In this episode, we sit down with Randy Kitzmiller, Social Security Advisor and Retirement Income Consultant, to discuss the basics of Social Security: what it is, how it works, and how it may change in the future. (SPOILER ALERT: It’s not going away! *Phew*) Join us as we dive into Social Security and how it will affect Millennials’ retirement in the future.
Here are the links Randy mentioned in the podcast:
Social Security Website: https://www.ssa.gov
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The choice to go to college is a big commitment. It’s a commitment to yourself and it’s a commitment to the payment that accompanies this hope for a successful life. Some people are lucky enough to have the financial burden of a college education taken off their shoulders by parents, family members, sponsors, etc. And some people are extremely diligent, work incredibly hard, save up, and pay for college themselves.
I, however, am neither of those people. I am with the group that I would assume is the majority: the unfortunate souls who had to take out student loans to attend college. Through my own personal experience, I have learned a few lessons on how to avoid some of the student loan burden before you jump into college, as well as how to alleviate some of that burden once you’ve crossed the stage with diploma in hand.
My first tip comes from something that I did not do enough: Be involved in the process of applying for student loans. Do your research. Knowing what you are getting yourself into is half the battle in being prepared when your loans finally come due. My mother was nice enough to walk through the loan application process with me. Although I was fortunate to have her assistance at the time, I still did not fully understand what I was getting myself into or how much time it would take to repay the loans after graduation.
Let me give you a snapshot of what my college expenses entailed. I attended a lovely private university in my home state of New Jersey. Fortunately, I was a good student in high school and received $12,000 per year in scholarships. I also commuted an hour to the university each day to save money. But even with scholarships and without the cost of on-campus housing, the tuition still added up to approximately $30,000 a year. And that’s not even counting the cost of textbooks, which amounted to $500-$1,000 each semester! So how was this all paid for? We took out student loans; sometimes per year, sometimes per semester.
All the loans that I took out were fixed rate as opposed to variable. I didn’t know much, but knew I wanted to have a set payment. (Fixed rate means you have the same interest rate for the life of the loan and variable means the interest rate can move around). I consider myself to be mostly conservative, especially when it comes to my debt; so, for me, fixed rates were the better choice. With a variable rate, you are subjecting yourself to the possibility of rates changing, potentially increasing or decreasing throughout the life of your loan. One option is not better than the other; it simply depends on your financial outlook and how you want your future payments to be structured.
Fast forward four years and I am a college graduate! Thankfully, right after graduation, you are not expected to pay your loans immediately. So, go out and live it up! Because in a few months, it’s about to get real!
No, please don’t do that. Plan for your payments and prepare yourself for the abuse you are about to take.
After I graduated and my student loans came due, it was the biggest slap of adulthood I had ever received. I had about eight separate loans, all at varying interest rates, coming to a grand total of around $100,000. My monthly payment totaled out to approximately $950. Combine this payment size with the fact that the first job offer I received out of college was $28,000 per year as a junior business analyst. $28,000. You can imagine how I felt: COOMPLETELY DOOMED!
I took a step back to figure out what steps I could take to reduce the financial burden and the feelings of doom. First, having eight separate payments is a nightmare. Secondly, all the varying interest rates made some payments seem like a good deal while others seemed to be a rip-off. Finally, the biggest issue was obvious: paying $950 a month while making $28,000 a year was not going to work.
The solution I discovered was to consolidate and refinance my loans with a longer payment period. Consolidation, simply put, allowed me to take all my separate smaller loans and combine them into one larger loan. Refinancing student loans is just like refinancing a mortgage. In ideal circumstances, a new loan at a better rate will replace your existing loan, although this might not always be the case.
A plethora of private companies and banks promote assistance with student loans, such as College Ave, Earnest, and SoFi. Many of these organizations allow you to fill out a free online application to determine if you “pre-qualify” for their services. When I began searching the internet for a solution, SoFi and Earnest offered the best interest rates to consolidate and refinance my loans. Here’s the catch: unless you are either making close to $100,000 a year (aka making BANK) or have an extremely solid cosigner (someone who loves you very much and is willing to put their name on your loan so the lender feels more comfortable), the qualifications to be accepted by these companies are quite high. However, through diligent searching and applying, I was able to consolidate and refinance my loans through Citizens Bank. While the process of finding the right company to assist with your specific situation may take time and effort, it is fairly easy and well worth the effort.
Once I was approved by Citizens Bank, the final step was to choose the term of my new loan. Ultimately, that’s what the consolidation and refinancing process is all about: taking out a new loan to pay off your inconvenient, higher-rated current loans. Here’s the basic principle when selecting the term of a loan: the shorter the term of the loan, the less you will pay in total interest, but the higher the monthly payments will be. The longer the term, the more you will pay in interest, but your monthly payment will be lower over an extended time period. In my case, I chose the longest term possible. As much as I want to pay off my loans quickly, I also need to keep my everyday living expenses in mind. Also, the loan that I chose allows me to pay early without penalty. So, if I can contribute more than my required payment, I will be able to pay the loan down more quickly. Even if this is a rare occurrence, it’s a nice feature to have. Not all loans allow this, so it is worth asking if this feature is available when refinancing your own.
Ultimately, the consolidation process brought my number of payments down from eight to one. The refinancing process reduced my interest rates to a more realistic average, and the longer maturity allowed me to pay a lower monthly payment. Although I did extend the amount of time I will be making payments, the cost of the payment is much more manageable for my current situation, and it addressed the problems I needed to fix. I know I am not the first or the last college grad to feel the wrath of student loans. But, being able to share my experiences, ideas, and relate to others is an important step in finding solutions.
Article Contributed By: Christian Boyle
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You may (or may not) have heard that the Dow Jones has been dropping it like it’s hot lately, dipping 1,150 points just last week. World events and uncertain economic conditions can result in market volatility — when the stock market changes moods faster than your teenage sister. But, what exactly is the Dow Jones? And why has it been making major money moves recently?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is a stock market index that includes 30 large, U.S. publicly-traded companies and acts as a thermometer, testing the overall health of the U.S. marketplace. Sounds a lot like the S&P 500 index, right?
Here are several key differences between the S&P 500 and the DJIA:
S&P 500 Dow Jones (DJIA) Founded in 1957 Founded in 1896 500 of the largest U.S.-based publicly-traded companies across all industries 30 of the largest U.S.-based publicly-traded companies across all industries (originated with just 12 companies solely in the industrial sector) Companies selected by S&P Committee (owned by McGraw Hill Financial) Companies selected by Dow Jones & Co. Averages Committee Companies selected based upon specific qualification criteria No defined criteria for how a company is selected — generally, must be a large leader in their industry Stocks within the index are weighted by market capitalization (market cap = # of outstanding shares x market price) Stocks within the index are price-weighted (the higher the stock’s market price, the more influence it will have on the index’s performance) Often considered the “single best indicator” of stock market performance, because of its broad and diverse collection of companies across all industries Most well-known stock market index. But, because if its exclusivity (only represents 30 of over 3,000 US public companies), it is more an indicator of blue-chip stocks than the market overall
OK, now that we’ve got a grasp on what the Dow Jones Index is, let’s talk about why it’s been dropping faster than your bank account after a trip to Target.
The stock market can be affected by many factors, such as political changes, natural disasters, inflation, interest and exchange rates, and unexpected world events — just to name a few. Most recently, when the Dow Jones stumbled and fell by 4 percent in early October, it was likely due to sipping a cocktail of rising Treasury yields, the increased Federal Funds rate, and the China-U.S. trade war. Just like how you get a little wobbly after drinking one too many cocktails, the stock market also gets shaky (see: volatile) when too many uncertain events are mixed together at the same time. The stock market: it’s just like us.
But, not to fear. Similarly to how you will drink lots of water, take an Advil, and eat greasy food to bounce back after a night out, the stock market bounces back, too. Usually, the severity of the market fall will determine how long it will take to rebound. Small corrections can be overcome in just a few days, whereas a full-blown financial crisis may take years to recover from (think: the 2008 Great Recession).
To recap: the Dow Jones is the most well-known market index, comprised of only 30 companies across various industries, and is used to evaluate general trends in the stock market. Recently, the Dow Jones took a big tumble due to a woozy cocktail of world events and interest rate changes. But, don’t worry. Analysts remind us that the market often panics over everything and can sometimes be a bit overdramatic…#Relatable. So, for now, be prepared to ride the roller coaster of market volatility, because over the long-term, the market always trends upward. Ask Warren Buffett.
Congratulations! You now know what the Dow Jones is and why it’s been in the headlines lately. But, this article was not meant to be an in-depth analysis of the Dow Jones (because ain’t nobody got time for dat). If you’d like to dig in a little deeper to the topics covered above, feel free to click on any of the hyperlinks (including that one) to become a Dow Jones expert. You’re welcome.
Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien (@ktaylor1395)
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As a millennial, life insurance is likely not high on a list of financial priorities. With rent, student loan payments, and other essentials, life insurance premiums can seem like an unnecessary expense. When you’re young and healthy (read: invincible), what’s the benefit of life insurance?
I had these same objections just a few months ago. But then I learned more about the benefits, and I bought my first personal life insurance policy.
Here are a few reasons why:
- The cheapest time to buy life insurance was yesterday
Life insurance gets more expensive every year, so why not buy it as cheap as possible? For a 25 year old male in good health, the premium could be as low as $18 a month! This policy would provide a tax-free $100,000 death benefit to your designated beneficiary if you die any time in the 20 year policy period.
- Buying now secures your insurability for life
Let’s say you buy that 20 year term policy. If in 10 years you develop a significant health problem that could prevent you from buying more life insurance in the future, you are still protected. Even if you couldn’t buy life insurance because of your health impairment, if you currently hold a term policy, you can convert it into a permanent one, albeit for a higher premium, and keep it for life.
- It’s not for you – it’s for your loved ones
The main reason most people buy life insurance is to provide their family with tax-free money in the event of an untimely death. But what if you’re single and have no kids? Well, there are still plenty of people affected by your death! Your funeral expenses need covered, which can be $10,000 or more. Also, any co-signers on a loan you have may still have to pay that loan if you die. That $100,000 policy protects your family members. And remember, if you get married and have kids, but become uninsurable, you can convert the term policy into a permanent one.
Life insurance when you’re young is inexpensive and has long-lasting benefits. It protects your insurability in the event of future health problems, and protects your family in the event of a premature death.
Still not convinced? Or do you have other personal finance questions? Let’s talk! Face The Fear is here to help millennials make smart financial decisions that fit their lifestyle. Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Protective Classic Choice Term, Male, Indiana, Age 25, $100,000, 20 year term
Article Contributed By: Xavier Serrani
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Welcome to Face the Fear!
We are Nicole Ellsworth and Kaitlyn Duchien, two motivated millennials on a journey to face the fear of our financial future.
We created this safe space where we will dive into topics like retirement, budgeting, student loans, investing, insurance, financial terms, etc. We are passionate about educating ourselves and others in the process. Join us as we change the conversation around finances and approach our future with confidence.
If you like us, follow us here, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and subscribe to our podcast: Face the Fear. (Social media links are on the top right of this page.)
*Disclaimer: We are not here to give legal financial advice. We highly encourage you to bring the topics we discuss to a financial professional, who is qualified to address your specific financial goals.*
It’s time for some real talk, and we are so excited that you are here to join us!
Until next time – Face the Fear!
–Nicole and Kaitlyn
Hi Friends! Nicole Ellsworth and Kaitlyn Duchien here. We are two motivated millennials facing the fear of our financial futures. Join us on the journey, as we dive into topics such as investing, retirement planning, life insurance, budgeting, and so much more.
Podcast: Face the Fear (on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher)