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Miriam Caldwell

Miriam's Money in Your 20s Blog


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Graduating and Moving Forward

Thursday May 29, 2014

This time of the year signals graduation, and whether you are graduating from college and getting your first real job or if you are graduating from high school and getting ready for college, it means that you are going through a lot of changes. When you graduate from college, you are suddenly responsible for paying off your student loans, and paying rent and all of the other expenses. It can be a real wake-up call, especially if your parents were helping you out for a bit.

You can make the transition easier by setting up a good budget, and figuring out a plan to pay off all of your debt. A good job will make achieving these goals much easier. Take the time now to make a plan. It is easier to establish good money habits when you first start out on your own, then try to change your habits and fix past mistakes. Your budget is key to making that happen.

Additionally, you should make sure that you are saving money in every way that you can. This will speed up the process to helping you own a home, and make it easier when the time comes. It can also make it easier to help out your parents if they need it. Take the time to celebrate your accomplishments and then begin to move forward to your next step.

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Did You Buy Too Much Car?

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Buying a car can be a stressful process. It's a large purchase and you want to make sure you are getting the most for your money. You also want to be sure that you are getting something that is reliable and that you can count on to get you around town. This is one of the reasons that many people are often willing to stretch beyond their comfort zone and get a car that may be more than they can afford.

However, a huge car payment can hurt you financially. It can limit how quickly you can save for a down payment on a home, and it can limit the amount that you spend on other items. It can make it difficult to save for retirement and to get your budget to work. If you find that you have a car payment agh at you cannot manage, you will need to sell the car and purchase a more affordable one. This can be a time consuming process, but it is worth the effort to make your finances more manageable.

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Memorial Day Sales

Friday May 23, 2014

I have a few distinct things that come to mind when it comes to Memorial Day. Two common things that people do on Memorial Day weekend are cooking out and shopping the Memorial Day sales. And sales can be a good thing if you have planned for them. Often people will go out shopping without a specific plan in mind, just to see what is out there. If you have budgeted for this kind of spending that is okay, but really it is pointless spending.

  1. Shop with a specific plan in mind. If you know what you are looking for and stick to that plan, you will be able to avoid unnecessary spending.
  2. Set a spending limit and stick to it. Take cash with you, if you don't think that you will be able to stick to your plan--and leave your credit cards at home. Once you've hit the limit, then you can stop spending and go home.
  3. Before you make a purchase, ask yourself why you need this item and what you will do with it. Answering these questions can help you decide if the item is worth purchasing. They can save you from regret later on.

Memorial Day shopping can be fun, but it is important to remember that over indulgences may end up costing you more in the long run. Putting things on your credit card will increase your costs and negate any savings you made on the purchases.

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Finances and Marriage--Do They Really Mix?

Tuesday May 20, 2014

June is one of the most popular months to get married, which means there are a lot of people who are merging their finances this month. It is important to keep your finances separate until you are married. This will protect you and your partner in case you do break it off. You do not have the same protection and mediation opportunities as a couple that is married. If you are living together, you will want to set up a household budget, where you contribute the same percentage of your income to the budget. You will keep your debt (credit card and loans) and savings separate from each other.

Once you get married, you should begin to work together as a team to manage your finances. This means that you are open about the amount of debt and savings that you have. You need to set financial goals together with a timeline of when you want to purchase a home, and when you want to retire. Then you will come up with a financial plan and a working budget to reach those goals. If you can do this, you will be able to succeed financially, and you will seldom fight about money. Without a solid plan you will flounder and not be able to reach your goals.

It can be more difficult when you have two people working on the budget, and two people trying to set goals. However, working together and compromising on the budget and goals will strengthen your financial picture, which will also strengthen your relationship. If you are really struggling, you may want to take a financial class together to help you work through the entire process. Once you work out a system that works for both of you, you can begin to really win with money.


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Why Do You Need Insurance?

Friday May 16, 2014

A few months ago, my husband and I bought a new (to us) car. The gas mileage is a lot better than what he used to drive, and so we are seeing the economic benefits of the purchase. However, our car insurance went up when we bought the new car. it's more expensive to insure a three year old car instead of ten or fifteen year old car. Sometimes it can be frustrating to keep shelling out money to insurance companies when we don't actually use the insurance. My sister and I had a similar conversation about health insurance earlier this week. We are paying more each month, then we use it. Then there are the few accidents or illnesses that make you really thankful you have insurance.

Insurance is your buffer against financial ruin. If life is going great, and you don't use it, then you are paying for peace of mind. But if the worst were to happen--a car accident, your appendix bursts, you get gallstones or someone breaks into your apartment--then insurance is there to help limit your liability and to make it easier to put your life back together again. That is why I carry insurance, even though I hope I never have to use it.

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Starting a New Job

Wednesday May 14, 2014

It's just a few weeks after graduation and many new graduates are starting new jobs. While your focus may be on impressing your boss and coworkers with your hard work and dedication the first few days of your job are going to be filled with a lot of choices regarding your benfits. It is important to know what you are singing up for before you do it. You may be asked to sign  up for everything from reitrement plans to health insurance plus FSA accounts.

As soon as you are eligible you should start contributing to your retirement account, especially if your employer offers a match on it. Since you are in your twenties you can choose a more aggressive or high growth plan, but you can divide your money between two different plans if you want to. You determine which percentage of your contribution goes into each plan Another option you have is to determine your health insurance plan if your employer offers more than one option. You will also have choices about life insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance and other benefits. Sign up for the ones you need. If you do not need glasses, you do not need vision insurance.

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How Do You Deal with Banking Problems?

Tuesday May 13, 2014

It can be frustrating to make a deposit at the bank and then not have access to the money that you just put in. Your bank may not make funds immediately available to you for a number of reasons. They may need the check to clear the other bank before they will give you credit for it to your account. You may also end up in a situation where you are in overdraft or you have another banking issue.

It is important to carefully read the disclosure you get when you open your checking account so that you understand your bank's policies. If you are confused, call and speak to someone in customer service about the problem. Once you understand how things work, you should be able to avoid most problems with your bank.

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Do You Understand Your 401(k)?

Monday May 12, 2014

Do you hate those dreams when you are frantically rushing through it, looking from something and just can't find it? I always wake up from them worried about what I might have forgotten to do. It is very frustrating, especially when I am not quite sure what exactly I forgot to do. Retirement planning can help prevent a lot of worry and rushing around as you get closer to retirement. Taking the time now to invest on a regular basis will help you to be able to stop worrying.

When you change jobs, you may be facing the issue of handling your 401(k) with a different company. You do have the option of rolling your 401(k) into an IRA without a penalty. This will give you more control over your retirement funds, but you will only be allowed to take the amount that is vested. You will need to carefully review your company's policy and your retirement statement to determine what that is. Remember the sooner you start saving consistently, the less you will need to worry in the future.

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Are You Ready for the Summer?

Friday May 9, 2014

As I was out walking this morning, it felt like summer for the first time all year. The spring has been unusually cold in my part of the country, and we have not had a long stretch of really warm wether. This morning it was already warm and felt like it would get up into the eighties by noon. It made me start thinking about getting everything ready for the summer. With kids summer costs go up with pool passes, summer camps and other activities that we like to squeeze in as a family. Even when you are single, you may have additional summer costs that you need to budget for in addition to your vacation costs.

Take the time now to adjust your budget for summer spending. You may find that certain aspects, like being able to grill out every evening will save you money on your food bill. while other aspects like turning on your air conditioning may cause costs to go up. If you have been budgeting for more than a year, you can look back at how much you spent last summer to gauge what your spending is likely to be like this summer.

Making the adjustments now will help you to stay on track for your savings goals, and may even help you get out of debt more quickly. It's a great time of year for a yard sale. Y0u can even plant a garden and see if you can save on produce costs this year. How are you going to save money this summer?

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Celebrating Graduation

Wednesday May 7, 2014

My husband and I graduated from college at the same time. One of the best things were the gifts that we received when we graduated. Although we were tempted to spend it all on trips and fun tech items, we held onto that money, and it helped us stay afloat until we got our first paychecks. It also helped us upgrade our professional wardrobes a bit.

When you graduate, you may be very excited about moving to a new city, striking out on your own and finding the dream job. It can also be stressful, because you have to move, and do all of this before you get your first paycheck. If you land a job before you graduate from college, they may be willing to pay for some of your moving expenses. You may also get a little bit of help from your parents. But this help is not always available.

Take the time now to work out a budget to cover your basic living expense while you are finding a job. If you already have one, create a budget that will help you cover costs until you get your first paycheck. Remember you do not need to complete everything all at once. You can rent your apartment and then slowly furnish it. Try to pay for everything in cash, and you will be a lot better off in the coming months. The habits you form now will affect you for the rest of your life.

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