Digm Piece (Op-Ed)
How Much Does College Cost?
How much does college cost these days? If you’re preparing to go to college and will need to find a way to finance your own education, this is one of the first steps to figure out. Then you’ll want to find out all of your options and create a plan. Here’s a quick breakdown on the typical cost of college.
Tuition is the cost of your classes and instruction, and is usually broken out by units, or credit hours. For example, it may be $400 per credit hour, or $1200 for a 3 credit hour course. If you’re attending a state school and live in that state, you’ll most likely get a break on tuition. Tuition may also vary based upon your major or campus chosen. To get a good idea of tuition costs around the country, check out this calculator from CNN Money.
Everyone’s favorite part of living – FEES! Some schools add in fees to the tuition, while others break them out separately. Typical college and university fees include parking fees, lab fees, activity fees, internet fees, general and administrative fees, and fees to graduate.
Room & Board or Housing
Room and board is another bucket of college expenses that each college or university may handle differently. Some schools require freshmen to stay in their dorms during their first year of school, while others may not. Some schools add in the meal plan into this category while others don’t. If you’d like to live in the campus dorm, your housing costs will be based on each semester, and you’ll need a place to go during the summer and winter breaks. If you’re living off campus, make sure to add in cost of rent and utilities.
According to The College Board, the national average cost for textbooks at four-year public college is about $1200 per year. Many students pay less for their books from buying used, online, or at an off-campus bookstore.
School & Living Supplies
You’ll also need to budget for supplies and equipment, like a laptop, smartphone (and data plan), pens, paper, folders, books, and other class essentials. If it’s your first year on your own, you may also need to pay for some basic living supplies, like dishes, linens, clothes and small appliances for your dorm or apartment.
Personal Expenses & Transportation
The last category is more of the personal expenses that go along with attending school. Will you have a car on campus? Make sure you can pay for your car, insurance, and gas. Or allocate some money for public transportation. Do you ever want to go out and blow off some steam or don that branded college hoodie? What about the gym? Make sure to take these personal expenses into account when planning your budget.
Crunching Your Numbers
Want to see a visual explanation of the average budgets for public and private colleges and universities? Check out this Average Estimated Undergraduate Budgets (2013-2014), and then compare it to yours. College can cost a pretty penny. But the value of a college education is invaluable.
Digm Piece (Op-Ed)
5 Hidden Risks in Retirement That Could Affect Your Financial Security
Being well-prepared for retirement is wonderful, but there is no fail-safe plan. Things can unravel due to many inherent post-retirement risks. Understanding those risks that lie ahead and how they can harm financial security is key to making critical adjustments in a retirement plan. Sometimes without those changes, the impact of unfavorable and unpredictable events can be far more severe.
“Once you have a retirement plan in place, it’s not set in stone,” says Clayton Alexander (www.retireteton.com), an investment adviser and founder of Teton Wealth Group. “
Alexander says retirees and those making retirement plans should be aware of these five risks:
Running outof money before they die is one of the primary concerns of most retirees. This worry is heightened by the fact that the average life expectancy has increased. “A pension or an annuity can lessen the risk, but carefully investigate anycompany where you’d place an annuity and be cautious of fees and interestrates,” Alexander says. “It’s best to tailor your plan to run to life expectancy plus five years.”
- Loss of income. “Make sure both you and your spouse are protected from the unexpected,” Alexander says. “Consider the financial impact of the loss of one spouse. Remember that your surviving spouse will only get the highest of your two Social Security checks. A spouse’s death can bring additional financial burdens, including lingering medical bills and debts. Life insurance and estate planning are important vehicles to protect survivors.”
- Health care costs. Longer life expectancy could lead to high costs in a long-term care facility. “It’s estimated that approximately 50% of people over 65 will need long-term care,” Alexander says. “Do not overspend on policies that may be subject to drastic premium increases. And surprising to some, Medicare is not free — your premiums for coverage are usually deducted from your Social Security check. Medicare doesn’t cover dental, hearing or vision, is subject to deductibles, and doesn’t cover long-term care. Long-term care insurance is advisable.”
- Negative return risk. “A 50% gain does not allow a portfolio to recover from a 50% loss,” Alexander says. “In fact, a 100% gain is required to restore a 50% loss. The ‘buy and hold’ strategy that works when you are young — where
you waitfor the markets to come back up after a downturn — does not apply inretirement as we saw in 2008,when many people’s retirements were wipedout. Common stocks have substantially out-performed other investments over time and thus are usually recommended for retirees as part of a balanced asset allocation strategy, but the rate of return you earn can be significantly lower than the long-term trends.”
- Inflation risk. “
You shouldplan on prices for food, goods andservices getting higher duringretirement, reducing your buying power incrementally as you are livingon a fixed income,” Alexander says. “Your retirement plan has to factorthat in. Ways retirees can curb the effects of inflation include annuity products with a cost-of-living adjustment feature and investing in equities, a home, and other assets.”
“Understanding what the potential post-retirement risks are and considering them in the retirement planning stage,” Alexander says, “can help to ensure that they are mitigated and properly managed.”
Digm Piece (Op-Ed)
Are Americans Undervaluing Paid Time off + Quick Trip Tips
It’s August, which for many Europeans means taking almost the entire month off. So why is it difficult for Americans to take even the little vacation time they receive? A recent piece in The Economist states workers in the U.S. are doing it all wrong by going on short holidays, which can add even more stress or taking none. Instead, it’s essential for employees to recharge their batteries. It’s also beneficial for companies to have a consistent holiday month during which junior employees can head to the beach, and managers can take stock of things, says the report.
While many Americans may not receive paid time off, especially those that only work part-time, even those who receive it generally don’t take all of it. What we don’t realize is that not taking a vacation is like giving money back to your employer, especially with companies that have a use it or lose it policy. Which should encourage employees to use their time but unfortunately it does not. According to recent polls conducted by Bankrate, nearly 2600 US adults say they plan to take a quarter of their vacation days while 4% are not planning to take any vacation time at all.
Time off is a valuable perk, to the tune of millions of dollars! Just to bring the point home in 2017 Americans gave up 212 million days off that amounts to $62.2 billion in lost benefits! So, take your vacations and follow the tips below to not break the bank while taking time off:
- Take a Staycation – Stay local and vacation somewhere that is less than a day drive away, this helps save gas, mileage, and spending on lodging. Look for local attractions, vineyards, interesting museums and landmarks or even travel to your closest big city and be a tourist for a day. You would be amazed at how much you can discover and learn by staying local and all on the cheap! It’s a bonus if you have friends in the town your visiting they can serve as a tour guide and let you stay over for free if they have the room.
- Book Flights Off-Season – July 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day seem like a great time to go on vacation; unfortunately, everyone is planning to take time off during those busy weekends, and ticket prices are through the roof because of it. Book flights after major holidays and during the week you will generally find that they are cheaper than weekend flights.
- Take a Road Trip – Road trips are fun and cheaper than taking a plane, especially if you must rent a car when you get to your destination anyway. Plan cool stops along the way and finds interesting places to eat that way you can make the journey part of the vacation.
- Plan to Eat In – Food adds up on vacation so pack food and making one or two meals in your hotel can keep you under budget.
Digm Piece (Op-Ed)
Top Ten Freshman Money Myths
Starting college is one of the most important and exciting times of your life. Now that you’re all “checked-in,” enjoy your college experience without worrying about where your next meal will come from by chasing away these common freshman money myths. (more…)