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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Top Ten Freshman Money Myths



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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.

1. Parents are Money Moguls

While talking to your parents may not be top on your to-do list right now, it is important to clarify who is paying for which college expenses. For example, if your parents are helping with tuition costs, what about room and board, or rent?  Will you be responsible for covering the costs of books and various living expenses such as your cell phone bill and internet access?  You also should agree to a backup plan for emergency expenses that may come up such as car repairs or travel.

Also, remember that if you’re taking out student loans, you will be legally responsible for paying them back; although your parents may offer to help.  Some students are surprised to discover that their parents took out Parent Plus loans or private loans, and expect the student to repay them—so have a chat ahead of time. Check out our post on how much college costs here for more insight.

2. All Banks are Created Equal

Checking accounts are great money management tools which provide quick and easy access to your money; offer safety and convenience; and are much less expensive than using other services such as check-cashing stores, money orders or stored value cards.  However, checking accounts are not all the same, so do a little research and choose an account with little or no cost to you. Also, look for one that offers services such as online bank statements and free online bill payments. Oh… and be sure to compare their fee schedules. Once you have an account, always have enough money in your account to cover your purchases, ATM withdrawals and written checks.

3. My Financial Aid Package is Solid as a Rock 

Your parents may have completed most of the Financial Aid application process, but now it’s time for you to take a more active role and get a grasp on how the system works.  Review your Financial Aid package and make sure you understand the difference between actual grants which don’t have to be repaid and student loans which have to be paid back even if you don’t finish your degree.  Be sure to only borrow the amount you require to meet your educational and essential living expenses.  And remember, you must re-apply for Financial Aid every year by filing out the FAFSA; your financial aid package may change depending on your family situation and/or changes in available federal, state and institutional funding each year.

4. Budgeting is for Geeks

One of the biggest challenges freshmen face is making their money last for the entire school year.  You may have savings from summer earnings or some student Financial Aid refunds leftover after your tuition and other fees have been paid. However, those funds will quickly drain away unless you set up a budget right from the start.

Creating a simple monthly plan will remind you of which monthly bills you have to pay such as rent, car insurance or cell phone charges and how much you may have leftover for miscellaneous expenses such as food and entertainment.  Use a budget worksheet to make it easier and be sure to revisit it during the semester to make adjustments as needed.

5. Tracking Expenses is Boring 

You will be surprised at how quickly expenses such as doing laundry and going out to eat with friends can add up, so be conscious of what you are spending and set priorities.  Save money on books by comparison shopping and buying online using sites such as guarantee that you’re ordering the right edition, be sure to use the correct ISBN number. Also, look for free activities around campus because there is always something going on.  Use your budget to remind you of the things you must pay every month.

6. Banks Never Make Mistakes

Most banks and other financial institutions offer 24/7 online access to your account, so be sure to check recent transactions, account balances and your online statements often. Despite this convenience, it is still a good idea to keep separate track of your purchases and withdrawals, and keep your receipts. Merchants may not process transactions right away or may make errors. If you see something incorrect on your statement, be sure to contact your bank right away. You also may want to set up alerts if available at your bank that will automatically notify you if your account goes below a certain threshold or if a large purchase was made. And you’ll also want to stay on top your account for errors to make sure you’re not getting any fraudulent charges.

7. Use a Credit Card for all Your Purchases

If you do have a credit card, either in your own name or one on your parent’s accounts, only use the card for emergencies.  Keep your credit limit low and be sure to pay it off every month to avoid interest charges.  If you are carrying a balance, set a goal to pay it off as soon as possible, and always pay on time to avoid late fees on top of interest charges.

8. Don’t Worry About Student Loans Until You Graduate 

Freshman year is a great time to estimate what your student loan payments will be when you graduate. It’s also a good idea to compare your estimate loan payments to the monthly income you expect to earn after graduating.  A good rule of thumb is to keep your student loan payments to less than 10% of your take-home pay.

9. Credit Scores aren’t Important for Students

Having a low credit score could affect your ability to rent an apartment, buy a car or even get a job, so be extra careful. Make smart money decisions, such as always paying your bills on time to protect your credit history. You can check your credit report for free once a year by visiting

Keeping your identity safe is also very important.  Never share your PIN number with anyone and never provide personally identifiable information such as your Social Security number or your mother’s maiden name to an online solicitor unless you are absolutely sure the request is legitimate.  Also, be sure to keep your important papers in a safe place and shred anything that an identity thief could utilize to access your financial and other accounts.

10I Got This

If you are feeling overwhelmed and concerned about how you are going to make ends meet, please don’t hesitate to talk to your parents, Financial Aid counselor or a trusted peer.  You don’t have to go it alone.

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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Should You Have an Emergency Fund?



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You may have heard that you should save at least six months of your income saved in your savings account to cover any future financial setbacks. But it’s easy to wonder why you can’t just use credit or help from family when extra cash is needed for an emergency – especially when saving for an emergency fund seems overwhelming. But what does that really mean, and can’t you just use credit or family when you need the extra cash for an emergency?

Here are some common excuses that people tell themselves about why they don’t need to save an emergency fund:

  • I can barely pay my bills, how on earth could I save on top of that?
  • I can ask my family for money if I really need it.
  • There are options to help me in a bind, like a credit card or payday loan.
  • I’m too young to need to save that much money right now, and can do it when I’m older and making more money.

Let’s say you decide to go one of these three routes instead of saving your own money…

  • If you can barely pay bills now, you will have a hard time catching up with your debt after the emergency is over.
  • If you borrow money from your family or friends, you will put a strain on that relationship, and they may become resentful of you if you don’t pay them back quickly.
  • If you use credit or loans irresponsibly, you may ruin your credit or fall into a debt spiral.
  • If you don’t start saving when you’re young, you’ll miss out on the benefits of compounding your cash and won’t have the luxury of having planned ahead.

So what is an emergency fund anyways?

The Simple Dollar breaks down what an emergency fund should be with their definition:

“An emergency fund is cash that you’ve saved up for the sole purpose of helping you maintain your normal life through the emergencies that life hands you.”

What are some emergencies people prepare themselves for by making an emergency fund? Check all that could apply to you.

  • You get a new job and can now afford to pay your bills and debt while you await your new paycheck cycle to start by transferring some of your emergency savings into your checking account.
  • Your car dies and you must get a new one, but you have money to put down a large down payment, getting you a new car and keeping your monthly payment at an affordable rate.
  • Your new car’s check engine light goes on, and now needs extensive work. You need your car to get to work, and have saved enough to fix it quickly, while using your insurance to get a rental car during the downtime.
  • You twist your ankle from playing basketball and can afford to cover the bills while you’re out of work for weeks.
  • You buy your first home, and during the winter your furnace breaks, costing you over $6,000, which you’re able to afford to keep the heat on for you and your family.
  • You finally get a meeting with the board to pitch your big idea and can afford to go out and buy yourself a nice suit.

How many did you check? Can you see yourself in any of those situations in the future, or did you come up with your own? And I know your next question… Where do I put my money to receive the biggest bang for my buck? recently published a comprehensive comparison guide by surveying 4,800 banks and credit unions across the country to give you the ability to make the best decision on where to put your money. This comparison will help you maximize the yield from your deposits. Here’s a link to that guide:


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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Disconnecting the Money Dots: How to Keep Your Money Honest



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During the 2009 American Music Awards, Jay Z won Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Male Artist for his song “Empire State of Mind” with Alicia Keys. During the end of his now infamous acceptance speech, he uttered six simple but powerful words. “Men lie. Women lie. Numbers don’t.” When it comes to properly managing your finances, you should ALWAYS keep these six words in mind. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with someone who starts painting a picture with their words that the numbers can’t confirm. And guess who I will believe? You guessed it…the numbers! With that said, I want to give you a few tips on how to keep yourself and your money honest, provide you with some tools to stay financially empowered and become the best you yet!

1. Create a Budget You Can Stick To

A budget is the best tool you can use to guarantee your financial success. It serves as your roadmap to navigate you towards your desired goal in a timely manner. But if you don’t follow it, what’s the point? Contrary to popular belief, a budget doesn’t limit the amount of money you can spend but provides direction based on what you tell it to do. Instead of creating a budget that looks good on paper (or your mobile device), focus on one that you will realistically follow. If you know you will spend a certain amount on dining out, let your budget reflect that. It’s better to be self-aware than to lie to yourself because eventually, you will begin to believe the lie.

2. Create Affirmations

Affirmations are a great way to achieve any goal. They keep your mind’s eye focused on what is most important and transport those ideas to your subconscious. Put them in your smartphone as an alarm in the morning so that as you begin your day, you are reminded what your goals are. For example, if you have a financial goal of saving $5,000 this year to invest, your affirmation could be, “I am so happy that I have saved $5,000. I will use and spend this money wisely to grow my net worth.” This will help remove any temptation to drift your spending in a different direction.

3. Limit Your Access

Many people falter on their budgets because they have too much access to their money. Separate your money into a billing account, a savings account, and a spending account. Set up your expenses to be paid through your bill account. Automatically deposit any funds into your savings account. Any money you have left over should go into your spending account. Using this method removes any temptation you may have to use the money for other purposes. This will keep your budget intact and allow your money to be honest!

4. Track Your Spending

People who are not honest with their money never know the cause of the “money leak” sinking their financial boat. Usually, small, unplanned expenses do the most damage. When you consistently track your spending, you are creating a mechanism that holds you and every dollar accountable. As you spend and subsequently track your spending, it’s easier to pinpoint and stop unnecessary spending.

5. Find an Accountability Partner

Lastly, you can’t lie if there is someone there to call you on it. Sometimes, holding yourself accountable requires some reinforcement. An accountability partner is a powerful tool to effectively manage your money. Creating a system that allows you to have periodic check-ins on your budget can go a long way. Whether it’s a friend, a significant other, a financial coach, or co-worker, align yourself with someone who can help you reach your goal.


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Digm Piece (Op-Ed)

Does Money Buy You Happiness or Does Happiness Get You Money?

You don’t need a financial expert to start you on the road to wealth. All you need is a pen, paper, and a vision. The following are three ways to get the money whether it’s before happiness or after:



According to Ben Feder, Author and President of International Partnerships at Tencent Games, it turns out that happiness is a learnable skill, and it’s something you can practice. He recently stated, “By being mindful of our thoughts and deliberately turning them around to be more positive and optimistic, we can, over time, create new neural pathways so that our overall disposition is happier.” This is something that I’ve always believed; as the saying goes, Life is what you make it. But if happiness is a learnable skill, can you learn to be happy without money? Is it even possible to be happy if you don’t have money? Or can your happiness lead you to getting money? All great questions but my belief and experience tells me that if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Most millionaires don’t become wealthy by accident, and billionaires get this status on purpose. While millions of people play some form of the lottery every single day more lose than they win. And those who win tend to end up in the same position they started from (if not worse) due to the lack of financial planning. You don’t need a financial expert to start you on the road to wealth. All you need is a pen, paper, and a vision. The following are three ways to get the money whether it’s before happiness or after:

Survey Your Current Situation. Take stock of your current financial status. What is your current salary and income? List your expenses and financial responsibilities. Jot down all of your bank accounts and the balance for each. Also, include your spending habits and what you do for entertainment.

Consider Your Aim. Where do you want to be in six months, one year, three years and then five more. A key is envisioning the lifestyle you’d like to have and then match it with how much it would cost. If you see yourself going to Paris next summer, how much will your flight and lodging expenses be? Check out the price of food and shopping.

Discover the Steps to Get There. Based on your current situation and desired goals figure out the steps needed to get you there. If you want to have 10,000 dollars in savings, how much do you need to save on a monthly basis to get you there? Leave room for unexpected money to flow into your life too. The important thing is you are committing to experience your ideal life.

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