I Know a Little About a Lot of Things – and I’m Grateful

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

Over the course of my life, I’ve been told that I’m resourceful. In brainstorming topics to write for this piece, I realized that all those who made that statement are correct — I am indeed resourceful because I have knowledge in a variety of areas, and that knowledge comes in handy when navigating the land of adulthood. There are some things I’m quite grateful I know about, and if you know about any of these (or more!), you should be grateful as well.

Having started out my career in the insurance industry, I learned all about how insurance works — and I can help others navigate it. I earned licensing that makes my resume unique, and as a requirement of my work as an insurance agent I also had to earn the designation of notary public. Because of this, I was able to make insurance cheat sheets on auto and fire insurance, just for all of you.

I grew up surrounded by the automotive industry. By default, I learned a lot about cars — including the basics of how to purchase a car, how to navigate the motor vehicle system, how to know when a car needs to be repaired (in certain instances, I’m no expert by any means) and even developed an appreciation for certain makes and models. And yes, once again, I was able to share my father’s automotive expertise with all of you!

Banking and Credit
The insurance company I worked for also sold bank products, which provided me with another great adulting opportunity: having to learn about said bank products so that I could sell them. I am also thankful to my parents here too — they ensured that I learned about credit early on and helped me apply for my first auto loan. Now, I can proudly say that all of the credit that shows up on a report is my own.

Child Care
While I am certainly not in the market to become a parent anytime soon, I’ve learned how to somewhat take care of kids thanks to spending time with my cousins’ kids. I’ve had to act as adult supervision for my young cousins on several occasions, and I’ve found new and exciting ways to relate to them. I’ve learned an awful lot about Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Neverland Pirates and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse — and find myself thinking about how much kids’ TV has changed in 20 years.

Writing and Editing
Well, this one is par for the course. But, writing for a living comes in handy, especially when my knowledge of writing and editing can help others. I’ve been called on in several occasions to proofread an important email, to have a look at a letter, you name it, I’ve done it.

These are just some of the many examples of how to look at your past experiences, both those you enjoyed and those you may not have enjoyed, as learning experiences. We can bet that you learned more from them than you may have originally realized! Share some of your learning experiences with us in the comments — we’d love to learn some of your skills as well!

In the Driver’s Seat: A Chat With a Car Industry Expert

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

We may not take money from our parents – but we definitely take their advice. Especially when they’re industry experts.

This month’s chat with an industry expert features…my father, Robert (or Gus, as he’s known in the business) Donaldson — part owner and Executive Vice President of Forman-Price Vehicle Leasing Corp.

Buying a car can be a daunting task – and that’s putting it lightly. Dad has spent over 40 years in the industry and truly understands all there is to know about buying a car…and can sense if you’re getting the best bang for your buck. He’s been kind enough to answer all of our questions on how millennials can best enter the process of buying a car…

Why should millennials consider buying a car?
Transportation – convenience – enjoyment. A car is a source of freedom, and it’s the most convenient way to get around.

What’s one thing you see millennials not know or understand before coming to you to buy a car?
Not knowing what most suits their needs – and not staying away from flashy and impractical. The other thing they don’t know is how to navigate the process – and how to understand rebates as well as outside financing and not to be sold something you don’t need. For example: most American-made cars now come with 5-year, 100,000 mile, powertrain warranties. If you only drive 12,000 miles a year, do you really need an extended warranty? The dealer will try to convince you that you do.

Do I always need to put a certain amount down?
Absolutely not. Very often, at advantageous rates, it’s a negative to put money down. Functional economics tells you that if the interest rate is 1.9%, you should borrow as much money as you can get.

What if I don’t have a credit history yet?
Enlist a parent to co-sign – or, in this case, be prepared to come up with a large down payment to get approved. There are also many first-time buyer programs out there through the manufacturer for you to take advantage of – including college graduate programs.


Is it smart to buy a car online – and if yes, where? Is Craigslist trustworthy?
A good experience can be had buying online, but that’s the exception – and not the rule. The rule is different for new cars than for used cars. Used cars can be purchased from every walk of life – and are best investigated in person, not purchased by viewing a picture online. The opportunity to assess the credibility of the salesperson is more easily done in person. Dealing with a live person in a dissatisfied transaction is much more productive than trying to get retribution from an email address. Sites like Craigslist are unable to monitor the reliability of people selling on their site – it carries inherent risk. Anything can work out and you can get lucky – but again, it’s exceptional when something of that nature comes off without a hitch. There are many more disasters born from online purchases from far away places – not to mention the shipping expense.

How do I educate myself on the best purchasing programs?
Independent investigation. Don’t rely on dealers to disclose what’s best for you. They will most often sell you what’s best for them. Check with credit unions and explore manufacturer sites about rebates and compatibility with finance programs.

How do I know if a dealer is being honest with me?
Approach the deal analytically – and don’t be pressured into signing anything until you’ve had time to investigate. The deal will still be available tomorrow, in spite of what the salesman will try to convince you of. Try to find a reputable dealer by referral from people who you know have been treated fairly, and avoid disreputable dealers.


Where can I go to buy a car besides a dealership?
Private sales are very risky. Independent used car lots are also very risky. A new car can only be purchased from a franchised dealer. Used cars should be bought from your grandmother! But, CarMax – an independent used car distributor – is very reputable if you want to buy a used car, or sell your used car. They stand behind their product and won’t abandon you if the deal turns into a heartache. While their prices are more expensive, they have used car superstores all across the country and if you have a CarMax Warranty, you have access to repair facilities through a nationwide network.

What are the benefits of buying a new car versus a used car?
Maintenance is cheaper than repairs. New cars, cared for properly, have manufacturer’s warranties and will generally only require maintenance. Used cars often come with a litany of repairs – not seen or known about at time of purchase. Budget constraints are often more easily calculable in new car circumstances – i.e. payment, oil change, etc. In the long run, it’s easier to stay on a budget with a new car because unforeseen circumstances are a rarity. Used car nightmares can become money pits. A new car is more easily shopped than a used car – and comparisons between new car dealers are more conclusive than investigating independent used car sales. “Apples to apples” comparisons can only be done on new cars, while used cars all differ based on mileage, equipment and condition.

Is there a best car for millennials?
There is no one best car – but considerations should be paid to affordability, insurability, fuel economy and resell value. Information on all of the above is available across the web. But to pick a brand – Subaru, Honda and Toyota are all very reliable, fairly-priced and good resale valued products. As the expression says, “Show it the key and it runs.”

Owning a Home as a Millennial

Adulting, Author: Samantha Curra

Ahh, there’s no place like home — especially when you own it!

Hello, my name is Samantha, I’m a millennial and I am a homeowner. Truth is, I really never thought I would be able to own a home. I live in New York – one of the ten most expensive places to live in the country. I didn’t realize just how expensive it was until I started renting… (cue Jimmy McMillan preaching, “The rent is too damn high”). Well, he’s right! As of July 2016, the average apartment rent within the city of New York, New York is $3,271.

Owning just makes more financial sense. It’s an investment that builds value and equity over time, plus it’s all yours. There are so many benefits of owning a home. For one, you have more privacy and the creative freedom to decorate and renovate as you like. Want a garden? No problem! Personally, I enjoy the perks of having a laundry machines and a dishwasher all under one roof. And did I mention the potential for HUGE tax breaks?tax-468440_640

I’m not going to lie…the whole home-buying process is a bit scary, extremely expensive and tremendously overwhelming. In no way whatsoever am I an expert – but I’ve put together some tips that may come in handy for aspiring millennial home buyers:

Audit your credit history
Lenders will not give you the time of day unless you have a good credit score (and a consistent two-year work history). According to Investopedia, conventional mortgages are hard to get with a score below 620 and some lenders require at least 700. One good way to keep your score up? Commit to paying off bills and student loans on time. Run a credit report every year (ex: WalletHub.com, Experian.com). Pay attention to inaccuracies, like balances you’ve already paid off and fraudulent activity. And keep in mind, the better your credit score is, the lower the interest rate you’ll be offered – and the less you’ll pay.

Do your research
Don’t go in blindly. There’s so much information, I cannot even begin to tell you. My first suggestion is to talk to your parents. Chances are they own a home, so they are the perfect source for reliable information. Do you have any real estate friends or any lawyers in the family? Pick their brains as much as possible. Ask them about the market, down payment options, closing costs, out-of-pocket expenses, interest rates, etc. Of course, I would also start by simply Googling, “What to know before buying a house.” There’s a ton of resources out there.

Evaluate what you can afford
The median income for a millennial older than 25 is $38,220. So let’s be real. Unless you recently hit a lottery jackpot, your first home will be a “starter” home – quite possibly a fixer-upper, and that’s entirely okay! Having a low budget to work with often leads to the pressure of choosing the first thing you see.

hand-truck-564242_640When my husband and I went looking for houses with our agent, we saw a total of four houses before we chose “the one.” Finding a home that quickly is very rare, and we thought that maybe we were jumping the gun. It was within our budget, in the perfect neighborhood and the taxes weren’t that bad. The pressure was on because it was a rare find, and there was already a bid on it. The market moves so quickly and sometimes taking calculated risks are worth it. Every situation is different. It’s an enormous investment and a delicate decision so handle with care (and don’t forget to breathe).

Happy house hunting to my fellow millennials! And please, don’t hesitate to message me if you have any questions. I’m happy to offer as much helpful advice as I can!