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How to Cut Expenses When Living Off Campus

How to Cut Expenses When Living Off Campus

If you’re finally moving out of the dorms into your own off-campus apartment, congratulations! That’s a big life move – at times it can be challenging and perhaps even overwhelming, but it’s never anything less than completely rewarding. However, living on your own means you will be faced with many responsibilities that you haven’t yet had to deal with, most of them financial. To avoid going bankrupt and having to return home after just one semester off campus, follow these tips for cutting your expenses. You’ll thank us for the advice!

Eat at Home

Ditch the college meal plan and just say “no” to eating out. Instead, put your new kitchen to use, and cook at home. Simply by buying groceries, you can save hundreds of dollars per year on food expenses. Additionally, you’ll have more say on what types of food you eat, and may find that your diet is healthier and more sustainable (assuming you don’t simply load up on sodium-rich instant noodles, of course). Plus, as a young college student, cooking and eating at home is a perfect opportunity for socializing – whether you cook with friends, a significant other, or simply a study group, you can enliven your meals with good company.

Take Public Transportation or Bike

If you can avoid it, resist the urge to buy a car until you absolutely need one. Remember, a car payment is only the beginning when it comes to paying for a car; you also have to insure the vehicle and pay for ongoing vehicle maintenance, which can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year. Instead, take public transportation or ride a bike around campus. True, some towns and colleges lend themselves to this more than others, but if you find that you mostly stick to one area, you likely don’t need a car of your own. Not yet, anyway.

Split the Utilities (and Rent) with a Roommate

Don’t take on the financial burden of living off campus alone. Instead, move in with a roommate or two. Not only will you be able to split the rent, but you can split utilities as well (assuming your landlord doesn’t cover these costs for you; be sure to inquire before signing the contract so you know what your costs will be). Simply make sure that your name isn’t on all of the contracts, because this makes you legally responsible in the event your roommate misses a payment or runs out on you. If you want to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share, use a rent splitting calculator to estimate each person’s obligation.

Do Your Shopping on Craigslist

Shopping for furniture? Find it on Craigslist. Looking for a commuter bicycle? Find it on Craigslist. Looking for some basic appliances? Find it on Craigslist. For all things discount shopping, Craigslist is your friend! Sure, there are some things that you’ll want to buy new – a mattress, for example – but for many of the things that you’ll need once you move into your new place, you will find that Craigslist has them! And at greatly discounted prices, too.

Cut Out Cable (and Other Needless Subscriptions)

If you’re in college currently, there’s a good chance that you’ve already cut the cord on cable television. But have you considered the idea that with subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and HBO Go (not to mention Google Play Music, Apple Music, and Spotify), you aren’t actually saving any money? Yes, each of these services unto themselves are incredibly affordable – often less than $10 per month, in fact – but they only represent a bargain if you stick to just one or two. If you sign up for every service that comes across your desk, you could quickly find yourself spending $100 or more per month on services that you don’t need. Cut back!

Get a Prepaid Phone Plan

With prepaid phone plans, you can get all of the data, talk, and text that you need at a fixed rate. This will help you avoid unnecessary surprises on your phone bill at the end of each month. Plus, you may find that going with a prepaid phone plan is simply the cheaper, more convenient, all-around better option. If you are on an existing plan that you have had for years, and are paying the monthly bill without question, it may finally be time to start questioning it. Do a little bit of cross shopping and price comparison, and you might just find that there are terrific deals available. Stop paying as you go, and sign up for a prepaid plan today.

Watch What You Spend

One of the simplest ways to cut expenses when living off campus is to cut back on spending. Going to the bar, eating out with friends, buying new clothes, hitting up the local clubs, and spending extravagantly on weekend getaways can cost a lot of money. And this is before ever spending a penny on your recurring monthly bills. Don’t pay attention to your expenses, and you may find yourself digging a deeper and deeper financial hole with each passing month. Don’t let that happen. Use apps like Mint to budget accordingly, and embrace free (and affordable) pastimes and attractions, and you can take charge of your finances.

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Preparing for Unexpected College Expenses

Preparing for Unexpected College Expenses

College is already stressful – workload, course load, homework and projects, club meetings and events without adding financial troubles to the mix. However, properly preparing for unexpected college expenses can help minimize stress.

There are plenty of places where students can go to get help managing money, applying for financial aid, and getting familiar with what to expect from college, including the Federal Student Aid.

Textbooks on a Dime

Text books are expensive, especially given many students don’t keep them past a year. A great way to keep costs low is to buy used texts as often as possible. There are plenty of online resources to ensure you get quality used books for a low price while others rent textbooks for the quarter, such as Chegg.com or Amazon.

Don’t purchase your books right away, either. Wait until you have a syllabus and know you will be staying in the class. Buying them before the first day can be costly if students drop the class for one reason or another. Fall quarter syllabus created in the summer can also change before the quarter starts up.

Digital text books can be rented or purchased and are often much cheaper, too. Plus instead of weighty books, they’re as light as the device they’re saved on.

Balanced Budgets

Budgets are the hardest part to stick to. Saving even 10 percent of your income from jobs or student aid can greatly increase your ability to cover unexpected costs.

Monitor your spending. Instead of springing for cable or daily lattes, go for Netflix and a coffee maker. There are ways college students can sway out spending for lower-cost options all over the place. Food costs can be cut by pooling food money and buying in bulk. Housing can be less expensive the farther from the campus students live, though, get too far out and you may need a car (negating some savings).

Credit cards can be a dangerous slope, as minimum payments are never enough and costs rack up quickly. It’s good to have an emergency credit card, but its easy to overspend via credit cards.

Having a car can be really fun, but aren’t the most cost-effective possession for a young college student. However, if you really want one to have cool road trips in or to haul your college gear, check out local DMV locations to get your in-state license if you don’t already have one.

Student Discounts

Many places offer student discounts when you show your student ID. Anything from insurance to food, clothing to services, and more. Organizations have already compiled comprehensive lists of places with student discounts, so all you may have to find is where businesses are located. When you’re at the register, just ask if they have a student discount and hopefully you’ll be able to save a couple bucks.

Amazon Prime even has a discounted version for students. Prime Student is a six-month free trial of all Prime services. After the initial trial ends, eligible students get a 50-percent saving off Amazon Prime for four years.

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Making The Move To College: Bargain Budget Must-Haves

Making The Move To College: Bargain Budget Must-Haves

There is no shortage of college preparation checklists and must-haves available on the internet. But as a soon-to-be college student who is preparing for an impending move on a tight budget, it’s a different story. With that in mind, here are some of the bare essentials you’ll need to live comfortably in college:

A Cozy Place to Sleep

After an all-night study session, there’s no place more comfortable than your bed. And since quality sleep has a strong correlation with academic performance, it is worth it to spend your hard-earned money on a quality mattress and bedding that you love. When it comes to buying a mattress, shop around and compare prices. Be sure to check online as well. While one may assume that it would be more costly to buy such a bulky item online due to shipping, it can actually be more affordable.

When it comes to bedding, you’ll need at least one set of sheets (or two if you have room to store a spare set), a down comforter, a duvet set and pillows (at least one for sleeping and a few decorative ones). If you’re going to splurge on one thing, it should be the pillow that you’ll sleep on. You can often save big on sheets with a set by Amazon Basics or find some at a discount chain like Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. When shopping for anything bedding-related, be sure to shop around, as there are many great deals to be had if you have time to seek them out.

Homey Flourishes

Finding decor items that you love can make your dorm room or new apartment feel like home and help ease the transition into college life. Start by getting a few nice picture frames that you can use to frame some of your favorite photos of friends and family back home. Opt for a collage-style frame that can hold multiple photos if you have minimal wall space to hang pictures. Find knick-knacks like quirky bookends or colorful candles to infuse a little more personality into your new living space. Add a cozy throw blanket to the end of the bed to add a little more warmth, both literally and visually.

Additional Storage

Few college living arrangements are known for their ample storage space, so be prepared to invest in storage solutions. A plastic three-drawer storage chest on wheels is ideal for storing everything from socks and t-shirts to dry food goods, like macaroni and cheese and canned soup. If floor space is especially limited, use one of these storage chests as a nightstand.

Cooking Essentials

The stereotypical college student of years past may have lived off of instant ramen noodle soup, but today’s college crowd is more health conscious. While you may eat most meals in the campus dining hall, it’s still worth spending a little money to outfit your new place with a few cooking essentials. All you really need is a mini refrigerator, a small microwave and a few bowls, cups, plates and cutlery. You can find the small appliances available at steep discounts during back-to-school sales or even on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

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Budgeting For Your College Study Abroad Experience

Budgeting For Your College Study Abroad Experience

Most students who study abroad find it to be incredibly rewarding and fulfilling. It is an experience that you will carry with you for the rest of your life, and may impact you in untold ways. But there is one minor issue: how do you pay for it? If your parents or grandparents are footing the bill, you have nothing to worry about, but for those students who are paying their own way, here are things to consider so you can properly budget for your time abroad – whether it’s a single semester or several years.

Paying for It

The first and most important consideration is paying for your time abroad. If you are planning to travel overseas for several years, you may be eligible for a student/work visa, in which case, you can earn money on the local economy. However, if you are planning to study abroad for a single semester, you likely will be forbidden from working in-country – so be prepared to save up enough money in advance to carry you through your entire term.

To pay for your trip, first determine how much you need. Is the program $5,000? $10,000? Remember, factor in both upfront costs, and those that will be incurred while you’re overseas. It does you no good to pay for your trip if you have no money for living expenses once you get there. For a ballpark estimate of how much you should be putting away every month, use a savings calculator to see how far your money will take you – and how quickly it will get you to your goal. If your current income won’t get you over the finish line in time, consider getting a second job, or starting a secondary business, like Uber or Amway. The extra income you earn could be the last piece of the puzzle.

Figuring Out the Local Economy

You’ll have to learn a lot of on the fly once you get to your destination. Does the economy support credit cards, or will you need to have cash on you at all times? How does the cost of living compare to home? How does the value of the dollar compare to the local currency – are you making money with each purchase, or losing it? To help avoid culture shock, do a bit of research in advance so that you know the answers to these questions before you arrive.

Other things to consider include daily withdrawal limits, using your ATM card overseas, and whether or not you’ll have to pay international transaction and currency conversion fees. In all cases, you should speak directly with your bank or credit card provider regarding these questions. For peace of mind, and to ensure that you’ll have access to your money when you need it. The last thing that you want it to be unable to pay for a meal, or take money from an automatic teller, because your card isn’t compatible in the country you are visiting.

Spending and Getting by While You’re There

If you’re on a fixed income during your study abroad, it’s important that you put together a budget plan. Why? So that you have a good idea of how much money you can spend in a given period of time – say, a week or month, for example. If you spend more in a given period of time than you’ve budgeted for, this means that you have less money at your disposal in the next spending period. If you don’t account for this, you could find yourself completely out of money long before your semester (or year) abroad is over. It should be obvious to everyone that this is far from ideal!

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to save money here and there, all of which can help your dollar go further. And if it’s true that overspending leaves you with less money for your next spending period, then it’s also true that underspending leaves you with more! Being frugal here and there – by eating in, bringing snacks with you, visiting free attractions, and taking part in free activities, to name just a few examples – can pay dividends in the long run. There’s nothing better than occasionally being able to splurge on yourself because you’ve followed all of the rules.

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3 Real Ways To Cut Your Expenses At College

3 Real Ways To Cut Your Expenses At College

CuttingCostsAs a college student, you are likely looking for any way to cut your spending and save some cash. Plenty of people and articles will tell you to stop getting Starbucks or closely examine all of your small expenditures – because they can certainly add up! However, is that really the biggest way to make a financial impact? Here are some tips to save and make money in the long term.

Examine Your Current Bills

The first place to look at cutting your spending is by examining your recurring bills. For the most part, these are services you need, but you may be able to cut out some of them. For example, if you pay for a streaming service such as Hulu or Netflix, do you also need to be paying for cable? Is there any way you can split entertainment services with friends and roommates? There’s also a good chance you are overpaying for some services, like your cell phone. Switch to a plan with no unexpected costs or hidden fees, such as T-Mobile One. If you have a strong credit history and a good record of paying your bills on time, try calling your cell provider, or even your electric company, to see if they are willing to lower your monthly payment. They often want to keep good customers like you, and will be willing to work with you if you explain your budget.

Track Your Spending Habits

Time to dissect that credit card bill! While cutting out a latte per week may not make that big of a difference in your financial situation, completely analyzing your current budget and creating a new one that is more in line with your ideals can. It may seem stressful and time-consuming to go through all your spending and come up with a plan, but thankfully there are personal finance apps that do it all for you. For example, Mint connects to your bank accounts to track your spending by category, such as restaurants, groceries, entertainment, gas and more. From this information and your input on priorities and goals, it creates a personal budget plan for you. It can even warn you when you are close to reaching your monthly budget, alert you when bills are near due, and more! Having a pulse on your funds at all times will make you more responsible with your spending.

Minimalize

Whether we like it or not, a lot of us are materialistic. While this is not necessarily terrible for your financial situation, minimalization is sure to improve it. Start by taking a look through your clothes and taking out anything you haven’t worn in the past three months. Sell these clothes to thrift shops or an online marketplace, and make a couple bucks. Next, move on to some non-essentials, such as makeup. Put all your products in one location and move them to another as you use them. If you haven’t used a product within two weeks, you should probably throw it away. Continue to do this throughout your living space. While you may not receive much financial gain from this type of spring cleaning, keeping the mentality will save you money over time. Before you make a purchase, think of what it will provide to your life, and even consider how much you are paying per usage. For example, a $200 dress that you will only wear once seems a little silly, right?

Saving money can be difficult, but there are many expenses that are easier to cut back on than you might think. Dedicate some time to looking at your wallet and figuring out a plan to improve your financial situation. Your future self will thank you!

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College Essentials 101: Mitigate Your Student Debt

College Essentials 101: Mitigate Your Student Debt

Even if you have already had to bite the bullet and take out loans to pay tuition, that doesn’t mean you have to finance your entire 4 years with debt. You can still find ways to minimize the debt or even avoid it altogether. It takes a little creativity and sacrifice. But that’s what your college years are for! So here are 5 tips for graduating with the smallest amount of debt possible.

#1 Get a Part Time Job

Working while studying is becoming more and more common these days so you won’t have too much trouble finding an employer willing to work around your class schedule. And a part time job can bring in enough money to cover your living expenses. So by working part time, you can avoid thousands of dollars in debt because you aren’t adding 4 years of living expenses to your tab.

And beyond that, there are some employers that even offer education benefits. These employers will pay part (or sometimes all) of your tuition in addition to paying you wages. So if you find the right employer, you could not only save on living expenses but you could even decrease the amount of debt you’re taking for tuition!

Do your research and ask about education benefits in your interviews.

#2 Embrace the “Starving Student” Lifestyle

While at college, you are going to see too many students driving cars and renting apartments they can’t really afford. They buy the name brand groceries. They get the newest electronics. They go out way too often. Don’t be that student.

There are a lot of non-essentials that you can do without. Here are few of the obvious and less obvious things that you can do to cut the non-essentials and save tons of money:

  • Get a used car. Buy a reliable used car with cash. Don’t take out a loan to drive a new car. You’re a student. You have no reason to be driving a new car. Better yet, you could be using public transport and avoid all the expenses of owning a car like insurance, gas, maintenance, parking fees, and so on.
  • Live with roommates. This will save you hundreds every month.
  • Skip the TV. Just watch movies and TV shows on your computer.
  • Buy generic. Get the generic brands of all your foods. Get canned or frozen produce so that it doesn’t spoil before you eat it.
  • Invite people over instead of going out. Buying some snacks and drinks to enjoy at home with friends is much, much cheaper than going out to a restaurant or club. It’s also just as fun. And they’re broke to so you’re helping them out.

There’s a lot of ways to avoid spending money. In 4 years, you will be thanking yourself.

#3 Remember Credit Cards are not Free Money

When making your monthly budget, don’t include your credit card limit as part of your “available money” for the month. Budget as if you were living purely on cash. Credit cards should exist to get you through an emergency. You shouldn’t go into debt to cover your normal expenses.

So if you can’t afford it without using credit cards, you need to rethink your budget and start making some cuts. In fact, you shouldn’t even be carrying your credit card in your wallet. Keep it in a drawer in your room. Don’t touch it unless you absolutely need it.

If that advice sounds too tough to follow, please refer back to tip #2! If you’ve already cut everything from your budget that you possibly can, look for creative ways to earn more money before you go into debt.

#4 Keep Applying for Scholarships

Many people know that they should apply to scholarships and financial aid before they start college. But did you know that you can keep applying even after you’ve already started? There are plenty of scholarships out there that are available to students who have already begun studying.

Make a habit of checking and applying to scholarships, grants, and other sources of financial aid. Set aside an afternoon or evening once a month to scour the web and apply for everything you can.

It’s a numbers game. If you apply to hundreds of different scholarships throughout the year, you’re bound to actually get a couple. And even if they don’t cover everything, they will make a dent. And remember that every dollar you can take off of your total student debt is worth more than a dollar in the long run. That’s because the smaller your principal amount is, the slower the interest on that amount will grow.

#5 Work & Save Money during the Summers

After a year of studying and stressing over finals, it can be tempting to use your summers to relax and recuperate. That’s especially true if you work part time during the year. But imagine this: if you worked full time during the summer months and saved up the majority of that money, you could potentially save yourself from having to work during the school year.

At the very least, you could save enough to cut your hours or allow yourself to splurge on a few “luxuries” like that name brand cereal you love.

Final Word

Heading off to college can feel like your first taste of freedom and adulthood. But you have to realize that with that freedom comes responsibility. You can’t keep digging deeper into debt just to pay for things you don’t need. You will have to pay for it later, literally! Ensure that you have a solid, debt-free (or low debt) start to your actual adulthood after college by practicing the tips above and other smart money management practices!

Today’s guest article comes from Kostas Chiotis, an economic blogger with a keen eye for personal finance. You can find more of his articles at FinanceBlogZone.com and follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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How to Overcome These 3 Devastating Budget-Busters

How to Overcome These 3 Devastating Budget-Busters

It happens to everyone, including even the most money-conscious student. No matter how well you think you planned your budget, after a few months, your bank account has less money in it than you expected.

There’s simply no avoiding an unexpected budget-busting expense at least once every few months, not to mention the smaller purchases that siphon off your funds so subtly that you hardly notice.

It may be something serious like a medical payment or a car repair. Or, it might just be your day-to-day habits. But few people can avoid falling off the budget wagon.

The key to overcoming the most common problems is knowing that they will strike. To better prepare, be sure to consider these three budget-busters.

Too Many Memberships

How many recurring subscription-based payments hit your card each month? The answer is almost certainly too many. Are you subscribing to Spotify, Apply Music and Tidal? Are you actually watching Netflix and Hulu enough to justify having both? Do you actually watch the cable service you pay an arm and leg for every month? How many magazines or newspapers do you actually read?

It can be all too easy to let $9.99 slide by month after month, rather than calling the company to cancel. But many people are throwing away $100 or more per month this way, simply letting the inertia of past sign-ups accumulate, which prevents them from reaching their goals. This can add up to thousands per year — forcing you to miss out on vacations or toys you really want.

One drastic solution is to cancel (virtually) everything right now. Then, try to live your life for a few weeks and figure out which services you actually miss. Maybe Spotify and Netflix both leave a big hole if your daily life. If that’s the case, renew those or other services you really need. But chances are you won’t even miss most of the rest.

Car Repairs and Other ‘Emergencies’

One good way to strengthen your budget is to look over old transactions from the past year. Chances are that you will find a sudden auto repair or maintenance cost that you completely forgot about, especially if you’re driving your parents old, clunky car.

One way to avoid this coming as a surprise the next time is by planning ahead. Wait for a good deal and then buy replacement parts that you know you will need in bulk. TireBuyer, for example, offers a discount to anyone who purchases a set of four select tires.

It’s also best to save for these things in advance. Many financial advisors recommend maintaining two savings accounts: one for your general goals and another for emergencies. Your current financial situation will determine how much you can reserve for this fund. But your objective should be having at least a few thousand dollars squirreled away. Because while each “emergency” comes as a shock, you know at least a few unexpected issues will strike every year. Be ready.

The Small Stuff

While a busted transmission or broken water heater is an immediate, obvious calamity, many people find themselves confused when they blow their budget every month. That’s because they fail to realize just how much they are spending every week on coffee, snacks or parking. If you’re going out to eat every night for $5 fast food, or hitting the bar every Friday to hang out with classmates, it’ll add up by the end of the month.

This doesn’t mean you need to cut out your less-memorable day-to-day expenses altogether. But you do need to account for them. The best way is to dedicate some time — at least one month, but ideally three — to being super-vigilant about everything you spend money on. This even includes times when you spend $1 on a parking meter.

After tracking it for a period, you can stop sweating the tiny stuff. But you will develop an ability to predict this “petty cash” outflow each month and just add this $50 or $100 or $200 per month into your budget as “miscellaneous.”

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Millennials Show Alarming Gap Between Financial Confidence and Knowledge

Millennials Show Alarming Gap Between Financial Confidence and Knowledge

Millennials are overconfident and under-prepared when it comes to managing their money, according to new research funded by the National Endowment for Financial Education® (NEFE®) and conducted by George Washington University. They consider themselves far more knowledgeable financially than they actually are.

“Millennials are known for having unrelenting belief in their own abilities. This generation is diverse and highly educated. However, their overconfidence puts them in an extremely fragile financial position, and sadly, they don’t realize it,” says Ted Beck, president and CEO of NEFE.

Only 24 percent of respondents showed basic financial literacy in the study, with just 8 percent showing a high level of knowledge. Yet, 69 percent gave themselves a high self-assessment of financial knowledge.

“What young adults don’t know about money can hurt them,” says Beck. “This is our opportunity to reach them with relevant financial education to help close the gap.”

Financial Strengths: On paper, millennials are highly engaged in their financial lives. “It’s time to stop defining this generation solely by their student debt load. The picture is more nuanced,” says Beck.

The majority (88 percent) are banked, and 51 percent have a retirement account. Over 40 percent own their homes and one-fourth have investments in stocks, bonds or mutual funds.

Debt: However, on the other side of the balance sheet, millennials are heavily indebted and borrow against their assets. The majority (53 percent) feel they have too much debt. Two-thirds have at least one source of long-term debt (student loan, home mortgage, car loan), and 30 percent have more than one source of outstanding long-term debt. More than one-third have unpaid medical bills. About 20 percent of those with a self-directed retirement account either took a loan or made a hardship withdrawal in the prior 12 months.

“Young adults may not understand the consequences of their actions, such as how taking money out of their retirement accounts now has an exponentially negative effect on account balances in the future,” adds Beck.

Financial Satisfaction: Young adults also don’t feel good about their finances. Nearly one in five (18 percent) are “not at all satisfied” with their current personal financial condition; only 6 percent are “extremely satisfied.”

Financial Fragility: Many millennials are financially unprepared to handle sudden economic shocks. When asked if they could come up with $2,000 if an unexpected need arose within 30 days, nearly half (48 percent) said they probably or certainly could not come up with the funds. Less than one-third (32 percent) have set aside funds to cover three months of household expenses. Nearly 30 percent of those with bank accounts had overdrawn their account in the prior 12 months.

“The financial picture isn’t all bad,” says Beck. “But it’s not where it needs to be.”

For complete findings of the research, click here.

Study Details
This research analyzed data from the 2012 National Financial Capability Study (research brief of 2015 data also available), a state-by-state online survey commissioned by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. The analysis focused on 23-35-year-olds, with a total of 5,525 observations. The study was led by Annamaria Lusardi, Ph.D., academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) and Denit Trust Chair of Economics and Accountancy at the George Washington University School of Business; and Carlo de Bassa Scheresberg, senior research associate at GFLEC.

 

Today’s Guest Article Comes From The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
NEFE is a nonprofit foundation that inspires empowered financial decision making for individuals and families through every stage of life. For more information, visit www.nefe.org.

 

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