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Education. The First Step Toward Financial Empowerment

The following blog post is part of The Road to Financial Wellness blog tour. The Road to Financial Wellness is a three-month, grassroots campaign promoting financial empowerment on a national level and encourages people to pursue their dream lifestyle. Find out more about local events near you.

The concept of financial empowerment can mean many things to many people.

It can mean having flexibility with your finances, being proactive with your money, having an emergency fund so you always are prepared or it could mean something entirely different!

To do all of those things though, and how I ultimately feel financially empowered, is feeling knowledgeable enough about money and our situation to feel like I’m making the best decision at that time.

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Save up to 28.5% on food next month with this simple method

In April, we ran into a problem.

After the month was over, we analyzed our expenses and realized we spent $770 on food.

And we’re a two person, two dog household! Seems high, right?

Well with a little bit of effort in May, we spent 28.5% less on food. A full $220.

And here’s how we did it:

We went all cash.

And if you follow the easy steps (trust me, the “how to” and this post are not complicated at all) that we did, I’m sure you can save some extra money too.

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Is college worth it?

My brother’s college graduation put student loans in perspective

Last Friday, my wife and I traveled down to Tucson, AZ for my brother’s college graduation. 795 people in his graduating class from the business college down at the University of Arizona.

Graduation took almost 2 hours, and he was one of the first that walked.

Yeah….it ended up being a long ceremony!

But as those 795 walked across the stage, I couldn’t help but wonder just how much student debt was sitting down and graduating before me.

Using a release from the Arizona Board of Regents, average student college debt in 2014 was $22,609. That was just released in November of 2015, so the data is fairly recent for our state.

So what was I looking at?

Somewhere around $17,974,155 in student loan debt.

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401k Improvements at Work. Score!

When I started my first job out of college, my employer offered a 401k program with 50% match up to 6% salary contribution.

From what I’ve read & can tell, that’s pretty standard.

But when I switched jobs, while I was able to increase my salary by about 66%, the 401k program at my new company wasn’t as strong.

It was a 50% match up to 3% salary contribution, with a much longer vesting schedule.

I still contributed 6% in the program, I just wasn’t getting as much free money.

Not a bad problem to have, but I obviously would want to maximize my situation.

Well, not too long ago my employer notified us they were improving their match to 50% up to 6% of my salary.

What does that mean?

Well, over 25 years that’s a projected $81,000 more than with the old program.

Check it out:

401k-increase

I’ll certainly take it.

Now that’s assuming a couple things. A 3% salary increase every year and a 6% average rate of return on my portfolio each year.

Neither of which are way out there. Obviously, salary’s can have larger jumps, but they could also stay stagnant. And the market isn’t going to just stay at 6% of course. But you can only do so much projection.

In the end, the salary increase from changing jobs, of course, had a bigger impact on my long-term savings than the 401k plan adjustment, but changes, improvements & hacks that you do with your finances can add up and I’ll take it.

student-loan-story

The Unexpected Story of $30k+ in Student Loans – Financial Aid Doesn’t Always Go As Planned

My wife, Heather, wrote the following post sharing her student loan story. She went to college from 2009 – 2013 and unexpectedly ended up having to take out student loans to fund the last two years of her education. 

Have a ridiculous student loan experience? Make sure to share below. 

I grew up in an environment where college was just a given.

It was always understood that I would graduate from high school and then go to college. And furthermoreI wanted to go to college and earn my degree.

So the cost of tuition was never really even something that I considered.

I knew that I would have to come up with the money somehow, whether that was scholarships, loans or somehow paying for it out of pocket.

But I didn’t ever consider not going to college because of the cost.

And frankly when I started college in 2009, it was relatively affordable to attend an in-state university.

But I knew that if I had to take out loans then I would because you do what you’ve got to do to get your education.

When I graduated from high school, how I would be paying for college was a little uncertain.

The full-ride scholarship I had been counting on for the greater part of my high school career was no longer an option after earning my first ‘C’ in a physics class I took the second semester of my senior year.

This was a huge disappointment for me, obviously. But like I said before, I knew that I would do what I had to do to make college happen.

Over the summer before I started college, I earned a one-time $5,000 scholarship from the company my mom worked for. I knew it wouldn’t go far in my four-year program, but it helped.

And after waiting for a while to see what financial aid was available to me, I finally was surprised few weeks into my first college semester to I learned that I had earned just over $19,000 in scholarships and grants for that school year alone!

That more than covered my school expenses for the year, especially since I lived at home to save money.

The bulk of what I earned was from the Obama Scholarship, which was both need and academic based. I also received a Pell grant for a few thousand dollars, in addition to my previously earned $5,000 scholarship.

The Obama Scholarship would be recurring, though I’d have to reapply for the Pell Grant each year. But since the Obama Scholarship covered my tuition and books fees, I was set for my four years in college.

Or so I thought…

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