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Frugal Living Money Matters

How I Can Easily Compare My Student Loans to Unicorns

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I don’t think I’ve ever encountered anything as magical as my student loans. I blink and the amount I owe raises a few cents. The amount of money floats around somewhere in an “owed” statement, collecting interest and dust. The more I think about my student loans, the more I realize how much they are like unicorns.

  1. I’ve never seen the amount of money that I paid for tuition.

I’ve also never seen a unicorn. I hear they’re out there, but pictures of narwhals are as close as I get. I owe a ridiculous amount, but since the total student loan debt is over one trillion dollars, I’m comforted by knowing I’m not the only one.

  1. I physically don’t possess the amount of money I now owe for tuition.

And I probably never will. The same way that I will, sadly, never ride a unicorn. However, I’m still more likely to ride a unicorn than to afford my monthly payment. Now that would be magical.

  1. The amount I owe significantly increases every year thanks to magic called “interest.”

According to folklore, unicorns can fly and I’m thinking they get their magic from the student loan offices. There must be some untapped source of power available to those that can afford to pay their student loans, and I’m assuming these people also hoard their knowledge of unicorns.

  1. I keep being told opportunities exist if I just keep looking.

If I just keep believing, maybe a unicorn will ascend from the heavens and fly me far away from my student loan debt. Or, at the very least, deliver a job offer that will make the money I spent on my student loans worth the trouble. I might as well have spent my time throwing coins at a fountain.

  1. My loan company keeps reassuring me that I’ll pay my loans off before I die.

The chances of me seeing a unicorn before I die are so slim, but still more likely than returning all the money I owe the federal government for my education.

I’m a big fan of all things unicorn, glitter, and rainbows, but no sparkle can brighten the dull of my student loans. From one mom to the next, I have no idea how I’ll convince my kids to go to college. They might as well start chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, because their chances of being debt-free aren’t fantastic. Unless they marry rich. Then they can afford the student loans and the unicorn.

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Money Matters On Motherhood Raising Healthy Kids

Returning to Work After Having a Baby

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Returning to work after having a baby is tough, whether you’re looking forward to going back or not. New York’s pretty awesome maternity leave law just went into effect this month, making it a little easier to face since you no longer have to file bankruptcy to have 8 weeks at home with baby.

“Starting January 1, 2018, New York State’s Paid Family Leave provides New Yorkers with job-protected, paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition or to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service abroad.”

It provides:

  • paid time off for 8 weeks in 2018, increasing to 12 weeks by 2021;
  • job protection upon return from Paid Family Leave; and
  • continuation of health insurance while out on Paid Family Leave

New York is one of very few states who offer any kind of protection for new moms, and we celebrate this progress. Whether you get 8 weeks paid leave or not, many women choose to or have to return to work after their child is born, and they need someone competent to care for their child. Unless you have a stay-at-home dad to solve your problems, there are several childcare options for working mothers to consider to take care of their newborns when they are returning to work.

Hiring a Nanny or a Babysitter

One option available for working moms to take advantage of is getting the services of a babysitter or a nanny. Having the budget for an in-home nanny who can handle feeding, bathing, diapering, and carry out other activities throughout the day is not affordable for most families, but for some families, a nanny is a better option than a daycare. If a nanny service is out of your budget range, you can sometimes find the next best thing in a college student or young adult who will care for the child in exchange for free room and board. Do your homework before hiring someone; go through an agency if you can, and definitely do a background check. We recommend Care.com to find qualified care providers.

Daycare

If you choose to put your infant in a daycare, I recommend choosing one close to your work  – or midway between your office and dad’s depending on who will be taking and picking up. Visit multiple daycares to determine the best one for you – and drop in on them, don’t call ahead. The best way to see how a daycare really functions is to see them in action when they’re not expecting you. If there is a daycare near your work, it may allow you to visit and nurse on your lunch break. Check references and make sure there are no complaints with the Better Business Bureau or your attorney general’s office. Talk to other parents, friends, and family to determine the credibility of a specific daycare.

Working from Home

If you want to stay home with your child and you’re able to do so, you may be able to work from home, either with your current employer or for yourself. Many employers will offer flexibility to keep a talented employee, and if that doesn’t work, or, if like me, you had an atrocious boss, sometimes it’s worth switching gears to work from home.

Whatever you do, do not hurry to make a decision – and don’t feel guilty about doing what you have to do to take care of your family, whether that means leaving and going to work or staying home.

You will hear many different opinions about the best childcare option, so the only thing to do is choose one that makes sense for you. The choice is not always easy, but you will find a way forward that works for you.

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Healthy Eating Money Matters Work at Home

Good Financial Health is Good Parenting

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

What would happen if you or your partner were suddenly too ill to work? What if you have a business to maintain that supports your family, but major surgery requires you to stop work for an extended period of time? Would your business eventually fail in your absence? How would you support your family if there is no income?

These are frightening questions, but they are a harsh reality for mothers who are self-employed and running their own business. Some women are placed on bed rest early in pregnancy, and other working moms are forced out of work to care for sick children. It’s not uncommon to be out of work as a parent.

When you have your own business, and others to support, these are critical aspects to consider. Many parents are unsatisfied with their corporate job, but it can be terrifying to leave the small comforts like short-term and long-term disability benefits. But running your own business has its own benefits, like being able to attend any event that is important to your child because you make your own schedule.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family in a financial crisis in the wake of an illness or injury? It is possible to have peace of mind, without the corporate safety blanket, and still be able to provide for your family.

Improve Your Financial Health

Regardless of where you are at in life, you are capable of creating your own financial safety net.

1. Pay off high interest debt – There are going to be large expenses like your home, but otherwise, you should focus on paying down debt. Forget the savings account for the time being, because the interest that you save by aggressively paying down debt is more than you would gain by keeping money in savings.

2. Build a savings account – As soon as your debt is paid down, you certainly should focus on establishing a substantial savings account. Forgo the purchases that you don’t need, like a new tv, and save enough to cover 6 months work of living expenses in case of an emergency.

3. Change spending habits – How are you spending your money? Do you need that daily coffee, or could that money be going elsewhere? Budget yourself, and your family, because they don’t need McDonald’s every day any more than you need Starbucks. A few dollars here and there can really add up.

4. Invest in a flexible life insurance policy – As a business owner or self-employed mom, you want a policy that offers short- and long-term disability coverage, business interruption coverage, and other protections that will offer stability when life has you busy with other things.

Improve Your Physical Health

Being financially prepared is important, but the best way to prevent health issues that could lead to your absence in business is to stay healthy.

1. Change your eating habits – Introduce more vegetables (you and your kids can suffer through peas together) and eat plenty of fruit, lean meat, and healthy grains. Drink water, limit fast food intake, and you’ll see a difference in your energy levels.

2. Exercise – Three days, 30 minutes a day is a good goal to strive for. If you can, five days, 45 minutes a day can have a huge impact. Exercising as a family can teach your kids healthy habits early on.

3. Keep up on well-visits – You wouldn’t let your kids skip their yearly check-up, and you shouldn’t either. See your doctor regularly and follow through with age-appropriate screenings. Catching an issue early can make all the difference, and the potential of fixing a health problem can motivate you to make the right lifestyle changes.

4. Minimize stress – Work-life balance needs to be a priority, and that can be especially difficult when you’re running your own business. Regardless, you want to make time for hobbies, family, and friends. Taking a moment to de-stress can rejuvenate you for each day.

The smallest changes can make the biggest difference. By staying healthy and practicing good finances, you can ensure that you and your family always have what you need.

 

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Let's Talk Money Matters

Babies Grow, Wallets Shrink

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Planning for a newborn can be exhausting and it doesn’t necessarily end once the baby is born. Creating the new room, finding the perfect crib, and selecting the most adorable clothes you can find (which is of course the best part) can be an ongoing process. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how much sleep you’re getting, babies grow in and out of everything pretty quickly.

As much as you may want to purchase anything and everything for your baby, this is a time to be budget-conscious. Your baby will be wearing diapers more than anything else, and in all reality, those cute clothes will be stained in no time. The bassinet will be used for a few months at best, and the many toys you buy will not be nearly as entertaining as the packaging they come in.

Your baby will grow faster than your budget, so keep in mind what exactly your baby will need. Your money will be better off heading towards indispensable things like bottles and onesies. But you should still definitely splurge every now and again. Who can resist an adorable dressed baby or that multicolored singing cow? Try to think about wants versus needs and spend more time than money on your baby.

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Let's Talk Money Matters

Keep Your College Student from Being a Victim of Identity Theft

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Nearly a third of all identity theft happens to college students and young adults, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. College students now complete college with record amounts of debt, but those who have been victimized by identity theft often leave campus with thousands and thousands of dollars of unauthorized debt and a poor credit score, in addition to any legitimate student loans that they have taken out. Before giving your child the big send off, make sure that you give them the tools that they need to protect themselves from identity theft.

Financial Education

Until your student understands basic finances, they will not be able to adequately understand the threat of identity theft. College bound students should understand the ins and outs of credit scores, bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial products. When they understand how to open an account themselves, they will simultaneously understand how a criminal could also open an account in their name.

This awareness will help to make your young students more careful, according to FinancialWorkshopKits.org. Organizations like the National Endowment for Financial Education offer free financial educational resources for college students, and they have materials for younger students as well if you want to get a head start on educating your other children.

Tile

A lost wallet contains enough information for someone to easily steal your young student’s identity. A clever thief can use your child’s ID when getting picked up for a speeding ticket, they can run the credit cards at area stores, and they can even apply for new accounts, using information found in the wallet. Tile, the app available from TheTileApp.com, can help your child find their misplaced wallet before it gets into the wrong hands.

Tiles are available for $19.95 each, and to work, they simply need to be affixed to the back of a wallet. When activated, the Tile app triggers an alert sound in the missing tile, allowing your student to track their wallet as long as they are within hearing distance of it. Tiles can also be attached to other easily lost items like bikes and keys.

Identity Theft Protection

Services like LifeLock monitor and protect your student’s identity. The service alerts students when accounts have been opened or credit inquiries have been made in their name. Having access to 24/7 alerts makes it easy for students to respond to identity theft immediately. When consumers take months to detect identity theft, it can take them months or even years to undo the damage.

Lemon Wallet

A LifeLock product, Lemon Wallet, is a virtual backup wallet. This free app is available for Android and iOS devices. If your student loses their wallet, this app gives them the numbers that they need to quickly cancel all of their accounts. The app can also be linked to services that provide the user with real time account balances and fraud alerts, according to Lemon.com.

Commonsense Tips

In addition to the apps and services recommended above, give your student a few commonsense tips before setting them loose on campus. Remind them not to carry their social security card and their ID in the same wallet. Together these documents give a thief way too much power. Tell them to put outgoing snail mail in secured mail boxes rather than unsecured boxes in the dorms, and give them a few tips on identifying phishing emails or scams as well.