Loan Consolidation: A First Hand Account

“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

This is going to be a quick one. Let’s be honest; there are already hundreds upon thousands of resources available to educate you on the best way to handle your student loan debt. Consolidation is always an option. Rather than telling you how I did it, or who I suggest you use, let me briefly explain why I did it and my story, as everyone’s situation is different. I owed a decent, not extraordinary amount of money upon graduating with my master’s degree- a cool 70k. While there are plenty of people who may owe 170k or even 270k, given my income level and my financial situation, it was still a burden for me to make the payments.

 

Yet, I had a plan. My total monthly payments before refinancing were going to be about $900 a month. Of that, $700 was for federal loans and $200 for private loans. While I could just afford this, I wasn’t comfortable having to be accountable for so much each month. I also have a mortgage and other expenses to pay. I looked into consolidating my loans and realized I could do it directly with the Federal Government rather than a private lender since most of my loans were government loans. I applied to a few private institutions but kept getting interest rates over 6%. Sticking with the Government I received a rate of 5.5%. The best I received by far. I then consolidated all of my government loans, which brought my total refinancing amount to about $59k. The remaining $10k was 4 small private loans which I kept under that lender. What I did, which has really helped me, was taking the longest repayment term I could with the government – a whopping 25 years !

 

Now, before you start yelling and shaking your head at me, listen to this. At 25 years, I was still going to pay the same interest rate as the 5 year loan. The only difference; they would take less for principal each month. We’re talking approximately $1k a month for a 5 year loan vs $360 for a 25 year loan. In turn, this alleviates the pressure to have to pay a high amount each month, especially if you don’t have the money. But I could always give them more.

My plan was to roll in more money each month as I paid down my other 4 loans. If I paid off a private loan which was about $50 a month, I would now give that additional $50 to the federal loan. Now that I owe less than $2k with my private lender, I can give my federal lender an extra $150 a month towards the principle. Therefore, I benefit from the same low interest rate as anyone else who refinances with the government (they set the rate), but I get to make the payments on terms that are more comfortable to me.

 

This alone means I will pay off my loan in less than 15 years now. As I make more money (hopefully) and pay off any other debts, I am hoping to eventually pay 700 a month. The additional 350 month would pay off the loan in less than 10 years. If I have some extra money from tax returns or bonuses, I can apply that to my loans as well. The beauty of the long term loan is not necessarily because you will take that long to pay off your loans, but because if you can’t afford the high payment for a period of time, you won’t be ruined financially. Therefore, the most important thing when refinancing is the interest rate and the payoff terms. Choose the longest amount of time you can at the best rate. You’ll be thankful you did! Do you have questions about the loan consolidation process? Let us know in the comments below!

3 Reasons Why Credit Means Nothing

“Inside of every problem lies an opportunity.” Robert Kiyosaki

Everywhere you look nowadays credit is required for you to make purchases. Whether it’s a car, a house, or even furniture; credit seems to dictate what we can and cannot have in our lives. Yet, what are people with bad credit supposed to do? I guess they just can’t have stuff and need to live in a box… Of course not! With a little strategy and a game plan you can literally have anything your heart desires. Here are my three reasons why Credit means nothing:

 

What is it – Credit to most people means how well they pay their bills on time. They make sure they pay everything timely and at least give a little something towards their debt. I look at credit a little differently. At face value having good credit means you are really good at borrowing other people’s money. Now I’m not saying stop paying your bills! But what I am saying is certainly be conscience of your purchases. Instead of maxing out a credit card and believe that you are “building credit” look at it as a charge card; only put a dollar amount that you can afford on it so you can pay your bill off in full when the time comes. What does this do? It lets you avoid the interest that is charged, saving you a ton of money!

 

Doesn’t Stop You From Making Money – When people ruin their credit by either foreclosing on a home, or going through a financial hardship they assume they’ll never be able to own anything ever again. That is simply not true. Having bad credit doesn’t stop you from making money. Will it take work and discipline to save to buy a home in cash? You bet your sweet cheeks it will. Yet, if you’re dedicated to it, why not? Many times student debt is another big issue when going to buy a home. Millennials have the highest student loan debt the nation has ever seen; many are putting big purchases like home ownership to the side because they simply can’t build up their credit fast enough to get approved for a loan. So what gives?

 

The Strategy – Huddle in, here’s the game plan if you have bad credit or if you haven’t had a chance to build your credit yet. If you’re credit is already on the downside there is still hope. If you do want to make a home purchase there are still a ton of lenders who deal with people with judgments or collections actions on their credit (If you live in NJ just send me an email, I’ll get a list to you). Say your credit is really in the gutter; then the answer is to produce income. Again Credit doesn’t stop you from making money. Creating good spending and saving habits can be life changing and you’ll never have to ask anyone for money again. Now say you are trying to build your credit what do you do? In the event you want to make a big purchase like a home and don’t have the credit to do so you can always get a co-signer for the loan with good credit (such as a parent) and then eventually drop their name from the loan. Say you don’t want to go that route what is the next best way? I would really start hammering down on your student loans (or the loan that is causing you the most debt) as much as you can. This way if you pay a good chunk of the loan down in just a few months your credit will improve and you’ll also show creditors that you’re serious about paying back debt.

 

Conclusion – If you have bad credit or haven’t had time to build up your credit yet; don’t sweat it! There are multiple ways to get around borrowing money. Remember that generating more income might be harder than just taking out a credit card, but owing nothing to anyone is really priceless. I’d love to get some thoughts on this blog. Has anyone had bad credit and turned it around? If so how did you do it and what were your steps? Let us know in the comments below!

5 Tips On How You Can Manage Your Student Debt Today

“Most people fail to realize that in life, it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you keep.” -Robert T. Kiyosaki

 

It’s time for us to have a heart to heart. One of my goals for this site is for it to become a complete resource for development. From career advice, to landing the job, to creating wealth. Today’s lesson: Debt. If you’re reading this I know you have some interest in getting out of debt but maybe aren’t sure how, or are so overcome with the balance of your debt that it might not even seem like it’s worth it. Just a little background, I was able to pay off all my student loans (about 45k) by 24 by just making $12.00/hr. I won’t lie, it was alot of hard work and strategy, but paying off student debt has put me in a really good position to accomplish my goal of financial freedom by 35. Today I’m going to share with you my top 5 tips on how you can manage your student debt today:

 

Start from the beginning – This might seem like an obvious place to start but it is oh so important. With student debt it’s really important to know and understand what you’re getting into. The issue is that you’re only 18 when you make one of the biggest financial decisions/investments of your life (#brokensystem). Student debt is incredibly interesting, many times what university or college you attend might not matter as much as you think it would when it comes time to start your career. If you are in the position where you are picking a college or thinking of going back to college, really weigh the return you might see from having a college degree with the debt you’ll be taking on. Furthermore think if you’d like to commute or dorm. I get the whole “college experience” thing and being away from home; but is it worth the extra 25k in tuition? Weigh your options carefully; you’ll be dealing with your decisions later in life.

 

Loan Consolidation – For many of us the “damage” is already done. I personally know I had a terrible return on my education first coming out of college. My debt was 45k and I came out making 12.00/hr or approximately 24k a year. For New Jersey, that really sucked. So how did I pay off those damn loans? First step, loan consolidation. After you graduate you might have 4-5 different loans floating around all with different interest rates. Take as many loans as you can and try to consolidate them under one interest rate. There are services such as So-Fi and Earnest that actually specialize in this; we have links to these sites on our resources page. By getting most of your loans under one interest rate you should save not only time, but a ton of money.

 

Get Aggressive – I have a really weird relationship with Money. I hate losing it, and spending it on stuff I won’t see a good return on; so college wasn’t exactly on my good side. I literally wanted to beat the proverbial snot out of my loans. How did I do this? Every month I’d get a statement, and every statement I’d give them a few hundred dollars more than what they asked for. Listen up, this is the big secret behind any debt: They get you with the interest rates. If you only make minimum payments you will be losing money every time you pay, even if your interest rate is low. The key is for you to feed that loan money until the interest rate no longer matters, and your payments are being applied solely to the principle of the loan. For example say your lender asks for $500/mo, give them $1,000.00 or $1500.00. Even if it’s $750 it’s still better than just paying the minimum balance.

 

Get Hustling – When I finally landed a fulltime job I remember being so relieved. I literally thought my work was done. I found a job, I spend 40 hours a week there, I then get to go home and play with my cat. I was crazy wrong. I’ve talked with so many graduates over the year whose salaries don’t justify their debt. (example 200k in debt vs 50k salary) Their full time jobs can’t support their debt never mind their lifestyle and cost of living. So what are they supposed to do? I honestly hate Math, but the one thing I like about it is that it’s very cut and dry. Sometimes there simply isn’t enough money, so you need to create money. How do you do that? You either pick up overtime at the current position you’re in, or you find a side hustle to make extra money to put towards your loans. In my instance I worked 50-60 hour weeks picking up any overtime I could for probably about a year and half to two full years; was it hard? Hell yea it was hard, but I was able to pay down my debt super fast and you learn to be grateful for the opportunity. So what are examples of some side hustles? You can pick up a part time job aside from your full time job, get your real estate license, give lessons on anything you are good at ex: guitar lessons, math tutoring, any bonuses you see from your full time job put towards your loans etc..,… If you get hustling you will be able to pay down your debt. no doubt about it

 

Saving Money Is The Same as Making Money – Often times when we feel there isn’t enough money in our lives we look for a higher paying job. We feel that if we only made more money than things would be so much easier. Sometimes that might be the case, but often times you can make lifestyle adjustments to accommodate your financial requests. If you ask me, it’s really important to track your finances and analyze what you are spending money on. When you have a loan payment coming up, did you really need to drop $300.00 on shoes? How about instead of going out to eat every day, try once a month? You see what I’m getting at. Luckily there are a plethora of tools out there to help track your spending and calculate your net worth. Probably the two best apps for calculating your networth is Mint, and Personal Capital. I personally use Mint. For me it gets the job done, it links to my accounts, tracks my spending, and calculates my networth. I can set personal goals for myself and make lifestyle adjustments around my goal. Both of these apps are incredible tools and I would certainly encourage anyone looking to advance their financial future to use them.

 

Conclusion – Student Debt can be an incredibly tough obstacle to tackle if you do not have a plan. I hope some of the above tips and strategies help you to eliminate your debt and start your journey to wealth accumulation! Remember that debt is completely controllable and might take some behavioral and lifestyle changes but can be managed. You got this! Do you have any tips, good sites, or apps that helped you with your student debt? Let us know in the comments below!

The Top Three Ways To Start Saving For Your Child’s Education

“It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.” – Warren Buffett

 

Here’s a true statement: Kids are expensive. One day they are going off to preschool and then before ya know it the little meatballs are on their way to college. My questions is, what is your savings plan for your child’s higher education? Is the responsibility on them to pay? Are you planning on helping them out with some of their college expenses? Or is it a hope scholarships will pay for their schooling? No matter what route you take you need to have a plan. That’s where I come in. In today’s blog I’m going to discuss some ways you can start saving for your child’s college education today:

 

529 Plan – The 529 College savings plan is a plan that allows you to automatically make contributions into an account specifically for your child’s education. Think of it like an IRA or retirement account, but for your child’s education. There are several tax advantages to 529 Plans such as being able to deduct contributions off your state income taxes as well. You can also choose various stock and bond options as a way to help your contributions grow; which in twenty or so years could add up by the time your child is ready for college, or another venture. So how do you get involved with signing up for a 529 Plan? Several brokerages offer them, my best advice would be to Google 529 College Savings Plan in your state and start doing a little research on the best ones. Keep in mind college savings plan vary state to state, as the tax rules are different; a great way to get educated quickly on a 529 College Saving plan is to talk to your CPA or Tax official!

 

Utilize The Gig Economy – Growing up I was fortunate enough for my mother to be a stay at home mom throughout most of my childhood. However for most parents today that isn’t exactly an option. In many areas the cost of living requires a two income figure to meet expenses. Yet I feel there is a way around this, by utilizing the gig economy. My parents introduced me to this concept back in the 90’s where my father would work a full time job, and even though my mom was a stay at home mom, she would baby sit and do other odd jobs on the side. It was those odd jobs that helped pay for my college education. Today’s gig economy makes it so easy to be able to make income through offering services; from tutoring apps to selling arts and crafts online, and many other ventures. What is wonderful about these options is that it allows you to carve out your day and accommodate your children yet stash away money from those side gigs into a college fund. Need a list of possible gig economy options? Check out our blog on the Gig Economy where we provide links to several sites you might find helpful!

 

Low Cost Exchange Traded Funds – For those of you who don’t know, my investment of choice (aside from Real Estate) are low Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). So what are ETF’s? ETF’s are a collection of stocks and bonds (kind of like a mutual fund). What is cool about ETF’s is that you can invest in higher end companies without paying a huge price for their stock. For instance Amazon is currently trading at $1,305.20. However I just bought an ETF for $70.00 which has 20% allocation in Amazon. See what I’m getting at? ETF’s also allow you to invest in specific industries. So say down the line you have a really good hunch that the Robotics industry is going to take off; you can invest in an ETF that specifically allocates stocks from Robotic’s companies. So how does this relate back to saving for your child’s college education? Well ETF’s are built for growth. Of course the growth percentage depends on the fund; but there are quite a bit of ETF’s that yield amazing dividends and growth in the long term, something that is needed when saving for your child’s college. To learn more about ETF’s do a little research on Google, other investment sites and blogs (check out our resources page), or ask us!

 

Conclusion – Saving for your child’s education is no easy task. However hopefully with some of the resources provided you can start today to stash a little money away for them before they they start the next phase of their life. Do you have any questions, thoughts, or comments on anything shared in today’s blog? Have you found a better or easier way to save for your child’s education? Let us know in the comments below, as always we love to hear from you!

Three Money Mindsets And What They Mean To Your Financial Future

“There is something about you. Something you carry, something made of gold… but far more PRECIOUS…” – Smaug (J.R.R Tolkien)

In case you haven’t guessed, I think… alot. I don’t always have the time on my hands but that doesn’t prevent me from always wondering “why.” Recently as I was making a rather large purchase, I thought to myself “ugh I don’t want to see my savings account drop like that.” This mere thought got me thinking: our money psychology defines so much of our financial future. Yet how we view money, spend it, and rationalize our purchases mostly come from the environment we live in. In today’s blog I’m going to discuss three types of money mindsets and what they mean to your financial future:

 

The Hoarder – If there’s one thing I’m really good at it’s money hoarding. Depositing paycheck after paycheck and watching my balance accrue makes me well… happy! But about a year ago I found this actually isn’t the best psychology to have. I remember I wanted to get into real estate investing, the problem being, houses cost money. So when it came time to fork over the money for the down payment on my first house, I was feeling financially stressed. What I didn’t realize is that hoarding money without investing won’t get you as far as you might think. Think about it, even if you spent years upon years saving up money, if the money isn’t growing it won’t last. The game is passive income or the notion of making money while you sleep. Whether it’s investments such as Index Funds, or even buying a piece of cash flowing real estate; it’s really important to invest your money. The growth and dividends is what will keep you going even when you might not be able to work anymore.

 

The Risk Taker – On the opposite end of the spectrum of Hoarding is the Risk Taker. The Risk Taker likes to take their chance on those risky investments and see if they win; as the payoff will be huge! In my investment career I’ve been in this mindset as well. When I first started investing in the stock market I was really into penny stocks and other high risk investments; you could even argue my first investment property was risky due to the amount of repairs it needed. So what defines this psychology? I’ve come to the conclusion that the amount of risk you are willing to hold relates back to mostly your age and where you are in life. It honestly makes sense for younger people to lean towards riskier investments, because if the investment goes south they still have time to recoup their losses and move on. A stock portfolio of a 25 and 60 year old will just not look even close to the same. The 60 year old, hopefully getting ready for retirement, will have much more conservative investments such as bonds, CD’s, etc… Remember it’s ok to take risks on investments, but really weigh your risks carefully; if it flops do you have enough time to come back from it?

 

The Over Extender – When it comes to money I believe most people fall into the Over Extender mindset. In this specific mindset our upbringing defines how we view money and what we spend it on. There are many people who view a car or even a single family home that you live in as an investment. To me, an investment is something that makes you money. A car payment or mortgage that you physically pay with your hard earned money isn’t something that I would consider an investment but rather a liability. Do homes appreciate in value? Of course they do; but is the money you get back from appreciation going to be the same amount of money that you spent paying off the mortgage for 30 years? Maybe, maybe not! It depends on the investment. When in the Over Extender mindset it’s important to realize your specific goals. If you want to break this mindset or cycle, it’s important to adopt the Hoarder Mindset. Start saving and then any money that would have gone towards debt or liabilities pour into cash producing investments. By taking this path it will be extremely hard to not become wealthy.

 

Conclusion – What mindset do you have when it comes to money? What kind of assets do you hope to invest in? It’s important to mention no matter what psychology you have towards money always strive towards your financial goals as they are more than attainable! Let us know what you think in the comments below!

How To Cultivate Confidence

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Recently I was talking to a friend of mine about some financial questions she had. She was having a really hard time bringing herself to be confident and believing in her financial decisions. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I mean in my eyes she’s one of the smartest people I know, yet she just couldn’t get on board with her own financial plan. This got me thinking quite a bit, and brought me to today’s topic of discussion: Confidence. How confident we are in our abilities has always been fascinating to me, as it’s completely dependent on our past experiences. In today’s blog I’m going to explain some ways you can find confidence even if you’ve had a bad experience in the past, or are experiencing something for the very first time! Without further adieu, let’s get started with cultivating your confidence:

 

Expectations – Expectations are a bit of a confidence killer. We all have expectations of how we think a conversation will go, or how a situation will turn out. Sometimes those situations go exactly or better than we planned (confidence booster) but other times not so much. A great way to avoid suffering a set back to your confidence is to approach each situation with an open mind, and really try to not distinguish an outcome as “good” or “bad”. The way I think of it, is that there is no such thing as good or bad, just life experience. Whatever happens, happens. By allowing those expectations to take a back seat, you start to live in the moment. Soon you’ll realize you adjust to situations not the way you wish they were, but how they really are!

 

Perception – Tying into my last point of approaching situations with an open mind, is the ability to mentally take a step back from situations; this will allow you to tremendously build your confidence. How you might ask? Perception is everything. Remember, we all have a general idea of how we want a conversation or situation to go (expectations) and it’s when those expectations aren’t met that our confidence declines. Yet, being able to take a step back and remove ourselves from the situation at hand is when our confidence can regroup. Remember there are technically no “bad” situations; they’re only bad because that is your perception of them. Just because you didn’t get that job doesn’t mean you have anything to be less confident about. Concentrate and reflect on what happened, one or two things you think you could do better, and get back out there!

 

Application – To cultivate confidence you need to practice. Many times when we are less than confident in our abilities, it’s the result of situations that we are unfamiliar with. How can we help this? By putting ourselves in situations that might be re-occurring in our lives, and use those experiences as continuous trials. For example, in my everyday life, my work as a debt collector, real estate agent, and landlord all require some form of negotiation. Here’s the thing: I’m non confrontational, and hate it when people aren’t happy; so I certainly wasn’t confident in my negotiating abilities, and as a result was a terrible negotiator. So how did I get better at my negotiation skills? Through every day life I was always subjected to some form of negotiation (which often times I would avoid at all costs); yet, the more and more I put myself in those situations the more I became aware of my unique strengths in that area. It was a pure result of approaching negotiations with a malleable open minded expectation, having the ability to step away from the negotiation and see what the other party was saying/thinking, and me constantly being in those situations that allowed me to get much better at that skill set; which in turn cultivated my confidence.

 

Conclusion – I’ve said this a ton of times throughout the blogs in this site; but I’ll say it again for good measure 🙂 We are creatures of our environment there is nothing that we as a species cannot do. If you are less than confident with interviewing, resume writing, or even financial negotiations with a credit card company; practice, practice, practice. If you don’t get the outcome you were hoping for, don’t judge yourself based on your expectations. Take a step back, and see things how they really are; you’ll soon see your confidence grow as you become more comfortable in situations you never thought you’d be comfortable in! How do you cultivate your confidence? What are some ways you put things into perspective? Share your thoughts and comments below!

How To Negotiate Down Credit Card Debt

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but with creatures bristling with prejudice and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie

Ah, the aftermath of the holidays, nothing like starting out a New Year with a crap ton of credit card debt from holiday shopping and any other expenses! That’s how I started out this year, a cool 2k in the hole. Now a little background about me, I NEVER put more on a credit card than I can pay off at one time. In fact, for the past ten years I’ve paid all my balances off in full essentially using my credit card as a “charge card”. Why? Because I hate having to pay interest. So as I was bumming around this morning, I thought I’d give my credit card company a call. Today’s blog is about some useful insight I picked up from that phone call,and some negotiation tactics I used to get what I wanted :

 

Know What You Want – Before going into any negotiation you want to do your homework and identify what you want. In my case I had two options in mind, either get a reduced rate to pay my balance back, or get the balance reduced. Additionally study up on the terms of your credit card. In my case my APR was 18.15% so I knew if I was going to negotiate an interest rate I wanted something closer to 10%. If I was able to reduce my balance I knew I would be comfortable reducing my balance of $2000, by $600 to about $1400.00 total. Notice how my goals were practical. Trying to negotiate down your entire balance probably won’t work, but try reducing it a comfortable amount for both you and the credit card company.

 

Have The Leverage – During the entire conversation I had the leverage. How did I know? Because I’ve been with the same credit card company for 10 years, have never called them to reduce a rate or balance, and I pay in full every month; this was my leverage for the conversation. After speaking with the first representative I explained my situation truthfully saying I had some expenses that I didn’t anticipate and would like to negotiate my terms. I would always lead the conversation back to how I’m a loyal customer, have never called them to do this before, etc… The representative said he was able to offer me 14% for 7 months. This was a really good sign, because it showed me they were able to budge. I still wanted more though, so I came back with saying, how about 10% and reducing the balance to $1400.00 he then said he had to check with is supervisor.

 

Holding Music…

 

After a 10 minute hold the Representative came back to me saying that the 14% rate for 7 months was the best he could do. Now, here’s a really important tip: Never yell your head off at a Representative! Keep calm, collected, and dig dangerously into your empathy instead. I replied “Raj, you have been so helpful! Thank you so much for your help and time I really appreciate you taking the time to take care of me. This obviously isn’t the resolution I was hoping for. Would I be able to speak with your supervisor? Just so I can understand their perspective.” Without any issues I was transferred to a supervisor.

 

More Holding Music….

 

After speaking with the supervisor and explaining what I wanted (either a further reduced interest rate or a reduction in principal) the supervisor mentioned she might be able to do something for me. She then offered me 0% interest for 2 months. This sounded like a good deal to me because I knew I could pay off the balance technically now if I needed to; but 2 months interest free would buy me time with paying down the balance while not having to take everything out of my savings account all at once. This solution met my need. After accepting the terms I thanked the supervisor for her time and more importantly took down a reference number (always, always, always take down reference numbers. This way if something or someone doesn’t follow through on your phone call, you can call back and someone can look up the reference number and pick up where you left off).

 

The Strategy – As a recap here are some key takeaways when negotiating credit card debt.

Be Kind – It’s so important to be kind but firm to the Representatives on the other line. Keep the approach “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar” in your mind. Between holding times, language barriers, and the Representatives not listening to your needs at times, it can be a really frustrating process. But remember to keep your cool!
Be Persistent – In the first point I made in this blog I mentioned to lay out your game plan. Know what you want to get out of your phone call. Every time I negotiate I physically write my goal down. If the conversation gets away from me, I have my goal and what I want to accomplish written down right in front of me, to get me back on track.
Leverage Yourself – The only reason I was able to meet my goal is because I had leverage. I knew I was a great customer of to my credit card company. In order to get reciprocation you need to be a valuable client. If I never paid my bills and had outstanding credit card bills, ten to one they wouldn’t have been as flexible with me.

Conclusion – So what do you think? Next time you have a large credit card balance will you try to negotiate your terms to save some money? Let us know in the comments below!

Life Hack: How To Get Paid To Go To The Gym

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you’re like me, you love Life Hacks. Life can be hard and stressful enough, so when an opportunity arises to be creative AND make things easier I’m there! Now, I’ve always thought about going to the gym but I’ve never really acted on it; primarily due to the financials. My logic being: if I can buy a piece of equipment to work out on, why would I pay a monthly fee to use virtually the same equipment at a gym? However that was before I actually realized you could make money by going to the gym. In today’s blog I’m going to outline not just how you can get paid to go to the gym and fitness centers; but how preserving your physical health is essential to your financial well-being:

Did Someone Say Insurance – I always considered my full time job as a medical debt collector a bit of an oxymoron. Mainly I deal with insurance reps and patient’s who owe several clinics money; my job is to get this money from them and strike up various payment plans etc… I always thought it was a little funny how my job is to talk to insurance companies, who make money by me staying healthy, who in turn raise my blood pressure and at times destroy my mental health (#gofigure!?). In any case, I recently started looking into gym memberships to combat high blood pressure and just to release some stress. Then I got an idea: does insurance cover gym memberships? I started to dive a little deeper into this and discovered most insurances do!

How It Works – Personally I have BCBS (Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey) as my insurance carrier and they have a program called HorizonbFit. Essentially they participate with bigger gym franchises such as (LA Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Golds Gym, etc… )* and will reimburse $20/mo (or $240/yr) if you go to the gym 12 times a month! So you might be thinking ok… how can I get paid to go to the gym? Well say you do have Horizon BCBS and have a planet fitness membership (which can start at as little as $10/mo or $120/yr) if you go 12 times a month you’ll be eligible for a rewards of up to $20/mo. This essentially means you can get paid $120.00 ($240 in rewards – $120 gym membership = $120.00) to go to the gym! *Please note that BCBS plans outside of NJ might participate with different fitness centers and gyms around your area. The best way to find out if your gym participates with your BCBS plan is to go to the HorizonBFit website and type in your plan ID number and location.

 

What Are Some Other Ways I Can Save? – The cool part about gym incentive programs from insurance companies are that there are other ways to save. Many times people forget that saving money is the same as making money! Even if you’re insurance carrier doesn’t cover the full yearly amount of your gym membership, that is money you are saving; which in turn can be allocated towards an investment that will make you money! Think about it, even if you saved $100/yr extra and invested that money each year in an IRA or other dividend/passive income producing asset, the return on your money would grow without question.

Health Benefits – It goes without question that Healthcare Costs in the United States is a topic that needs alot of addressing. Premiums are through the roof for many people who seek insurance independently, making it barely affordable. However, by utilizing a gym incentive program you cannot discount the obvious benefit: your health! Think of utilizing a gym incentive program as not only getting a free (or close to free) gym membership, but saving on Doctors visit copays, visits to specialists, and other types of medical emergencies which might be brought on by neglect of physical activity.

Conclusion – Overall, utilizing and looking into a gym incentive program might be just want the Doctor ordered (in my case literally). However don’t discount the benefits physical exercise can have on your financial health. Saving money is the same as making money and how you allocate and invest those savings can have a dramatic effect on your future financial health. The key takeaway: take care of yourself!

*For a complete List of Gyms that are covered by your insurance fitness incentive program it is best to call your insurance company.

Helpful Links For Fitness Programs:

What Is Your Plan For The Next Financial Meltdown?

“Only I have no luck any more. But who knows? Maybe today. Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.” – Ernest Hemingway

 

Last week was a rough week for the stock market. After the Dow plunged over a thousand points during a trading day most investors, including myself, proverbially shit ourselves. However after the Dow had it’s meltdown and the market starts to rebound most will lose their focus; yet, what if I told you last week was just the tip of the iceberg? A storm is coming and you need to be prepared to weather that storm. In today’s blog I’m going to make some market predictions for the years to come and more importantly explain some practical investment options you have to not only save your wealth, but how you can create more:

 

Start Saving – The best way to prepare for a market downturn is to start saving your money, because those with it are going to score big. We know the best time to invest in housing, and stocks is when the market is collapsing. As people are feverishly taking their money out of the market trying to save their losses; that is when you are going to strike to pick up stocks and other investments at a discounted rate. It’s easy to forget that we have been in a bull market for the past 10 years. However, what goes up must come down. So if you’re thinking about making a big investment now; I would really consider to think about that investment. In a few years your money and liquid cash might be able to get you much further.

 

Welcome Back Interest Rates – Here’s what we know: interest rates are going to rise. The Fed has to raise them to fight inflation. Right now with rates sitting at just above 4% we still have it really good. However when those rates start to get to the 5-6% range we will see some changes in several markets. The housing market will probably take a generally big hit. Higher rates will more than most likely deter home buyers, and as a result will make the rental market considerably strong around the country. So what does that mean? It means if you were thinking about selling your investment property, you might want to hold on to it for a few more years as rents will increase. On the flip side if you were thinking of buying a home, now might be a good time to do so to avoid higher rents, and capitalize while interest rates are still moderately low.

 

We will also see student loan interest rates go up as well. This is going to result in a sticky situation because there are many who already have issues paying back student loans. Higher interest rates may make the probability of default more likely; which is never a good sign.

 

Yet, rising interest rates aren’t always a bad thing. With increased interest rates we will see the return of investment vehicles such as bonds and CD’s (welcome back!). For the past 10 years the best investment vehicles to rely on has been real estate due to low interest rates, and the stock market due to consumer confidence. Bonds and CD’s are a wonderful way to tie up money and watch it grow over 5-10 years. Those with liquid money can really cash in with this investment vehicle by making interest rates work for them!

 

Patience – The next financial collapse that we see will involve a much larger portion of the millennial generation. During the financial crisis of 2008 many of us were still attending high school or college and certainly didn’t have money to play with in terms of investments. For the instant gratification generation, it will be extremely easy to see how our patience plays out when timing the market. My prediction is that in the next 3 years we start to see more market declines. Not to be a real buzz kill, but the next financial crisis will be worse than the financial crisis of 2008. Why you might ask? Well I have a strange feeling that student debt is going to play a big role in how the economy responds.

 

Whenever I see “loan forgiveness” or lengthy deferment programs; I cringe. The reason I view loan forgiveness as signs of a weakening economy is because the financial institutions aren’t getting paid. I get it “banks have enough money, why do they need yours?” Well just like the 2008 financial crisis was brought on by careless lending in the housing market, the next financial crisis could very well be brought on by careless lending for student loans. If loans aren’t being paid back due to increased interest rates, lack of jobs, or a decrease in wages; the economy will certainly feel that.

 

Conclusion – Financial meltdowns are inevitable. However individually and as a society we need to roll with the punches that the market might have in store for us. The best we can do is always be preparing and protecting our assets and hard earned money. Always assessing our risk and evaluating the market conditions is a great start. We know the financial dip of the stock market last week was just a taste of what’s to come. By taking the above steps you can start to plan and hopefully get a sense where the market might be headed in the upcoming years. Where do you think the market is going? How do you plan to prepare for a market decline? Share your thoughts and comments below! We’d love to hear them!

The Three Biggest College Expenses (Aside From Tuition) And How To Eliminate Them

“The single most powerful asset we all have is our mind. If it is trained well, it can create enormous wealth in what seems to be an instant.”– Robert T. Kiyosaki

 

Nowadays, when college comes to mind the first thing our focus is drawn to is the tuition. Without a doubt this is for good reason. College tuition has skyrocketed in recent years causing a massive bubble, and not to mention incredible turmoil in America’s future economy. Due to students who are riddled in debt; the future economy will see (and to some point has already seen) delays in home ownership, and the decision to start families. Although it may seem virtually impossible to save on college costs, I’m here to tell you there is! In today’s blog I’m going to discuss college costs that we can control specifically textbooks, commuter costs, and housing. Stay tuned, to find out the Three Biggest College Expenses and how you can save and prepare for them:

 

Text Books – Textbooks are probably the biggest college expense next to Tuition. If you take enough classes you can easily rack up a 1k bill in text books in a semester. However I have a few ways you can take on this expense so that it is virtually no cost to you.

 

The first rule is to never buy your books from the University bookstore. Many times bookstore prices are crazy inflated, and for a book you will need for 15 weeks it’s usually not worth it. Instead your first stop should be your town library or university library. Essentially if the library has the book, you can keep renewing the book for 15 weeks; this results in you never having to spend a dime on your text book. Now it’s possible, the library won’t have your textbook, or worse, the right edition required for your class. No worries at all! Still steering clear of your University Bookstore, the next stop is to try Google Books!

 

Many times Professors will only require you to read a few chapters from an entire book. Luckily Google Books has previews of many chapters of educational texts. I would use google books to see if you can locate those chapters, or the book in it’s entirety, as you might not need to spend any money at all on a textbook.

 

Another idea should be a site like Amazon or my go-to, Ebay. Both Amazon and Ebay allow you to purchase books from outside vendors which allow for the pricing to be competitive; and for you to get a better deal.

Lastly, many times you can also find students who have previously taken your class who are selling their books; many universities have Facebook Pages dedicated to educational items for sale by students which again can lead to a great deal. The bottom line is that tuition is expensive enough; you should be spending anything on educational textbooks in 2018!

 

Commuter Costs – Ah the days of being a commuter. Going to a mostly commuter school I realized and started to appreciate the art of creating an accommodating schedule for myself. The last thing you want to do is have to constantly leave campus to go to work or because you have massive downtime. To respect your time, energy, and gas money; you want to focus on optimizing your schedule. What that means is scheduling your classes on 2-3 days out of the week. So say instead of taking a class a day, pack your schedule full of classes so you are only on campus just a few days a week; this will respect your time and the amount of gas you spend getting to campus. To take things a step further apply for an on campus job. What this does is it really maximizes your time and availability on the days you are on campus. If you do have any downtime in between classes you can put in a few hours at work! By just taking this approach you’ll save thousands of dollars in gas money and wear and tear on your car over the course of your college career.

 

Off-Campus Housing Costs – Housing is one of the biggest expenses a person can endure, whether in college or not. Yet in college how can you beat or drastically reduce this expense? Assuming you do not have the option to stay at home close to rent free (that’s a no brainer!) there are some ways to make a smart financial decision all the while achieving your autonomy. The first step should be getting roommates to split the cost of rent. This makes it really easy for everyone to save some money while having a roof over their head.

 

I know what you might be thinking; in my area rents are so high I’d need like 8 roommates to afford rent! Being from New Jersey, and a Landlord, I get it! Here is a little insider information that might help. Landlords love people who will watch after their property. To get a reduced rent ask the landlord two things: Can I help be your property manager; I’ll make sure the property is in good condition, field tenant phone calls, remind people to pay on time; do this in exchange for cheaper rent.

 

The next question you might want to ask is if you can sublet the space. So say you pay 1k/mo for a 2 bedroom unit; what would happen if you started to AirBNB out the second room? This way you could potentially make your rent back and live for free. Of course you want to run all of these ideas by your landlord first as there might be certain stipulations in your lease and location.

 

Bonus – Just for getting through this longer than usual blog I have a little bonus on how you can allocate money for Textbooks, commuter costs, and housing costs all before stepping foot in college. The answer lies within investing. As some of you might have guessed by now, I love my low cost ETF’s and index funds. The reason I love these types of funds is because they can see a growth rate of 5-10% if not more! But they take time to grow. So let’s talk hypothetical here: say in high school you worked really hard part time and were able to make 1-2k. Now by investing that 1-2k in a mutual fund (529 college savings plan) or index fund, your money can continue to grow exponentially. Which means that your money continues to replenish itself. Without a doubt, that money which will continue to grow can help with textbooks, housing, and commuter costs. Additionally the money that you save from the aforementioned costs is really just money back in your pocket that you can save, spend, or invest.

 

Conclusion – When attending any higher education institution tuition is, and should be, your main financial focus. However other expenses that we might not realize creep in. These other expenses with some planning and creative thinking can all but be drastically reduced or completely eliminated. What are your thoughts? What are some strategies that you think students can use to reduce their college expenses? Let us know in the comments below!