Archive for the ‘Financial Education’ category

What should I pay off first?

September 3rd, 2010
Credit cards
Image via Wikipedia Question: As a recent college graduate, I’ve incurred a number of student loans, credit card debt, and a car payment.  After budgeting for my monthly expenses, I’ve found that I have some extra money that I can use to pay off some of my debt.  Where is the best place to start?

My Answer:

I encourage my clients to have no debt because I believe that debt and unconscious spending steal our dreams.

I suggest you begin by taking the extra money you have in your budget and building a $1000 emergency fund so that you have the ability to handle small emergencies.

Once you have your $1000 emergency fund, organize your debts from smallest amount to largest; either on paper or in a spreadsheet.

Take any available money you have and pay down the smallest balance debt.

Once you finish with the first debt take what you were paying on that debt and add it to the minimum payment of the next largest debt – keep that up until you are out of debt.

You’ll find that getting fewer bills in the mail will reduce stress and seeing real progress will keep you motivated.

You are at an ideal time in your life to get out of debt and stay out of debt so that you can work towards living your dreams.

Good Luck,


This was a great question asked on Mint.comsee my answer and other in the Mint Answers section.

Personal finance coach, Matt Kelly, lives in Durango, CO.  He blogs here at and writes a monthly newspaper column called Money Savvy.

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Can you relate to this SNL skit?

September 2nd, 2010

SNL Don't Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford

Watch this Saturday Night Live skit – Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford, and see if you can relate?

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Take the energy quiz…the answers may suprise you

September 2nd, 2010
High Resolution black and white photo of a com...
Image via Wikipedia

According to a Columbia study Americans are pretty clueless about energy usage

Take this quiz to see how energy smart you are.

Many people believe that they can save energy with small behavior changes.  When in fact these small changes, such as switching off lights, actually achieve very little.  In addition most people underestimated the benefits  of switching to more efficient appliances and autos.

The study surveyed people regarding their understanding  of the most effective ways to save energy. The survey results appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Nearly 20 percent of the people said that turning off lights is the best approach to saving energy.  The truth is that turning off lights affects energy budgets relatively little.

If you can afford make changes the highest energy savings will come from replacing energy wasting autos and appliances with a more efficient ones.  Plus, weatherizing your home.

Saving energy = saving money!

Personal finance coach, Matt Kelly, lives in Durango, CO.  He blogs here at and writes a monthly newspaper column called Money Savvy.

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Unlimited student loans = tuition inflation

August 30th, 2010
Sorority Crest
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Why is college tuition rising faster than inflation?

Because colleges and universities can charge more when students and parents are willing to take loans to pay the tuition.

On average tuition is going up at a rate of about 8% per year. Like the housing market before the bubble burst…easy money means higher prices. And a lifetime of student loan payments just isn’t worth it.

Student loan debt has officially surpassed credit card debt.  One of the reasons may be that you cannot declare bankruptcy on student loans.

My advice, go to the best college or university that you can afford to pay cash for the tuition and living expenses.  And even if you can afford to pay cash for an expensive school consider a less expensive one because the Ivies just aren’t worth it.

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Life Insurance: cash value Vs term

August 29th, 2010
Metropolitan Life Insurance New York
Image via Wikipedia

All life insurance involves paying premiums over time.  If you die the insurance policy pays based upon the terms of the agreement.

I believe that you should have enough life insurance so that if you, or your partner, pass away you can live off the interest.  Assume a 4% return on your investment.
If you need $40,000/year income then you’d want to have 1 Million dollars in life insurance.
Now, cash value life insurance Vs term life insurance.
Cash Value Life Insurance has a savings component involved in the policy.  A portion of your premium is placed in a separate savings account that accrues value over time, which can later be reclaimed if the policy is ended. Premiums for cash value life insurance are typically 7-10 times higher than those of term life insurance. Other names for cash value policies are whole life and universal life policies.
Term Life Insurance covers you for a specific period of time – typically, 10, 15, 20, 30 or 35 years from when the policy starts. As long as you pay you are covered and if you die while the term insurance policy is active, your beneficiaries will receive the amount of specified coverage. They differ from cash value policies in that the  premiums do not partially go towards a savings plan and are much lower.
Stick With Term Insurance – don’t mix investments and insurance.
I believe that you should not mix your insurance and your investments.  Thus, I recommend staying away from cash value policies.  The return on investment is not typically very attractive and you will likely be able to do much better investing the difference between the cost of a term policy and a cash value policy.
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Are you smarter than a fourth grader?

August 29th, 2010
Airline Ticket of Northwest Airlines
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This morning when watching TV with my nine year-old son an American Express commercial came on.  This prompted him to ask me about the reward points they were promoting.

His question was, “How much is a point worth?”  Good question, and one I’m not sure most credit card users ask themselves.

On face value the question is a simple mathematical equation:

Points Required to Redeem Reward/Retail Price of the Reward = Point Currency

Let’s look at the cost of a FREE airline ticket purchased with reward points.  The average domestic airfare in the first quarter of 2010 is $328.00. Let’s say that you can get an airline ticket for 25,000 points – this assumes that you didn’t need to use a “rule buster” that costs 50,000 miles.

Based upon our equation, 25000 points/$328 = 76.22 points per dollar.

Since points are earned for each dollar charged on a rewards credit card this means that you must charge $76.22 for each dollar that you can use towards the “free ticket”.

Because we know the typical consumer spends between 12% and 30% more when they pay by credit card we can calculate the real cost of this $328 ticket.

If you were spending 20% more and you charged $25,000 over a year – so you can get the “free ticket” – the true cost of they ticket is $25,000 x .2 = $5,000.

Want to buy a $328 ticket for $5,000?  I didn’t think so – after all you’re smarter than a 4th grader…right?

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Get Naked…Financially

August 27th, 2010

Manisha Thakor, co-author of the book “Get Financially Naked,” has some advice on handling matters of the heart and wallet. Book Cover Get Financially Naked

When it comes to income, debt, and spending habits it can be difficult to reveal your true fitness. Thakor has good advice, “When you’re willing to take your clothes off in one way with each other, you should be willing to get financially naked as well,” she says.

I think that the more open and honest a couple can be early in their relationship the more successful they can be in establishing a solid foundation for their future.

Check out the website or book.

Kids’ Money

August 22nd, 2010
ceramic piggy bank
Image via Wikipedia

Kids’ Money is a website with financial education resources for parents, teachers and kids.  It has been awarded a Parenting Journals Editors Choice Award.

This site has a good variety of resources to help teach kids about money.

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