banks use when lending to their very best, most reliable customers.
“The federal reserve controls monetary supply and therefore can influence interest rates. In a rising interest rate environment, variable interest rates used by consumers are also increasing. In a lower interest rate environment, the interest rates for consumers would, in turn, be lower.”
If you have a variable interest rate tied to the prime rate, it is likely set at a certain percentage above that benchmark. For instance: If your variable rate is five percentage points higher than the prime rate, a change in the prime rate from six percent to seven percent would cause your variable rate to change from 11 to 12 percent.
The pros and cons of variable interest rates.
Like most other things in life, both variable and fixed interest rates come with their respective pros and their cons. The difference is that those pros and cons will vary depending on larger economic forces, as variable rates are better in some market conditions than in others.
“If the benchmark interest rate goes down, your interest payments also go down and you have to pay less money in interest,” said Shah. But the reverse is also true. “You may have to pay significantly higher interest payments if the benchmark rate goes up. In other words, you won’t get a peace of mind since the rates are always fluctuating,” he added.
And for longer-term loans, Shah advised that the odds of your rate going up are much higher: “If you expect to keep a loan for a long time, the chances are greater that the interest rate might go up as, gradually, the economy grows and prices go up in the long run.”
Shah also laid out two additional benefits beyond the prospect of lower interest rates: Better access to credit and fewer penalties for early repayment.
“If your credit is not good enough, you can get a loan on a variable interest rate since it is based on a benchmark.” he said, adding that “in a variable interest rate mortgage, you don’t need to worry about penalties if you want to complete your mortgage payments early or switch the lender.”
However, access to credit always comes with a flipside: Just because you can take out a loan doesn’t mean you should.
Financial Analyst Trish Tetreault of FitSmallBusiness.com (@FitSmallBiz) explained the dangers that can come with the low “introductory offer” rates that come with many variable rate loans, especially for borrowers who have poor credit:
“In general, a variable interest rate will begin with a lower introductory rate and will rise and fall based on a price indicator. Often the low introductory rate seems manageable, but the gradual increase in rate over the course of your loan can result in an interest rate and payments that quickly become unaffordable.”
“Borrowers with less than perfect credit are often offered loans with variable interest rates and later find the rate increases to be unmanageable. As such, it’s crucial to understand when your rate may increase, and whether or not there are caps on the amount the rate can increase.
If you have recently taken out a bad credit loan with an introductory rate, here is Tetreault’s advice:
“If your introductory rate is fixed for a certain period of time, use this time to improve your credit score. As your credit score improves you’ll be able to qualify for loans that offer better rates and terms, and you may be able to refinance your way out of your variable rate loan.”
Know before you borrow.
If you want to take advantage of a variable interest rate on a personal installment loan, an auto loan, or a mortgage, you’re going to need to do some research first. The more knowledge you have, the more confident you can be in your decision, and the less likely you are to be taken advantage of and end up in a predatory cycle of debt.
To learn more about the ins and outs of personal finance, check out these related posts and articles from OppLoans:
Joe Bailey is the Operations Manager at My Trading Skills (@MyTradingSkills), a financial trading courses provider. His experience includes web development, UX and conversion rate optimization for both B2B and B2C.
Levi Sanchez is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, BEHAVIORAL FINANCIAL ADVISOR™ and Founder of Millennial Wealth, LLC (@millennialwlth), a fee-only financial planning firm for young professionals and tech industry employees. Levi’s been quoted in the New York Times, Business Insider, Forbes, and is a frequent contributor to Investopedia. He is an avid sports fan, personal finance and investing geek, and enjoys a great TV show or movie. His mission is to help educate his generation about better money habits and provide financial planning services to those who want to start planning for their future today!
Rishit Shah is a blogger for TallySchool and currently is in CA Final level from India, the equivalent of CPA Final level in the US. He has been featured on Accounting Today and US Chamber of Commerce recently. He is interested in finance, accounting, and taxation. In his free time, he loves to write poetry.
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