How Can I Save When I’m Behind on Bills?

So, you realize you need to get your finances in order. You know you need to get your debt paid off and some money put away in savings. But how are you supposed to do that when you aren’t even current on your bills?

I’m going to share some great tips for getting current on your bills so that you can start your battle plan today!

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Creating Your First Budget (Made Easy)

By: Amber Moore

You may have watched your parents budget their paychecks and you’ve probably heard many people say that a budget is the best way to control your money (instead of feeling like it controls you!), but if you’ve never done one before, the thought of it might seem overwhelming!

It’s really not, I promise. I’m going to show you how to create your very first household budget without making your head spin.

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Battle Plan for Financial Freedom

CAM offers a two phase program. STEP is for people just starting out on their path to financial freedom and walks you through getting completely out of debt. Once you graduate from STEP, you will enroll in DFAS where you will build up savings, retirement and pay off your house. If you are interested in learning more about the program or would like CAM to walk with you on your journey contact us me at Charles@CAMFinancialCoach.com.

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Dreaming for Others

Reading Meg Meekers, Boys Should Be Boys, I started to reacquaint myself with my youth. I want more than anything to represent a man for my boys to resemble and replicate. In order for me to do that I must continuously grow through faith, family, education, and work.

grandparents-1969824_1280As my wife and I dream about our future, we regularly discuss our children’s future families and our future grandchildren. We also discuss our sacrifices for their education and continuous intentional money decisions that all of our children see everyday. We regularly discuss with our children our dreams and where we want to be as a family. We intentionally discuss our path and dreams for them and why our decisions affect and shape our family and all of our lives. We talk to our children about their dreams. This is important because we want to hear their intentions and goals. We want them to grow and develop their dreams.Depending on their age we have gone as far as making a plan to attain future dreams (such as starting their own business or what they want to do when they get older) or just helping them with ideas. Each child is different and graduation-907565_1280allowing them to talk about these dreams makes them smile which makes us smile and enables us to include their dreams in ours.

I want to press the need to dream for others and that was why I started with our children. We can all accept that we want more and better for our children. It is parental instinct, I believe, to only want to push them for their best and beat ourselves up for every little thing we forget to show or help them with. Dream for the possibilities that they may have and that we can provide them through our teachings.

Dream for your friends and family. Dream that they can reach the potential and get everything that they dream of. We can always dream for ourselves or friends or even family but I urge you to dream for the people around you. Maybe dream for that person that just bumped into you and didn’t say excuse me. Dream for that person that cut you off on your way to work as you were running late already.

When we find ourselves dreaming for others we somehow fall into our dreams. When we dream for others it does something to us and we become less concerned with just us and want more for everyone else. If we are able to allow ourselves to dream not just for ourselves but to dream for others, we allow ourselves to reprioritize what is important. It is not important to have the biggest dreams but it is important that our dreams are vivid and as we intentionally dream for others we will intentionally grow into ours.

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charlesheadshotCharles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.comwhere you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

 

Creating a Battle Plan for the Christmas Debt War

GUEST POST BY MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE: AMBER MOORE.

I’m not sure when things changed for society. At one time, Christmas truly was solely cross-1149878_1920about celebrating the birth of the one that would save all of mankind from damnation to hell (if they wanted it). Now, it’s not Christmas unless on December 25th, the tree is surrounding by truckloads (no joke) of shiny, brand-new, expensive toys.

I don’t think gifting your 5-year old with 43 new hot wheels cars is going to help him to understand the significance of the holidays and, more than likely, you really can’t afford to be giving him all of that either. Many people today live pay check to pay check. The majority of Americans plan on spending more than $800 for Christmas gifts and, according to the Consumer Federation of America, less than 1% of Americans with accounts a Credit Union hold a Christmas savings account. Now I realize that they could have a traditional savings account or even a change jar for this, but I still think that it gives a good overview of how unprepared we are when the holidays roll around.

I’m sure more than that intend to be better prepared; it’s probably a pretty popular New Year’s resolution: to save for Christmas. But that’s the problem with New Year’s resolutions, they are usually very vague and you make them to yourself so that there isn’t any real accountability. That way if you fail, oh well. In this case, when you fail to save, or if you save and maybe don’t have an savings fund built up, you use those funds for one of life’s many emergencies that come up. Well, what then? Thanksgiving is almost here, you have no money in savings, you absolutely have to give your kid truckloads of brand new toys, and so you must shop Black Friday for the awesome deals. So, what happens? You bust out your credit card, or sign up for a new one, or take out a personal loan at your bank, or, the worst, you take out a payday loan. Then you pay hundreds, possibly thousands, of dollars of interest so that $830 you spent turns into $1900 by the time, if ever, you get it paid off. AND you start your New Year with more debt.

I know you are reading this thinking, “I do not want that to be me again, something needs to change!” You are so right, but where do you start?

Let’s make 2017 the year you follow through, at least on your Christmas savings (can’t help you with the 10 lbs off the midsection)!!!neujahr2017-1753894_1280

Here’s your surefire plan to avoid Mr. Christmas debt, start your next New Year without him following you around all year, so the next Christmas you can spend that $800 (or more if you want) without guilt or shame and no interest!

1 – Use strong words in your goals.

No more of this, “I plan on saving for Christmas in 2016.” First of all, saying you have a plan is not a plan, its a weak intention. Say things like “I will save $950 for Christmas this year.” Tip: Use this with any “New Year’s Resolution” you plan on making.

2 – Lay out a detailed plan.

checklist-1817926_1280It’s not enough to say you are going to save, you need to also detail exactly how much you will save and by what date. To figure this out you will want to create a “Christmas Budget” (this is Christmas Debt’s ultimate foe). Make a list of all the people you want to buy for, or at least those who made it on your nice list. Then come up with an amount to spend on that person. Here’s an example:

A – Spouse         $50

B – Kids (x 3)     $100/$300

C – Grandparents (x 4) $30/$120

D – Siblings (x 3) $20/$60

E – Nieces/Nephews (x 4) $20/$80

F – Colleagues/Friends/Teachers (x 6) $15/$90

Total: $700

Now you know you need to save $700. Now decide when you want the funds. Your first thought might be December, right? Well, no, especially if you enjoy venturing out into the madness of Black Friday. So you would have 10.5 months or 23 pay checks (most likely) to come up with $700. So, using a little bit of elementary math you can figure out that you need to be saving approximately $70 per month (you can round up a little to account for tax or shipping charges) or $35 per pay check (if you are paid bi-weekly). So, you need to add a “Christmas Fund” line item to your January budget for $70 per month.

3 – Have a dedicated savings account for your Christmas fund.

This doesn’t mean you can’t put other sinking funds in this savings account as well, but it would probably help if it were separate. Many credit unions offer a special fund just for Christmas funds that you deposit into every month and it auto transfers to your regular account in October or November.

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If you keep your Christmas savings in your checking account, its too easy to spend. The minute you realize you forgot to budget for Sally’s dance recital costume, you see that $210 sitting there for Christmas and think, “I’ll just borrow out of this real quick and pay it back next month.” Guess what doesn’t happen next month? You don’t pay it back because there are other expenses that you have to add into the budget or you forget all together. So, please do not leave your Christmas fund in your checking account.

We currently have many sinking funds going into 1 savings account and while it works for us, it only does because I am meticulous in updating totals on a spreadsheet (<- nerd here) every time a deposit or withdrawal is made so that I never mix funds. A lot of people don’t have or want to spend that kind of time on that and so eventually they have $3000 in their savings accounts but are a little unsure of exactly how much of that is for what. So they go to fix their car thinking they have $400 in their car repair fund and end up spending Jonny’s Christmas fund. Oops! It usually is fairly simple to set up extra savings accounts, even if your bank doesn’t offer a specialize Christmas one. Its better to do this and just leave it strictly for Christmas.

4 – Now that you have your Christmas fund figured out, forget about it!

You have your savings account set up, and your budget started, you can start an auto-transfer from your check to that savings account. Then, forget about it. Don’t try to borrow from it throughout the year. Don’t go in and change your auto-transfer or your budgeted amount. Leave it alone. Let your plan go to work.

“But CAM! What if I find this super-amazing, can’t-resist, must-buy deal let’s say in christmas-tree-1081826April, can’t I pull out the money then?” I’m going to say “no”. It starts you down a very dangerous path. You end up giving that toy to a niece or nephew whose birthday you forgot, or little Cori finds the baby doll in your closet so you just give it to her, or the dog finds it and makes it his new chew toy. Now you are out a toy and out the funds in your Christmas account. You have a budgeted amount which means you would have to take amounts from one place (maybe siblings) and put back in Cori’s. I like to shop at garage sales and thrift stores and throughout the year I find things to give to people for Christmas. I have a separate line item in my budget for garage sales, so if there’s money in that envelope I can buy whatever the super-amazing deal is and try to hide the gift as best as possible. If there’s not money in there, then I pass and wait until I do have the funds.

If you come up to Black Friday and realize that little Cori already has a closet full of Christmas presents and you don’t need to buy her anything extra, then you can choose to do whatever you like with the amount you budgeted for her. Maybe pay off a debt, or add to your family’s emergency fund, or even use it to bless someone in need around the holidays.

5 – You made a spending plan, stick to it!

This is the hardest part, second only to keeping the budgeted amount going in every month. You made a budget and set amounts for everyone, but that Black Friday rolls around and while you are waiting in line for the Hatchimal, you notice that their blenders are only $12! “What? Aunt Susie would love that blender!” And then there’s the cheap pajamas, and all the other toys and kitchen items, and electronics filling the middle aisles just waiting for you to pluck them and place them into your cart. By the time you make it shopping-mall-522619to the cash register, you have $400 worth of items and realize thats only for 3 people on your list.

I know how hard it is to walk by a super-good, amazing deal and not to take advantage of it. So, plan out your shopping trip. Decide exactly what you are going to buy, for who, from what store. Look at all of the extra things they will have out so you know what you will see when you get there. If you decide that you really want to take advantage of some of the kitchen items deals for yourself while your there, that’s fine, just make sure you have the cash funds available in your budget for household items. By knowing exactly what you will see and what of that you are going to buy will help you stick to the spending plan you made in January. Now, I realize things happen and you might want or need to adjust your spending plan before heading out, thats fine, as long as it is a detailed battle plan.

So, here’s a summary:

1 – Set your goals using strong words: will, am, etc.

2 – Lay out a detailed “Christmas” plan: how much to save, by when, and for who.

3 – Have a dedicated savings account for your Christmas fund.

4 – Leave the savings account alone all year long.

5 – You made a spending plan, so when you go shopping, stick to it!

Just remember, Christmas is not about loading people up with new “stuff”, its about being with family to celebrate the fact that we are alive, living with purpose, because God was gracious enough to send his only child to save this world. Debt will not get you closer to feeling God’s peace: only prayer, worship, evangelism and fellowship will do that.

img_6400As someone who always made people ask, “How does she do it?”, I had to learn how to fit more into my day without completely losing my mind. Now I’m excited to share how I did that and what I’ve learned with everyone else. I just want to see people able to live the life they want, doing the things they want, without the stress they think is normal. I want everyone to experience Peace of Time.

 

When Should I Talk to My Child about College?

When should we start talking about college to our children? Is Jr. High too soon? What should I say?

As parents we deliberately do many things when we care for our children: make sure they don’t touch the hot stove, teach them principles and values to live by, allow them to make mistakes that we carefully calculate the outcomes of to ensure they learn from but don’t get too hurt by. College planning and finances should be just as calculated decisions that parents and children make together. Unfortunately money and many areas surrounding money (such as the expense of higher education) are viewed almost as taboo and are whispered and not spoken of intentionally. Money is not taboo and money should not be an obstacle or challenge, it should be the enabler of all the things you wish to do.

Many families do discuss college but the reverse planning and discussions start later than they need to. Let us do some reverse planning.

College age: 18years old

Things that affect college:

  • Grades
  • Community Involvement
  • Money

Applications

Scholarships

Place of Study

Focus of Study

Looking at the things that directly affect the college decision we can now start reverse planning the decision and addressing some questions you might have.

When do grades start to affect college acceptance?

Many would say high school. However, can a child simply wake up and start getting good grades? Can a child go from a mediocre work ethic when it comes to school as an 8th grader to starting as a freshman in high school and have the discipline and consistency togirl-669823_1920 do homework and make the grades? Probably not. So this means we as parents need to start helping our children with these things prior to high school. We need to build the character and resolve for our children to know the right things to do and the discipline to do them even when they are in high school and all the distractions start to overwhelm and influence them.

Our oldest daughter is in the 6th grade and she understands that she has a college fund and will be going to college. She sees me pursuing another degree and the work ethic it takes to go to school, work, and be the best father for her. She is starting to ask questions about college and what to study and where to study. As a 6th grader she has the beginning discipline that it takes and understands that we sometimes have to postpone what feels good so we can do what is right. I saw this from her when she was in Taiwan with me. We were in taiwan while the rest of the family was in the US taking care of some legal and medical concerns. To keep up with the expectations of this strict, foreign school she had homework that many nights lasted until 8 or 9 pm. This also was working around my work schedule where she had to wake up around 5am. She was a trooper while it was just us two. She understood that there was a reason we were doing this and why the rest of the family was in the US. The only reason she understood this was because of intentional and well thought out communication that my wife and I talked about before sharing it with her. We as parents feel the need for intentionality with our children is one of the biggest callings we have on our lives.

Because we instilled these values and the knowledge about the future in her early to build a firm foundation, she will carry that all through Jr. High and be able to go into High School prepared to put in the work, thought, and effort to achieve the grades she needs to.

So, we recommend to start discussing college and the importance of good grades with your children just before they enter Jr. High. If you have a child around that age, just sit them down and ask them what they love doing, what they would love to do when they grown up (even if its several things), and then start talking about what steps they might need to take to get there. Talk about the importance of education, but more importantly, the importance of a good work ethic.

When should we discuss the costs of college with our children and make decisions on how it will be paid?

Money was discussed in another blog for this series and that planning for parents can be found here.  That blog tells you how much to save, where to find some great calculators, options for where to put that savings, and options for the different revenue sources the costs can come from (parents saving, child’s savings, scholarships, etc.).

You’ve already laid a good foundation down for your child when they entered Jr. High, so youth-393656_1920when they are about to enter High School, I recommend sitting them down and really showing them the costs that will be thrown at them immediately after they graduate.

College is expensive and thats not the only thing they have to pay for in the upcoming years. When they turn 16, they will want some sort of transportation (and you will probably want them to have it too), and whether they are paying all of it or you will be matching their contribution, thats a very large expense. This is a good spring board to teach them about saving in a sinking fund for an upcoming expense. They will be getting their first jobs usually as a freshman and they need to have a good plan for that money.

They also should understand that while scholarships and grants are an amazing way to take the cost of college down, they need to have good grades (or a lot of community service for some) to win those. BUT the more outside assistance they get, the less money they would have to put away now to help pay.

If your child is getting ready to enter high school or start their first job, sit down with them to look at some different in-state schools and the costs of those schools. Let them know how much of that (if any) you will be covering and come up with a reasonable amount for them to save in advance as well. Look briefly at some of the available scholarships and what the qualifications are for those, so that they have an idea of what they need to accomplish over the next 4 years. Remember, however much is not saved for in advance or covered by outside assistance will determine how much they will need to work through college to cover the remainder. Loans should NOT be an option. (Read my blog about the statistics of college loan debt)

When do we start planning where my child will go to college?

My recent trip to Boston had my daughter asking questions about not only my work but also Harvard. I intentionally sent her pictures of Cambridge and campus to spark questions. She may not understand what the school is but she does understand that there are choices in the decision of school and college and that she has a major decision in her future to make pertaining to what school she wants to go to. She is now asking to visit Cambridge and see what college students are like. She is starting to dream of possibilities and her future.

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Because the costs of colleges can be so different depending on where your child chooses to go (i.e. local community college, in-state university, out-of-state university, private university, etc.), the earlier you have this conversation, the better. Now, I’ve never met a young person that hasn’t changed their mind about something within 5 minutes of talking, so this choice doesn’t have to be set in stone, but its important to have goals and a plan. Most careers today don’t care at all where you went to school, just that you went and learned skills that you can apply in the real world (read an article by Time here). We recommend either going to a local community college for the first 2 years or attending all 4-years at an in-state public university to keep costs down. But whatever school your family decides on, get some pennants, mugs, shirts, etc. of that school and hang them up in your child’s bedroom. Keep that goal in front of them, so they can see it everyday and never forget why they are working so hard.

sunflower-834999_1920I hope I’ve answered some of your questions and concerns about when you should start talking to your children about higher education and just the future in general.The other parts of the reverse planning can be done simply by laying out the goals for each and timeline for those and then working backwards. If you feel like your child is already too far along, too old, or that you’ve missed your chance: you haven’t! There is no time like the present. More importantly then when you do it, is that you do it.

When it comes to our children, we will always have some kind of impact on their lives, but we only have a short while that they will be under our roofs and an even shorter amount of time that they will want to hear what we have to say. Over all, we want to preface those difficult years of raising teenagers and young adults as best we can with intentional teachings and intentional communication. College planning is one of those things. We start communicating college to our children young and as they get older we intentionally add more information and more opportunities for growth.

 The greatest thing is that these discussions will cause your child to dream about their future. That is what we as parents want and we don’t want them to ever lose that.

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Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.comwhere you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

What You Need to Know About Saving for College

We are continuing in our College series. Last week we talked about having a plan for your higher education (you can read that here). My goal is to help just one person with the road to college, whether that is a parent or if that is a student, as long as they want to make a change and break the continual cycle of loans, debt, and free flow planning instead of intentional living.

This week we will start at the beginning of college planning which we feel is the financial planning or saving for college. Financial planning we put first because with this out of the way many obstacles and objections to college can be overcome.

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“I don’t have time (working three jobs to make ends meet).”

“It’s too expensive.”

“I don’t need to go to college; there are many successful people who haven’t.”

“College is a business and not about education anymore.”

These are just a few of the mindsets people have today about the possibility of higher education, but if you were to have college already taken care of financially, would your stance change?

As parents, we want nothing more than for them to have the opportunities we didn’t have so they can have the life we didn’t. Something my father always said was, “Listen and adult-education-572269_1920learn from my mistakes; there is no reason for you to make the same mistakes.” As I look back on this, I see how important and how much wisdom could have been gained if I would have grasped all of that phrase when he was saying it. With all of this being said, I want to make it clear that neither me or my wife had college paid for upon graduating high school. In fact, I went out of state to a college I was paying $10,000 per semester, all paid for with student loans. After one semester of partying and $10,000 in loans with no transferable grades to show for it, I moved back home to my dads and decided to go to work. I don’t want my children to continue this cycle.

As parents and, more importantly, as a team, my wife and I continually tell our children that they will go to college (even if they choose to serve in the military). Not because we think it is necessary for success, but because we believe that the knowledge gained, connections made, people met, and the real-world experience learned are all valuable tools for life. We, however, do feel that it is our responsibility to provide this financially for them and so we have started saving for all of their tuition costs. Many people have different feelings on whether it is their responsibility to provide this for their children and I do not believe any of us are necessarily right or wrong, but no matter what your belief is, one thing that is for certain is that we as parents must plan.

How Much to Save

block-1512119_1920To fully fund a college education at an in-state school, it currently costs approximately $40,000 in tuition. Now this is a 4-year degree at a state school completed in 4-years. We can lower this number with grants, scholarships, and financial aid, but for this let us use this as the base number. In order for parent(s) to fund this $40,000, we have to start now.

I will admit that my wife and I are behind on this. We also have 4 children (11,9,2,1) and will fund all of their college (plus we want more kids: YIKES!). Let’s figure out what my family will need to save assuming a 3% annual college inflation rate and a rate of return of 10%. To fund this starting at age 11, we have to save $300 per month at least, for the 9-year old it is $225, 2 it is $110 and we would need to save $100 per month for our 1-year old. Obviously the sooner we start the easier and lower the number. Also something to consider, if for a new born you were to put back $7,000 when they are born, you would have $40,000 at the age of 18.

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The reason I break these down is to show you how starting early can save you money. The $300 needed to fund our oldest daughter’s college, is as much as a car note. The $100 (lowest number) needed for my youngest is the same amount we were paying for my student loans that have been around for the past almost ten years. We have put a priority on our children’s education and even it is expensive, I want to provide this so that our children don’t start out their adult life with that insane student loan debt lingering over their heads when they graduate.

Check out this college savings calculator (or any of the many out there) to figure out how much you need to be saving for your children for college.

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Where to put the money

For college education, there are many options for college savings from government bonds (probably the most famous grandparent gift), taxable savings account, 529 college savings plans, and 529 pre-paid tuition plans.

What we recommend is to put the money first into a 529 college savings plan and to diversify and control the investment. Investment options with your 529 plan can include stock mutual funds, bond mutual funds, and money market funds, and even age-based portfolios that become more conservative as the child gets closer to leaving for college. 529 plans allow your money to grow tax-free (some states will still charge state tax) and to withdrawal without penalty as long as the money is going toward eligible college expenses (tuition, room and board, books, etc.). You can learn all about 529 plans in this article from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Things to Remember

income-tax-491626_1920Contributions to your child’s (or grandchild’s, niece’s, etc.) college saving plan count as a gift from you. You have an allowance of $14,000 per year for gifts (you can choose to pay up to 5-years worth at once as long as it wouldn’t exceed that allowance). Check with your accountant for tax implications.

You don’t have to be the only one saving for your child’s college. In lieu of big expensive gifts that will go unplayed with, you could ask friends and relatives to instead give children college contributions for birthdays or other holidays. Also, when your child is old enough to start earning his/her own money, a portion of that should be going toward their education.

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Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.comwhere you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

Have a Plan: 3 Tips to Preparing for College

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In today’s society, no child is left behind, each participant gets a trophy, and everyone thinks they deserve everything that their neighbor has, even if they can’t afford it. Because of this, education has been a topic of major debate.

You have some concerned that education is too expensive now, putting out of reach for some. Some of those even believe higher education, at least to an Associates degree, should be government funded. Then you have many people do not think about education enough, and just accept the concept and decision that the only way to go too school is to fund it with student loans.

I am here to tell you that you can go to school DEBT FREE. If you have already finished school and you are in student loan debt, there is a way out.

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For the next few weeks, we will cover the financial side of education and work through everything from preparation of the student and parents, going to school debt free, getting out of student loan debt if you are already there, and more topics to start a dialogue and the thought process of the possibility of a debt free higher education.

This week we will look at student loans and some basic college facts and talk about having a plan.

AVG Debt – $30,100
AVG In-State Cost Per Year- $$24,061

AVG Private School Cost per Year – $47,831
AVG GPA at Graduation at Public Colleges – 3.1
AVG Grant and Scholarship Aid – $9,740

AVG Financial Aid – $12,740
AVG Graduation Rate – 60%
AVG Degree Change – 75%

(These figures are based on graduating with a bachelors degree from a 4-year university)

With all of these numbers, it is easy to see that the college mindset will more than likely change and evolve over time. But as with any decision, the biggest part of making a good choice is planning. These facts show that changes will happen, and while these are simply averages they are a great representation of the student loan debt that can easily become attached to these changes. So how can you best pursue higher education and avoid going in debt to do it? Well, you need to have a plan.

Here are 3 steps to planning ahead for higher education:

having-a-plan

First, make sure you have a plan for a degree.

While statistics can vary, most will report that nearly 50% of students go into college with an undecided or undeclared major. With this information, its no wonder that nearly 75% of all college students end up changing their degree. This “I’ll figure it out later” mentality is adult-education-572269_1920what kills people in their decisions. For example, when you shopping for a car: if you go to a lot with no idea what type of car you want, what features you need or what your budget is, that salesman is going to do his best to take you for everything he can. And if you change your mind in a year or 2, you will be so far upside down you won’t be able to do anything. You wouldn’t walk down the isle unsure if you were making a good or right decision would you? Thinking you would just change your mind a couple years down the road? The emotional and financial implications of a divorce are devastating. So, why 50% young adults think its okay to start college without a plan is beyond me.

If you need to take a year or two off to decide what you want to major in, then do that. Work and save some money, explore some options, but most importantly: pray that God will show you where He’s called you. Once you have a good idea of a degree you would like to pursue, then you should start applying.

Click here for a great article on Forbes on why going undeclared is such a bad idea.

Second, start thinking about how you are going to pay for college.

If you’re lucky, your parents have been financial savvy and have some or all of your college set aside. However, according to Sallie May, only 30% of college costs are covered by the parent’s income and savings. So, how will you come up with the remaining 70%?

There is federal financial aid (if you qualify), grants, but most importantly: scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships out there for just about everything you can think of, you just have to find them. We will go into more detail about scholarships in an upcoming post.

You also could be working your butt off through highschool (and most especially in the summers) to save up everything you can. Continue working throughout college to pay off anything you are still responsible for. Most students can have about 12% of their college expenses covered by their own income and savings. And working doesn’t mean lower grades. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) discovered that students working 1­-15 hours per week have a higher GPA than students who don’t work at all.

Third, figure out where you want to apply to.

One of the biggest myths out there is that college is as much about where you go as it is the degree field you are working towards. 95% of the industries out there don’t care where you went, they just care that you did go and you learned what you needed to while there.

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One option is to go online. Online degrees hold the same weight as other degrees, KNOWLEDGE. This knowledge will transform into job opportunities and career paths.

Another option is to start at your local community college. Its cheaper and you can get your electives out of the way.

Your third option for a smart college path is to simply go to an in-state college. Staying in state is at least half the cost of going to an out-of-state public school.

Coming out of college with a degree should be a time of excitement, uncertainty (in a good way), and celebration. However, with the AVG student debt upon graduation being $30,100, these emotions now change and the focus is just finding a position so you can now pay for these loans. By putting the 3 tips we discussed into practice, you can help make sure you don’t start your adult life with the tremendous burden of doubt.

Just make sure to plan. Plan for the experience, ups and downs, change, and cost of college but most of all plan to gain all of the knowledge you can while there, because that is what carries past the school and that is the reason for going.

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Charles Moore is a veteran, rocket doctor, financial coach, and blogger. If you’ve decided its time for you to suit up and fight for your financial freedom, check out his website at www.CAMFinancialCoach.com where you can get information on the coaching process, package options, and an unbeatable library of knowledge on winning financial battles.

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