Tag Archives: Investing

Next Steps to Take After Paying Down Student Debt

When you have finished paying off student loans, it is time to start building your wealth. It’s also time to achieve some of life’s most important milestones.

But first, I want to talk about the negative effects that student loans can have on your future.

There are many people that go to the bank to buy a home with tens of thousands of dollars of student debt on their shoulders. The loan officer looks at the debt and you can almost see the look of disappointment in their eyes because they are going to have to tell you that the student loans are driving up your debt-to-income ratio.

If you say, “but my loans are deferred” or “my loans are in forbearance,” the loan officer is going to look at you and tell you that it doesn’t matter because the debt has to be paid back eventually. At some point, while owning a home or car, the repayments may begin on your loans. That consumes part of your income. The bank doesn’t want to take the risk of you not having enough income to make your payments to them.

It is devastating, and it happens every day.

To keep this from happening to you, it is best to pay down your student loans as fast as you can so you can enjoy buying a home or new car without receiving bad news while sitting at the loan officer’s desk.

Think About Retirement

Another milestone that student loans can interfere with is investing. When you’re dealing with student loan payments, it’s difficult to put money into anything else. Of course, you can increase your income with a second job or find side gigs like I did. However, I still didn’t have a lot of room for investing until the student debt was gone.

Investing can take many forms. You can invest in stocks, bonds, or mutual funds. You can even invest in real estate, the mortgage market, or business ventures. There are many things that you can do with your money when you have the funds to do it. Think about being able to retire early or just retirement in general.

The last thing you want to do is retire and find that you don’t have enough income. There are many senior citizens filing bankruptcy because of pensions that fall short, social security that isn’t enough, and medical benefits that are still too expensive.

Think About Your Family 

With student debt gone, it is also easier to expand your family on the financial end of things. When you don’t bring children into debt, you’re able to focus more on the financial needs of your child.

It is difficult to bring a child into a debt situation because so much of your income has to be put into debt while meeting the needs of your family. Of course, it can be done. But do you want to go through that struggle if you don’t have to?

Of course not!

Regardless of what phase of your life you are in, it is important to pay off your student loans quickly. Those high balances are holding you back in more ways than one. Many good people who went to college to do something meaningful and make a good income are plagued with debt for a while after graduation. They make their minimum payments but still pay the collateral consequences of having the debt.

It can be heart-wrenching to struggle or be told “no” by a bank when all you’re doing is what you’re supposed to do.

The fact is that you need to go above and beyond what you’re supposed to do to get ahead as soon as you possibly can.

Even if you already have a family, a strict budget and some discipline can help you pay down the student debt so you can start working on other milestones in life. It’s best to pay off debt as soon as you can, but don’t ever think you are too late. People thinking that they are too late causes them to not be aggressive with their debt when being aggressive can be one of the best things they ever do for themselves and their family.

Jacob runs Dollar Diligence where he blogs about debt repayment, saving money, and side hustles. For more advice and content, follow him on Twitter.

 

Financial Independence: A Universal Goal

While reaching early retirement is my goal, it might not be suitable for everyone.  On the other hand, the goal of reaching financial independence should be the focus of everyone during their working years.  Even though most careers seem to drag on forever, the amount of time that we have available to work and save money is truly finite.  Everyone should have the goal of saving enough money to cover at least 25 years of living expenses.  It does not matter if you enjoy your career or not.  This rule applies to everyone.  The sooner you start working towards reaching financial independence, the better off you will be.

Reasons to Achieve Financial Independence

Job Loss

Today, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is around 4.5%.  Most employers are now hiring.  Many jobs are even going unfilled.  Unfortunately, this can change in a flash.  Recessions occur as part of the business-cycle.  When business slows down, companies need to reduce expenses to remain profitable.  One of the easiest ways to reduce expenses is to reduce labor costs.  When this transition occurs, hard-to-fill jobs become hard-to-find jobs.

Losing a job is one of the most stressful situations that a person or a family might face.  By being financially independent, the stress can be removed or drastically reduced.  If you have many years of living expenses stashed away in savings, a job loss can be viewed as an opportunity to take an extended vacation from work, start a business, or explore working in a different line of work.  Financial independence affords options.

Defined Benefits

Since the start of the new century, employers who offer defined benefit plans have been on the decline.  Gone are the days when people work for a company for 35 years and receive $40,000 per year for the rest of their life after they retire.  Employers do not want to have to pay the costs or take on the risk of being liable for underfunded pension promises.  Defined benefit plans are even on the decline in government jobs.

This now puts the responsibility of paying for retirement on the employees in the form of a defined contribution benefit (401K).  The individual is now burdened with the responsibility of saving enough money for retirement.  Many people lack the sophistication to correctly determine how much they need to save and do not have the ability to manage this type of investment account.

If managed correctly, defined contribution accounts are great tools for saving money that can contribute to a person’s financial independence.  The money that is invested grows in a tax deferred account.  Most defined contribution accounts now offer low-cost index funds and target-date retirement funds.  In some cases, employers also match a percentage of their employee’s contributions.

Everyone should start by contributing 15% of their salary to their 401K.  After that, work on increasing contributions by 1% per year.  Increases the contributions every year until you are contributing the maximum amount allowed by the IRS.

Social Security

Social Security is going to run out of money by 2034 unless the government makes some major changes.  That does not mean that Social Security is going to go away.  At that point, Social Security will be funded by payroll taxes.  Based on the current projections, Social Security will be able to pay $0.75 for every $1.

By reaching financial independence, a person does not have to rely solely on Social Security to fund their retirement.  Even if Social Security was fully funded, it does not provide enough in benefits for most people to enjoy a high quality of life.  To ensure a high quality of life in the future, switch your focus from relying on Social Security to cover your future expenses to working towards becoming financially independent.  By doing this, you will be able to view Social Security as a nice supplemental income stream.

Health

Too many people think that, they can work forever.  You might be healthy today, but that can and will most likely change with age.  Yes, we can eat right, exercise, and keep up with doctor visits.  In some cases, we can take measures to improve our health.  The gross reality of the situation is that most people cannot keep up the physical and mental pace of a demanding career once they reach a certain age.

By being financially independent, a person has the option of being able to retire on their terms and to enjoy life while they are still young and healthy.  Life is not too much fun without money.  Life is less fun when you are in poor health.  Once your reach financial independence, you will not have to stress about being forced to work because you do not have the resources to sustain your lifestyle without the income from a job.

Family

Not only do we owe it to our self to reach financial independence, but we also owe it to our family.  We only have one shot at life.  By reaching financial independence, we can do so much for our loved ones.

By being financially independent, a parent or grandparent can better provide what their children or grandchildren need to be successful in life.  Financial independence provides security for a spouse and can reduce the  financial stress in the relationship.  Also, by being financially independent, you can be present in the lives of those you live with, extended family, and friends.

Conclusion

When you think of financial independence, do not only think of it in terms of being able to retire early or live a luxurious lifestyle.  Look at it as necessity.  Life happens and we do not know what is around the corner.  By being financially independent, you take more control over your life.  People who are financially independent have options that others who lack resources do not have.

Some say that control is an illusion.  On some levels, it is.  For example, we do not have control from one breath to the next.  However, losing a job and not having money is not an illusion.  By becoming Financial independent, you can take control where it is possible.  You are also able to enjoy a freedom that is available to almost everyone, yet experienced by so few.

How I learned about money

I learned about money from my Grandmother.  I was a precocious kid.  As an only child, I spent a great amount of time with adults.  The adults in my life had the tendency to try to have dialog with me as if I too were an adult.  Friends from school would come over to my house to play quite often, but I remember spending a great amount of time with my Grandmother.

My Grandmother owned her own small business.  She was a seamstress.  She worked for a few different bridal shops.  She also worked for a men’s clothing store.  Most days, she would pick me up after school and take me to her shop.  She would watch me until my Mother would pick me up on her way home from work.

It did not take me long to catch on to the theory of commerce.  Her customers would drop off cloths to be altered.  She would make the alterations with her sewing machine.  The customers would pick up their cloths and pay her.  When I earned good grades, she would take me to KB Toys and buy me Star Wars action figures.  Even though I was only 5 or 6, I understood this process.

There were also times when I would ask her to buy me a toy and she would say that she could not afford it.  She would explain that business was slow and she did not earn much money that week.  She said that she only had money for food, gas for her car, and other needs.  She taught me at a young age that if you want money, you must work to earn it.

That was a complex theory to comprehend at such a young age.  I was only in first grade.  I do not have a psychology degree.   I can, however, see that my frugal ways and entrepreneurial spirit were shaped by her teaching me how business worked.

The second lesson that she taught me was equally as profound.  She and I would sit together in her shop.  I would do my school work and she would be sewing.  I would spend about one hour per day with her.  We would have conversations.  She would ask what I learned at school that day?  She would tell me about her work and other stories.  She would talk about her life when she was growing up, her church, and money.

Money was her favorite topic.  She once told me that she invested in CDs that had paid out an interest rate of 13%.  She would double her money in 6 years.  She was so excited.  I am now referring to the early 1980’s when inflation and interest rates were sky high.  She explained that she would let the bank borrow $1000 from her and in 6 years they would give her $2000 back.  I found that fascinating.  Now remember, I did not understand compound interest.  I was not introduced to multiplication yet.

This first blog post is a tribute to my Grandmother.  Looking back, she truly shaped my view of money.  If you want money, you must work for it.  Also, if you have money, you should invest it.

In case you might be interested, my Grandmother is still alive.  My parents take care of her now.  She is 94 and ran her business until she was in her 80s.  She had to finally give it up because her body was breaking down.  Sewing was her passion.  At the end of her career, she was just doing alternations for her neighbors.  I don’t think she even charged them.  She just liked them coming over to talk with her.

Occasionally, my Grandmother will call my wife and ask her to come over for a visit.  She wants to teach her how to use her sewing machine and pass on her legacy.  Maybe she will also share some investing tips with her too.  We have never consistently earned 13% returns on our portfolio.

How did you learn about money?