dcsimg

Hey, baby. How's your college fund?


Hey, baby. How's your college fund?

Published 6/2/14

Hey, baby. How's your college fund? By Peter Andrew

You have a newborn baby! Congratulations. Welcome to years of sleep deprivation, decades of horrific expense and a lifetime of being petrified that something bad is going to happen to your impossibly precious offspring. Most parents envy their childless friends' clear, bag-free eyes, relative wealth and carefree existences. But almost none would swap places for the tiniest fraction of a millisecond.

Anyway, there you are, up to your ears in diapers and cooing relations, while the laundry piles up, the housework is forgotten and all you can think about is how much you need to sleep. What better time is there to ponder your baby's college fund?

Starting early pays

Unfortunately, there is no better time. A couple of years ago, The New York Times did some calculations and found that, assuming continuing inflation in college costs of just 4 percent a year, an institution that currently charges $60,000 a year could be charging more than double that by the time your baby gets to enroll. That's comes out at a cool half-million dollars for four years.

Read the full article »

Want a raise? Here's how to give yourself one

Published 5/16/14

Want a raise? Here's how to give yourself one By Holly Johnson

The latest Survey of Consumer Expectations from the New York Fed predicted that American's wages will rise an average of 2.4 percent over the next year. Unfortunately, prices have risen 2 percent in the last 12 months, spiking 0.3 percent in April alone -- the highest monthly rate of inflation so far in 2014.

So let's face it: Until wage increases climb higher, rising prices could keep American wages effectively flat for the foreseeable future. That's the bad news.

The good news is, you don't have to wait for the economy to turn around to give yourself a big, fat raise. In fact, simply cutting your spending can accomplish the same thing by freeing up extra cash for savings, investments or that vacation you've been dreaming of. You cannot control the labor market, rising inflation or the rest of the economy, but you do have control over how you actually spend your hard-earned paycheck. If you want truly want a raise and believe you deserve it, it might be time to take matters into your own hands.

This type of raise isn't the kind you ask your boss for. It's the kind you take for yourself -- simply by reducing your spending and keeping the difference. Want to cut your spending and earn an effective raise in the process? Here's how to do it in five steps:

Read the full article »

How smart wedding spending can lift your credit

Published 5/8/14

How smart wedding spending can lift your credit By Justin Boyle

With a lot of my friends getting married over the last year or so, I've heard all sorts of nightmare stories about planning and paying for weddings. The sheer fiscal magnitude of it all has made some of them wonder whether it isn't too late to elope.

With a little credit savvy though, juggling the big numbers on your wedding balance sheet can leave you with a boost to your credit score that may come in handy with your next mortgage lender (among other future creditors). Here are some guidelines for making your wedding spending work for you.

Free up some space

Although exact cost figures can vary widely from city to city, the average outlay for a wedding in the U.S. in 2014 was more than $28,600, according to WeddingStats.org.

Read the full article »

So you've missed a payment: Now what?

Published 5/7/14  (Modified 5/8/14)

So you've missed a payment: Now what? By Georgie Miller

So, your finances are a little tight this month. You're probably worried and wondering what to do. Perhaps you've investigated all of your last-ditch solutions for cash emergencies, but you're still going to come up short on an obligation or two. What happens next?

What happens to your credit score when you miss a payment

Payment history comprises 35 percent of your credit score, according to myFICO.com. This is the biggest single factor in your FICO score! The next most heavily weighted category is amounts owed, at 30 percent of your score.

Since payment history is such a significant component of your FICO score, missing payments can cause quite a dip in your rating. Fortunately, if the rest of your credit history is positive, then one or two missed payments shouldn't spell disaster.

Read the full article »

Help! My teen is a money monster

Published 3/28/14

Help! My teen is a money monster By Peter Andrew

Short of bequeathing them so much money ($150 million each should do it) that they never have to worry about their finances, there are few gifts you can give your kids that could be more valuable than the skills and attitudes they need to be great money managers.

By the time they reach their mid-teens, you can pretty much see how their financial lives are going to pan out: Mary and Bob are forever borrowing against next week's allowance, while Tom and Jennifer have a thriving schoolyard loansharking business and robust balances in their savings accounts.

Often you don't have to wait for kids to hit puberty before you begin to spot the signs of competent or catastrophic attitudes to cash. One day you're changing their diaper, and the next, it feels, you're either lending them a couple of dollars or raiding their piggy banks. And, sometimes, siblings in the same family have very different money habits, even though they've all been brought up with the same financial norms, advice and education.

Genes, elephants and money

We're a long way from discovering the money gene, but last year Chase published an academic study that asked whether we all leave our mothers' wombs with our financial skills and attitudes pre-programmed. In "Born to Spend?," Professor Hersh Shefrin differentiated between two types of thought processes: "Fast thinking" tends to be instinctual, while "slow thinking" is more strategic.

Read the full article »

Growing your savings with a zero-sum budget

Published 3/14/14

Growing your savings with a zero-sum budget By Holly Johnson

People would probably laugh if they saw my checking account balance toward the end of the month. There have been times when I've had as little as $20 in it, and all I could do was count the days until the 1st of the month rolled back around.

However strange this may seem, rest assured that it's totally intentional. That's because I purposefully spend every dollar we come across in a monthly planning and savings scheme sometimes referred to as a "zero-sum" budget.

The purpose of a zero-sum budget is to "spend down" all of your monthly earnings until you completely run out of money each month. This accomplishes several things: First, using a zero-sum budget forces you to allocate all of your money to something, which cuts down on waste. Second, zero-sum budgeting requires that you pay money to savings and your investments as if they were bills, which helps you save more than you would have otherwise. And third, a zero-sum budget forces you to commit to spending thresholds in each category.

That all sounds great, right? If you're interested in creating a zero-sum budget of your own, the following steps can help.

Get a month ahead

One strategy for zero-sum budgeting is getting one month ahead of the game. To do this, I suggest using savings for your regular bills and spending while stashing away your monthly earnings at the same time. This strategy is especially advantageous for those with a fluctuating income since this month's bills will always be paid with last month's earnings.

Read the full article »