3 Ways Millennials Can Learn About Personal Finance for Free

Adulting, Author: #NAMB Guest Author

When it comes to money, millennials know that they owe a lot of it — especially when it comes to student loans. More so than any other generation, millennials are feeling the squeeze of student loan debt, with the average borrower in 2016 having nearly $28,000 in loans. In fact, the national student loan debt now stands at $1.4 trillion (up from $260 billion in 2004), and is predicted to continue growing.

Student loan debt can largely be attributed to the ballooning cost of college tuition and fees, which has far outpaced the rate of inflation.  But it can also be chalked up to the number of American college students who willingly sign up for substantial debt, seemingly without any real idea of what the loan documents mean or how difficult it will be to repay these loans.

Money makes the world go round, and yet so many Americans know so little about it. Financial literacy appears to be largely unimportant in the United States, with only 17 states requiring students to take a course in personal finance in order to graduate.

This leaves many millennials in the difficult position of learning about how money works after they’re already out in the real world — with a job, bills and student loan payments.  If they haven’t been fortunate enough to learn about personal finance from their families or in high school or college, how can they learn about it now?

Luckily, there are some great free options available for millennials who want to learn about personal finance, and they don’t even require you to leave your home. With a laptop and a strong internet connection, you can take advantage of these courses and learning modules to take control of your finances and be on your way to financial security.

Family Finance Course
This course is offered through Utah State University. Over the span of 14 units, students are taught the basics of personal finance, including budgeting, taxes, debt, major purchases, mortgages and even creating a financial file. Each unit takes approximately 100 minutes to complete, and includes an action step at the end to help you work towards the ultimate goal: coming up with a financial plan of your own.

Free Personal Finance Course
The University of Arizona offers a free 15-unit course for all to take. It covers variety of topics through a series of posts, organized in a way that helps you go from more basic concepts of financial literacy to more complex issues. At the end of each lesson is a quiz to test you on what you have learned. With this course, you don’t have to enroll and can move at your own pace, making it ideal for anyone who wants to learn more about personal finance without being tied down to more specific course requirements.

Fundamentals of Personal Finance
The University of California-Irvine offers this course, which is aimed at individuals who want to get their finances in shape but cannot afford a personal financial planner. It has eight general topics: goals, figuring out where you are financially, taxation, keeping bad things from interrupting your goals, investing, funding retirement, college planning and estate planning basics. Each of these eight objectives or goals has between one and six lessons, and you can choose among the different topics. The lessons are all available online, and the entire course will take approximately 25 to 30 hours to complete.

 

Each of these courses each are geared towards general personal finance issues. There are other specific free online courses on topics such as credit, retirement, buying a home and more.  They are typically offered through universities, and are offered free of charge for all learners — including millennials.

Financial literacy is a skill that is valuable at all stages of life, from high school to college and beyond. It can assist you in choosing a college that helps you avoid going into significant student loan debt, in living within your means while in school, and in paying back your loans quickly after you have graduated. Financial literacy is also the key to reaching your other goals after you are out of undergraduate or graduate school, such as saving for retirement, buying a house, or even getting married or having kids. With a wealth of free online courses and other options available, there is no excuse for not learning as much as possible about the world of personal finance — and taking charge of your finances.

 

About the Author: 


Drew Cloud is a journalist who typically writes about student loans, personal finance and education. He always had a knack for reporting throughout high school and college where he picked up his topics of choice. Since his graduation from college, Drew wanted to funnel his creative energy into an independent, authoritative news outlet covering an exclusive and developing industry. Thus, the Student Loan Report was born. You can reach out to him at drew@studentloans.net.

‘Tis the Season for Bills: A Chat About Holiday Debt With a Finance Industry Expert

Adulting, Author: Mary Grace Donaldson

Our Monthly Chat series continues — and our industry expert of choice this month brings us some highly topical information!

One in four Americans planned on racking up holiday debt in 2016. These stats aren’t specific to millennials, but that’s not to say we aren’t included in that one in four. While our Finance Cheat Sheet is helpful in this arena, we’ve also chatted with Albert Ramos, CEO and Founder of Educate Your Pockets, LLC, a new website that specializes in financial management. Here’s what he had to say about holiday debt, how you can stay out of it, or, how you can find your way out of it:

What is your best advice for millennials looking to stay out of holiday debt?

Make sure every dollar has a purpose and pay with cash. When you write (or type) down a budget for your holidays, you’re more likely to stick to it. And if you’re going to pay for something, pay with cash that you have –- if you don’t have it, then it doesn’t fit within your budget. Don’t let the worries of finding the “best” gifts, or holiday shopping ruin your progress towards achieving your financial goals.

Also, I always meet with my clients before the holidays to go over their New Year’s goals or “resolutions” – – this puts them in the mindset of what they cannot do during the holidays if they want to start the year off right with their money. They remember: no holiday hangovers this year or regretting the “travel-on-a-credit-card” (check out my blog post on this topic).

How do most millennials even get into holiday debt?

From my experience, the top reason why millennials get into holiday debt is that they use credit cards and spend money they don’t have. Holidays are so amazing, fun, festive and tasty, and the season is always a great time of year. However, every year the pressures of holiday shopping (Cyber Monday, Black Friday, the “Christmas Deal” that lasts two weeks or more) continue to increase, and millennials get really stressed out about finding the best gift or deal…..and unfortunately, pull out their plastic (credit) to fund and satisfy those worries, stresses and pressures. Without a plan, it’s easy to stray and not stay disciplined.

cash-32553_1280

Do credit cards help or hinder millennials in their spending and finance management?

Such a great question – and there are two differing philosophies here. Some may say that credit cards are fine because they help you build credit. True – my counter, however, is that your credit score is your relationship with debt.

Credit card companies are not aggressive in ad spend and direct mail to “help you” pay for all the things you want now. Credit card companies and banks are in the business of making money – they make millions and millions of dollars from millennials spending money they don’t have, including the interest that they initially thought they’d never have to pay (“I always payoff my credit card each month”….). And if you’re like most people, unfortunately, your constant spending with “free money” catches up to you when that spending you couldn’t afford starts to build up and gets out of control due to interest payments compounding.

I truly believe that sticking to a solid cash plan, building your savings and investments, eliminating debt and working hard to increase your income (salary) is the way to go. If you have trouble doing that, use your debit card rather than credit card, go old school…do the cash envelope diet. Sounds archaic, but it totally works.

What do you see millennials doing “wrong” in the arena of budgeting – for the holidays, and all year round?

Couple of things: not creating a specific and realistic plan (every dollar must have a purpose and you need to know where it goes; and the plan must be realistic depending on your situation – – if you keep the budget unrealistically tight, you’ll end up going over budget which influences many to rationalize more overspend). Second thing, focus and follow-up. Focus and follow-up are two very important variables to building wealth and sticking to your budget. Millennials should have their budgets visible when making holiday purchases. It will reinforce behaviors that will allow them to stick to it. Staying within budget and finding those great deals on gifts you really wanted to get is great!

Oh no! You’ve found yourself in debt. Now, how do we get out of it?”

It happens. It’s nothing to be ashamed about. It’s the unfortunate reality for our generation – we have too much debt. But it’s okay – if you create a plan to get out of debt it’s totally achievable – but you must make it a priority. Debt not only sneaks up on you if you’re not paying attention, but it loves to grow. Create a short-term and long-term plan to payoff your debts (credit cards, student loans, etc.), starting with the smallest one first. You want some quick wins, similar to those pounds you want to lose right away when working out hard – it feels good, and stimulates those endorphins.

First take out the small loans, and once you don’t have any payments left for those, use what you would have normally paid for those on the bigger loans and get rid of it fast. Now, you may have to also make some sacrifices on current things you spend on. 6-12 months of sacrifice so you can live debt free, travel the world and start your large savings/investment account feels so much better. Trust me – check out my blog on #TheDebtDiet. I highly recommend if you’re in any type of debt, get started on my Debt-Free Program – – I know a ton of millennials that have started and are feeling more confident about their money than ever before.

worried-30148_1280.png

Are there any apps out there that can help millennials budget while making sure they pay their post-holiday bills?

There are some great apps out there, tons that are free on your mobile device. I personally provide your very own personal financial website that does this all for you when you get started with an Educate Your Pockets Program – in which I personally look at it every morning for you to make sure you’re following your plan. Very similar to a virtual personal trainer, I’m your virtual financial assistant in your pocket.

Are there any other resources out there, such as Twitter accounts to follow or podcasts to listen to, that you would recommend?

Definitely check out my Instagram @EducateYourPockets–I do a morning daily Instagram Live show called #DailyPockets where I answer financial questions that people email me about on my website. I also do a Facebook Live chat @EducateYourPockets where I do a similar Q&A on Friday nights for those that need an extra reminder before having fun on the weekends.

The Educate Your Pockets Podcast will be coming out in a few weeks, so look out for that, I’ll also be launching it with my new eBook #RetireAndChill ……this will be a fun and simple guide for millennials to start investing in a retirement plan like a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, and/or 401(k). I can’t wait! Millennials are going to love it! I love tweeting financial tips on my Twitter @EYPFinance and make sure to Snap me at “pocketseyp” where you’ll be able to see more of my personal life and watch me interact with other millennials that hire me to help them achieve financial success.

Albert Ramos, Founder and CEO of Educate Your Pockets, LLC, received his Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Occidental College and his MBA in Finance from the University of Redlands. With over ten years of experience in Management, including being responsible for annual budgets exceeding $50M, Ramos offers clients diverse experience and education within the financial sector. For more information on how you can work with Educate Your Pockets, LLC, please e-mail albertramos@educateyourpockets.com or call (909) 580-7232.

How an Accounting Degree Can Help You in the “Real World”

Adulting, Author: Claire Greene

My career journey has been a very long and interesting one. I have gone through many peaks and valleys to get to where I am right now, but there is no place I’d rather be.

I have loved animals throughout my entire life. When it came time to apply to college, I wanted to get a degree in marine biology and work in animal care. I talked with many schools with great marine bio programs. However, when I spoke with career counselors, they all reinforced how difficult it is to actually find a job in the field.

In school, math was a subject I excelled at. I always got As, and it was something I actually didn’t mind doing. I went with the safer bet and majored in accounting. I did extremely well in college, and I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and my Master’s degree in Business Administration. I then started working at a bank headquarters as an accounting specialist.

I later realized I despised being behind a desk all day and typing the same thing into a computer over and over again. I longed to do different things throughout my day instead of the same, repetitive motions. I had an epiphany that I had to go after my childhood dream. Am I crazy? Yes, but I’m glad I put in my notice at my job, moved back in with my parents and started volunteering at Mystic Aquarium. After a lot of hard work and resilience, I was eventually able to work my way up to a job as a full-time Animal Care Specialist for Living Exhibits, Inc., which is a company the aquarium outsources to bring in seasonal exhibits.

While I do not have a career in accounting, I do not regret my experience. I still find ways that my education has come in handy throughout my life. Here are four ways in which accounting has helped me in the real world, and can help you, too.

Restaurant Tabs
It is pretty much a given that when I am out to dinner with a large group of people, I am handed the check at the end of the night. In accounting, you are taught how to divide up expenses and figure out percentages. I know how to allocate each person’s individual expenses because I’ve written up whole financial statements for companies. If you ask me what your tip should be on your meal, I can tell you in approximately one half second because I have figured out percentages a million times. I also know how to figure out the tax because I know that the tax each person is owed is based on each person’s balance, just like a company’s net tax is based on its profit.

Work expense sheets
In any job or career, there are always expenses involved. Since they are company expenses, the company needs a way of recording and tracking those expenditures. Therefore, in comes everyone’s dreaded spreadsheet, the expense report.

Expense reports are records of all your expenses — allocated to individual categories to know how company money is being spent, tax included. If you have been supplied with a company credit card, this amount of money should equal the current balance on the card subtracted from total amount of money that was placed on the card. Managers will then know how much is being spent or if money needs to be reallocated towards something else.

Most people cannot wrap their heads around figuring out the expense report. I automatically took to it. Not because I am obsessed with Excel, but because I already knew how to figure it out. Accountants use the double entry accounting system, in which every entry in a financial statement has a corresponding and opposite entry. For example, on any financial statement, a debit will increase an expense, and a credit will decrease an expense. The corresponding entry will be a decrease in cash, which is an asset. Assets are decreased in credit. As expenses increase, cash flow is decreased. That statement is the principal of financial statements, and the whole theory behind an expense report.

The expense report is simply a balance sheet in a financial statement. So, for me, the expense report is not Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a more than conquerable beast.

Sales
This one pretty much goes without saying. I’m not going to lie, just like any other girl who likes to have 500 pairs of shoes but doesn’t want to pay full price for them, I love sales. But what’s also great is that I can figure how much I am actually going to end up paying in five seconds. After figuring out tax percentages and mortgage interest, it’s easy. I’m the one to have around if you want to figure out if you can buy a dress that’s on sale for 30% off if you only have $40 left. I’m like a walking calculator.

Taxes
I know, I know. Tax season is like hurricane season. It’s stressful, time consuming and potentially can take away your money. However, for me, it’s not so stressful. When I was getting my Master’s degree, I interned at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. It’s a program created by the IRS to help those with lower incomes file their taxes for free. My job was filing tax returns. In doing so, I know the entire process.

I know about certain tax credits that I qualify for. I know which forms need to be filled out, how to file to make sure that I am getting the maximum refund and if you should itemize your deductions or just take the standard. I also know certain things that count as deductions that most people don’t know about, potentially increasing your payout. And I will never have to pay for an accountant, which will save me lots of money.

 

Your degree can always prove useful in ways that you might not even necessarily realize. I will never regret getting my degree in accounting, because I now have knowledge that I wouldn’t have if I had not made that decision. I use my degree every day. So be crazy, go after your dreams and never settle. I’m sure glad I never did.

Your Finance Cheat Sheet

Adulting, Author: Michelle Ioannou

Not all of us are good at finance. In fact, not all of us even understand finance. No, it’s not because we’re dumb millennials — it’s because we’re human beings and we’re unfortunately not perfect. This situation, of course, raises an important question as to how are we supposed to be responsible with our money when we don’t even know where to start?

Well fellow millennials, here’s a little cheat sheet full of great assets for you to utilize to better understand finance.

Twitter
You’re already on Twitter, so why not follow financial advisors? Plus, some of these advisors tailor their work specifically towards millennials. You can get financial advice in 140 characters or less, plus sometimes they even tweet out other free resources to help you. Unsure of who to follow? Douglas A. Boneparth and Winnie Sun are a great start!

Podcasts
With podcasts all the rage, why not spend some time listening to ones that can help you with your finance skills? You can drive to work and better understand finance at the same time.

You Need A Budget
Yes fellow millennials, we (most likely) unfortunately do need a budget—and this podcast is upfront with you about it, which in turn will help you budget.

Listen, Money Matters! 
That name grabbed your attention, didn’t it? Mine too. It gets better. If you go to their website, in big letters it says “manage your money like a badass.” Interested yet? You should be.

Blogs
Do you prefer reading to listening to podcasts, or enjoy doing both? Here are some fun blogs for you to read—and yes, I did just refer to finance blogs as fun.

Millennial Money Man 
Don’t be fooled by the name, this blog is very much applicable to women too—and, well, the name is pretty self-explanatory. This blog has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Forbes and many more, so you know it’s legit.

Budgets Are Sexy
Before I continue, do you see a trend with budgets here? Budgets are so crucial, and sexy (of course). There are plenty of ways to save money shared on this blog, as well as free budget templates.

Broke Millennial
Raise your hand if this sounds like you! You are not alone. I repeat, you are not the only broke millennial in this world. This blog will not only show you that there are others in similar situations to you, but also show ways to stop being broke.

Apps
There’s an app for that! But really…there are many apps out there to help you budget (ah, that key word again!) and keep track of your finances. Mint is arguably the most common money manager that I know of, used by many of my friends (I should probably download it as well, right?).

Books
Ah yes, the good ‘ole fashion book! Of course, there are loads of books out there to help you with your finances — and no, I’m not talking about Personal Finance For Dummies, which of course does exist. There are much more interesting, millennial-targeted finance books out there for you to read and enjoy. For instance, check out Millennial Money: How Young Investors Can Build A Fortune and Smart is the New Rich: Money Guide for Millennials.