Handling Finances After Graduating College

Handling Finances After College Image.jpgLife on campus is kind of like life in a bubble. Everything you really need is contained within a relatively small space. Housing, dining, and education are all included as part of the package and you’re not required to worry about being able to eat if the month runs out of money. You only need to slum it in the college cafeteria and the rent is typically paid up until the end of term.

After college, though, life begins to change and handling your finances becomes far more critical. These tips will help you make sure you have enough money for the month and that all your bills are paid on time so that you don’t have to worry about the painful choice between food, phone, or lights.

Establish a Budget
This is one of the first things you need to do upon graduating, getting a job, and preparing to move out on your own. Set a budget that includes vital things, such as:
  • Rent
  • Utilities
  • Mobile phone service
  • Food
  • Entertainment
  • Clothing
  • Vehicle related expenses (don’t forget maintenance, insurance, fuel, etc.)
  • Cable/Internet service
  • Parking
  • Health insurance
  • Savings
  • Giving

These things add up quickly and many of them are often not considered when establishing a budget. Unfortunately, failing to do so can be catastrophic if these numbers are used to justify a major purchase or a higher rent location.

Pay Bills on Pay Day

It’s easy for money to get away from you when you least expect. This is especially the case in a world where it only takes the swipe of a card to pay your bills and buy the next shiny new thing that comes along. Paying essential bills (rent, utilities, car note, credit cards, etc.) on the corresponding pay day means that the money that is spent afterwards isn’t money that was earmarked for these vital expenses.It may not be pleasant to survive the month on ramen noodles and store brand macaroni and cheese, but it’s infinitely better than having your power disconnected.

Establishing this practice early will ensure that you are creating positive spending and credit habits. One or two months of a ramen noodle diet will have you quickly reassessing your budget and spending to look for appropriate changes.

Learn to Live Within Your Means

This is one of the hardest lessons to learn in a consumer driven society. Now, however, is a great time to learn that you don’t need a new iPhone every year.

Even bigger is the lesson that you don’t need the endless data plan either. Chances are that most of your time is spent at home or work. Use your Wi-Fi and cut down your data to a crawl to save big on your mobile service each month. Look for other areas where you can cut costs too.

These savings and life lessons add up fast. They will certainly help you make it through those leaner first years on your own after graduating college with your credit score intact.

Weekly Cartoon: Manage vs. Lead

Managing when I should have been leading2

What are your thoughts?  Is it more important to lead or to manage?

Remembering the Real Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day in Arlington National CementeryA funny thing tends to happen with federal holidays in the United States – even though they’re often born with only the noblest of intentions, people soon seem to place emphasis in the wrong areas: namely, a day off of work. Such is the case with Memorial Day, an annual holiday that people tend to get far too caught up in the commercial aspects of like a long weekend, sales and picnics. That’s all well and good, but it’s always important to take a minute to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, and to honor the sacrifices of the men and women who made it possible to enjoy these things in the first place.
The Origin of Memorial Day

The first thing to understand about Memorial Day is that it’s actually a lot older than you probably realize. It started all the way back in 1868 and was called “Decoration Day” after the American Civil War. It was designed to be a time of peace for the country to decorate the graves of Union soldiers following a lengthy period of battle that changed the shape of the United States forever.

Memorial Day as we know it came about when “Decoration Day” and a competing holiday designed to honor Confederate soldiers merged. The name was changed to reflect the fact that everyone who sacrificed their lives should be honored, regardless of which side they happened to fight on. As the country engaged in more wars over the following decades, Memorial Day became a way to honor ALL troops who protected our shores in conflicts both foreign and domestic.

Support is About More Than Remembrance: Charitable Organizations for Soldiers

Before you head out to that great backyard barbecue this year, consider making a contribution to one of the following charities. They exist in the spirit of Memorial Day itself, as a way to honor members of the armed forces and their families who have given their all so that we can enjoy so much.

* The Wounded Warrior Project
* Support Our Troops
* The Gary Sinise Foundation

Thank you to all who served.

Weekly Cartoon: Spinners

Will work for spinners

Have you ordered your own spinner yet?  How long do you think the craze will last?

Preparing Your Child to be a Financially Responsible Adult

Dad helping daughter move into University
A kiss on the cheek, a pat on the head, a car packed to the brim and your precious baby is off to begin the first steps of his or her adult life. You’ve fed her, raised her and kept her out of trouble (as much as possible, that is) and you’ve taught her how to live her life as a responsible adult.

Before she leaves, though, it is paramount to help her understand her finances and what adult life will have in store. Here are a few tips to include in the conversation to help your child become a financially responsible adult:

1. Save

A penny saved is a penny earned, but more importantly, a penny that could be used to grow into a small fortune one day. Savings is an important part of any adult’s life as it helps to steer clear of purchasing on credit and racking up unnecessary debt. Most things can wait and saving up for things cuts out interest fees and creates a sense of accomplishment.

2. Create an Emergency Fund

Although this is similar to saving, it is for a different purpose. While you can save for a new car, a down payment on a house or apartment or something fun, an emergency fund is strictly for those unexpected things in life. A flat tire, fewer hours at work or any other sudden expense can be crippling, so it is important to have a good amount saved up for such occasions. A good rule of thumb is a month’s rent or at least one thousand dollars.

3. Employment

Even if it is only part-time, having steady employment can help teach a college student how to manage responsibilities and priorities as well as give them a little extra money to save or use for fun. They will also receive real-world experience in dealing with customers and bosses, even if it is not in their particular field.

When searching for a job post-college, it is always good to have experience to show you know how to work. But it will also be helpful if your field does not have a position available and you have to search for employment in a different profession.

As a parent, you want your child to be successful. Smart money management habits are a part of that success, and so you’ll want to make sure your child is prepared to handle his or her money responsibly.

Are Our Kids Being Dumbed Down?

Can't find the undo button
Kids today have to cram so much information into a relatively limited amount of time, but is all that information resonating and helping them achieve? Is the “dumbing down of kids” a real thing or just older folks (who don’t remember their own childhood) complaining? An increased reliance on technology, overscheduling and the need for instant gratification may be making kids seem dumber than before when they really just aren’t honing their problem-solving skills.

Can you Make Change?

The cash register serves a purpose, from tracking inventory and anticipated revenue to holding currency — but some cashiers are so dependent on it that they can’t make change without it. Is the ability to do math or make change quickly becoming a lost art because of Common Core or because of a loss of focus on practical skills? How often do today’s kids actually handle cash or see it used? In an increasingly digital and tech-friendly shopping setting, even small children see parents using cards instead of cash and may not be faced with making change until they are in front of the register, struggling with dimes and nickels.

Abridged (or Eliminated) Books

Abridgment can make a piece of literature easier to read, but may also leave behind all the details that make the book a classic in the first place. A recent piece in Philly Mag highlighted this issue; the author’s son was learning about the Great Gatsby, without every encountering the novel itself. Classics like the Jungle Book, Island of the Blue Dolphins and even Little House on the Prairie are being simplified to encourage reading — often rendering the story unrecognizable. Abridgment may make a book shorter and more appealing, but leave the story an empty husk — try discussing a classic with someone who has only read a summary or seen a movie and you won’t really have much of a conversation.

Stranger Things and Technology

The Netflix hit Stranger Things breaks away from technology and focuses on the mostly pre-tech 80s; aside from a cordless phone and walkie-talkie, the characters in this breakout hit have to rely on their own wits and fortitude. These 80’s kids were able to ride around pretty freely and used a pencil, paper and compass to figure things out — critical thinking skills that developed naturally with use. Would a modern child be able to determine “where” to go with just a simple compass — or would they be stuck without a modern phone with maps and texting capabilities?

We have more resources than ever before — but are we slowly becoming dumber? Probably not, we’re just not getting the opportunity to fully develop manual skills and critical thinking skills before receiving a device that does all the work for us. It’s not a thinking problem — it is faster to use Google than look something up in a book, after all.

There’s no question that some things are becoming a lost art and while technology has greatly enhanced the lives and safety of today’s kids, it can contribute to a reduction in actual life or living skills and problem-solving abilities.

Thoughts?

Moms – the ultimate superheroes.

Super Mom

She cooks; she cleans; she drives you to softball practice. When you are too old to drive to softball, she has the perfect advice on how you should drive. She’s Mom the Superhero, and she has your back from the very first breath that you take on this planet. She packed your lunch, and she still packs it if you let her. She has dinner waiting on you when you get home, even if that trip home takes years to make. She’s Mom, and she will always be your first superhero.

Until you become a mother (or a dad – close enough), you will never truly understand the sacrifices that mom made to make your life so easy. Everything else doesn’t just fall by the wayside just because mom is mom. Mom still deals with adult problems – problems that she tried her best to shield you from for as long as possible.

When was the last time that you gave your mom a truly heartfelt “thank you” – Mother’s Day last year? There is nothing wrong with setting aside time for a special thanks. That’s what Mother’s Day is all about. However, we should all be thanking our moms every day. They are, after all, the ultimate superheroes of our lives. They are the people who give us the strength and the example to be superheroes for our kids.
Never forget who made you who you are. It was always, and it will always be, MOM!

PS – Don’t forget to show your mom how special she is on Mother’s Day!