John Redmaster, Certified Financial Planner and fellow Millennial, joins us to break down where Millennials should focus their money first. Should we pay down student loans or credit card debt? Save for a home? Invest in a 401(k)? Build up an emergency fund? John helps us find answers to these questions and more on this week’s episode:
- What tips would you give to Millennials who just graduated college (or are several years into the workforce) who feel like their student loan debt is unmanageable?
- Since you have the CFP designation, can you explain a little bit about what exactly that designation means and why it may be important to consider when seeking a financial advisor?
- What can Millennials do TODAY to get their finances on track?
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Have you ever had a terrible day that just seemed to keep getting worse? You didn’t hear your alarm go off, so you woke up 20 minutes late. When you jumped out of bed in a panic, you stubbed your toe on the nightstand (who put that there?!). At least you still had time to make yourself a fresh, steaming-hot cup of coffee! Unfortunately, on your way to work, an idiot cut you off in traffic and that steaming-hot cup of coffee flew out of your hand and on to your favorite white shirt.
Nice. Huffing and puffing, you barely make it into the office when a coworker stops you and says, “Are you ready for your presentation in the meeting this morning?” (Oh, sh*t. I thought that meeting was tomorrow!) Later on, you realized that you packed a can of cat food instead of chicken salad for your lunch (ew), gave your crush a fist bump in return to a high-five (awkward), dropped a stack of important documents everywhere, and ripped your pants when you bent down to pick them up (tragic). It’s 4:58pm. You’ve almost made it through the day (thank goodness), but you decide to send one last email before you head home. You need to send your coworker, Danielle, a spreadsheet she requested, and decide to mention how annoying your boss has been lately. Sent! Then your heart stops. That email didn’t go to Danielle. It went to Daniel…your boss.
We’ve all had one of those days. But, what makes a day like this so bad? It’s not because just one little thing went wrong. Oh no. It’s because one bad experience seemed to lead to another, which led to another and another, compounding into a terrible day overall.
While this example of a bad day demonstrates how compounding can work against you, compounding interest is a financial tool that can actually work for you in a very positive way, even on a crappy day. Holla!
First of all, what is compound interest? Compound interest is a basic financial concept where interest is not only calculated on your initial investment (simple interest), but is calculated on your initial investment PLUS any interest you have earned previously. Your money is earning money on its money.
Let’s break it down:
Say you put $1,000 into an account that is earning 5% simple interest for 10 years. At the end of the 10 years, you would have a total of $1,500. ($1,000 x .05 = $50 x 10 Years = $500). However, let’s also say that you put $1,000 into an account that is earning 5% compound interest for 10 years. In this case, at the end of 10 years, you would have a total of $1,628.89. How did you end up with more money using compounding interest vs. simple interest? Let’s break it down even further:
For the DIY-ers out there, here’s the formula used to calculate compound interest:
P [(1 + i)n – 1]
P= Principal (Original Investment)
i = Annual Interest
n = Number of Compounding Periods
So, to plug in the numbers from above:
$1,000 [(1 + .05)10 – 1] = $628.89
And here’s a comparison between simple and compound interest over time:
If you’re like me, you probably just glazed over that last section like a Krispy Kreme donut. (I donut blame you). So, we see how the numbers work. Why does it matter?
Compound interest could be the single most important factor either making or breaking your bank account over time. You could either be using compounding interest to your advantage by putting funds into a retirement or investment account and allowing it to compound (grow) more quickly over time. Or, compounding interest could be your worst nightmare if you’ve got high interest credit card or student loan debt, which would compound just as quickly, but in the wrong direction. (Yikes!)
As we can see in the chart above, compounding interest produces a greater return (grows faster) than simple interest over the same period of time. And the key word here is TIME. The concept of compounding interest is pretty spectacular on its own. However, without the crucial ingredient of time (no, not thyme, sorry G’ma), your compound interest will produce very bland results. The longer you wait to withdrawal any of your funds, the more powerful – and flavorful – the compounding effect will be. (Can you tell I’m hungry? Did someone say pizza??)
If you put $1,000 in a retirement account that grows through compounding interest, congratulations! You’re #winning at this game of life. But, if you become impatient and decide to take out $10 here or $20 there, you’ll quickly undermine all the positive benefits of compounding, while likely getting slapped with some hefty tax penalties as well (if you’re under 59 ½). Ouch – Game Over.
If you’re someone who struggles with delayed gratification (aka ME), here’s a life hack to make you think twice about taking money out of your compounding accounts. It’s called the Rule of 72, and it’s a fast calculation to show how quickly your money can double inside a compounding account (without taking withdrawals – no touchy).
Simply divide 72 by the annual interest percentage to see how many years it will take for your money to double. For example, if you’re earning an average of 8% annually in an investment account, your money will double in 9 years (72 / 8 = 9). You put in $1,000 today and you’ll have $2,000 in 9 years. Cha-ching! Obviously, the more money you can invest early on, and the longer you can let it grow, the better your outcome will be.
This is exactly why the best time to start saving is today. Like, NOW. (Actually, the best time to start saving was yesterday…but there’s no time like the present!)
If you want to see for yourself how compound interest works, check out this, this, and this. You’re welcome.
Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien
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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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Episode 1: 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!
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)