How Teens Can Become Millionaires

As you approach adulthood and start to think about your future, are you really ready to be financially responsible for yourself? If you answered no, you’re not alone. The Jump$tart Coalition administered a basic financial literacy test to high school seniors, and less than half of the students correctly answered the questions. Another study found that over 75% of college students believe they are not ready to make smart financial decisions for themselves.

Pretty scary, isn’t it? If you think about it, most of your friends probably don’t know how to balance a checkbook. In fact, very few teens actually have a savings account or know what long-term investing means. Do you?

A 2009 Capital One survey discovered that 50% of teens wished they knew more about personal finances. Whether you have never stepped foot in a bank or you are actively saving and investing for your future, all it takes is a little effort and a lot of patience to become confident in your financial decisions.

A Millionaire’s Best Friend

One awesome thing that you can take advantage of is compound interest. It may sound like an intimidating term, but it really isn’t once you know what it means. Here’s a little secret: compound interest is a millionaire’s best friend. It’s really free money. Seriously. But don’t take our word for it. Just check out this story of Ben and Arthur to understand the power of compound interest.

Ben and Arthur were friends who grew up together. They both knew that they needed to start thinking about the future. At age 19, Ben decided to invest $2,000 every year for eight years. He picked investment funds that averaged a 12% interest rate. Then, at age 26, Ben stopped putting money into his investments. So he put a total of $16,000 into his investment funds.

Now Arthur didn’t start investing until age 27. Just like Ben, he put $2,000 into his investment funds every year until he turned 65. He got the same 12% interest rate as Ben, but he invested 23 more years than Ben did. So Arthur invested a total of $78,000 over 39 years.

When both Ben and Arthur turned 65, they decided to compare their investment accounts. Who do you think had more? Ben, with his total of $16,000 invested over eight years, or Arthur, who invested $78,000 over 39 years?

Believe it or not, Ben came out ahead … $700,000 ahead! Arthur had a total of $1,532,166, while Ben had a total of $2,288,996. How did he do it? Starting early is the key. He put in less money but started eight years earlier. That’s compound interest for you! It turns $16,000 into almost $2.3 million! Since Ben invested earlier, the interest kicked in sooner.

What You Can Do Now

The trick is to start as soon as possible. A survey by Charles Schwab found that 24% of teens believe that since they are young, saving money isn’t important. Looks like we just blew that theory out of the water! That same survey also discovered that only 22% of teens say they know how to invest money to make it grow. Why not change that stat and learn how to become a smart investor with your money? Talk to your parents or teachers about how to open up a long-term investment account so you can become a millionaire, too. And remember, waiting just means you make less money in the end. So get moving!

 

The 6 Worst Etiquette Mistakes We Make With Money

Why are some people so clueless about money etiquette?

Really, you don’t have to have a lot of money to understand basic, common courtesy when it comes to finances. This isn’t difficult stuff.

So why do some people refuse to leave a decent tip, and why do other people feel like they must tell everyone in their church group how much they make?

These, dear readers, are financial faux pas—the worst of the worst etiquette mistakes people make with their money.

Don’t find yourself falling prey to one of these dubious mistakes.

1. Tipping poorly.

Dear Ms. Bad Tipper: Nothing says, “Thank you for taking my order, bringing my food, refilling my drinks, and providing good overall service,” like that $1.56 tip you left on your $20 order. Just think: If your server invests that $1.56 tip in a 12% growth stock mutual fund, they’ll have $17.20 in 20 years! How fancy! In all seriousness, here’s a tip about tipping: Unless your server cursed at you and threw grilled eggplant at your wife, tip 15–20%. Is that really too much to ask for someone who helped you put food in your belly?

Related: Should You Tip Your Carhop?

2. Talking about how much money you make.

Unless you’re calling into Dave’s show to make your debt-free scream, your household income really isn’t relevant information in everyday conversation. Usually, people who freely share this type of personal information are high-earners, so it only comes across as bragging. Every conversation is a new opportunity to share their income: “Hey Jim. What about that storm last night? Thought a tree might fall on my house, but I make 250k a year, so we could’ve handled it. How’s your wife?”

3. Talking about how much you give.

This one is just as bad as talking about how much you make. No doubt that building wealth and finding financial peace is all about giving to others and changing your family tree. But that doesn’t mean you should broadcast the amount you tithe and give to charity like it’s a tattoo on your forearm.

Genuine givers are humble and even secretive when it’s called for. If you’re giving in hopes that one day you’ll have a county bridge named after you and a statue in town square, then you’re giving for the wrong reasons.

Related: 5 Steps to High-Impact Giving

4. Bumming off your friends all the time.

Every group of friends has one. The bum. The mooch. The guy who always realizes he’s “forgotten” his cash right when the check arrives.

Don’t be that guy. Here’s the thing: You might save a couple of dollars here and there, but at what cost? Everyone in your group of friends knows what’s up. They aren’t stupid. You’ve been labeled as the “group mooch.” And, before long, you won’t get invited to dinner, and then you’ll become “the guy who invites himself to dinner,” in addition to being the group mooch. Then you’ll become a social pariah and never score another date—all because you weren’t willing to pay for a $3 taco.

Related: Mind Your Manners: 7 Money Mistakes to Avoid at Restaurants

5. Making unreasonable offers when negotiating.

One of the quickest ways to end a negotiation is to make a ridiculous offer. It shows the seller that you aren’t serious about buying and you think they’re stupid. You’re saying, “Hey idiot. You obviously have no concept of the cost of physical objects that exist on this Earth. But, tell you what, I’ll humor you and offer you 40% of your asking price. You’re welcome. Dummy.”

How do you know if you’re making an unreasonable offer? Put yourself in their shoes. Would you take $150,000 for a house that’s listed for $275,000? Would you take a quarter for a lamp that’s priced $10 at a garage sale?

6. Putting business over friendships.

Dave says all the time that business partnerships are a bad idea. Why? Because business and friendships rarely mix. There are too many complications and emotions involved. But good friends part ways all the time because someone decided to throw business into the mix.

It’s the guy who thinks his buddy with a nice office job is obligated to make a spot for him. It’s the guy who gets into a multi-level scheme and proceeds to badger all of his friends to “not miss this opportunity!” It’s the athlete who signs his first big contract and feels like all of his childhood friends deserve a cut. A business opportunity may improve, but a friendship will soon end. You can count on that.

Read more from EntreLeadership: Growing yourself, your team and your profits.

So please, whatever you do, no matter how much or how little you make, don’t be a financial faux pas repeat offender.

Slip up once or twice? That’s okay. But don’t become the “group mooch” or the “poor tipper” or the “income bragger.” Those are well-earned labels you want no part of.

Don’t let a $3 taco ruin your friendships.

Have you or anyone you know made these mistakes? Would you add any money-etiquette mistakes to this list? Share your stories by leaving a comment below.

(Courtesy of Dave Ramsey, “Top 6 Life–Changing Articles of 2015” http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/financial-faux-pas?ictid=IVG8Z210)

Obstacles to Homeownership: Perceived or Real?

Obstacles to Homeownership: Perceived or Real? | Keeping Current Matters

Yesterday, we discussed the belief Americans have in homeownership and their desire to partake in this piece of the American Dream. We also discussed some of the obstacles preventing them from attaining that goal. However, studies have shown that many of the obstacles mentioned are perceived, not real.

A recent study by Fannie Mae, What Do Consumers Know About The Mortgage Qualification Criteria?, revealed that many consumers are either unsure or misinformed regarding the minimum requirements necessary to obtain a mortgage. Let’s break down three such challenges.

Down Payment

Perceptions

Many renters have mentioned that the lack of an adequate down payment is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Maereport:

  • 40% of all renters don’t know what down payment is required
  • 15% think you need at least 20% down
  • An additional 4% think you need at least 10% down

The Reality

There are programs offered by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA that require as little as 3-3.5% down. VA and USDA loans offer 0% down programs. According to theNational Association of Realtors, the typical down payment for a first time buyer is 6%.

Credit Score

Perceptions

Many renters have mentioned that the lack of an adequate credit score is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Maereport:

  • 54% of all renters don’t know what credit score is required
  • 5% think you need at least a 740 credit score

The Reality

Many mortgages are granted to purchasers with a credit score of less than 700. According to Ellie Mae, the average credit score on a closed FHA purchase is 687 and the average credit score on all loans is 722.

Back End Debt-to-Income Ratio (DTI)

Perceptions

Many renters have mentioned that they carry too much debt which is preventing them from moving forward with the purchase of a home. According to the Fannie Mae report:

  • 59% of all renters don’t know what DTI is acceptable
  • 25% think you need at under 25%
  • 7% think you need under 39%

The Reality

Lenders like to see a back-end ratio that does not exceed 36%. Fannie Mae’s maximum total DTI ratio is 36% of the borrower’s stable monthly income. The maximum can be exceeded up to 45% based on credit score and other requirements.

Bottom Line

Don’t let a lack of knowledge or misinformation keep your family from buying a home this year. Meet with a local real estate professional who can evaluate your ability to buy now!

Real Estate Shines as an Investment in 2015

Real Estate Shines as an Investment in 2015 | Keeping Current Matters

A survey by The Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University reveals that when a family is buying a home they consider the financial benefits of homeownership along with the social benefits. The survey mentions things like:

  • Paying rent does not make sense
  • Homeownership provides a good financial opportunity
  • Owning a home helps you building family wealth
  • Buying a home is investing in your retirement
  • Home equity gives you something to borrow against

So how did homeownership match up against other investments in 2015? Here is a chart that compares its return on investment against precious metals and the stock market last year:

2015 Return on Investment | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Not only did homeownership offer all its social benefits. It also was a great investment financially.

9 Cost-Effective Alternatives to Cable

Cable isn’t the only way to watch TV anymore. Not by half.

So why pay for premium channels you never use when, for a fraction of the cost, Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime can fulfill all your binge-watching needs?

Good question.

If you’re trying to pay down debts or save up some cash, it may finally be time to cut the cord. Make the switch even easier with these cost-effective alternatives to cable. Chances are you won’t even miss it.

1. Online Network Channels (free)

Most major networks are now posting recently aired episodes to their websites for a limited amount of time. CBS even offers online viewers an additional paid subscription option ($6 per month) to unlock more than 6,500 episodes of everything from The Brady Bunch to The Good Wife.

2. YouTube/Vimeo (free)

YouTube is well known for distributing viral content like Auto-Tune the News and Evolution of Dance. But it’s also a great place to get an education. In the span of a few minutes, you can learn everything from how to put on eyeliner to how to build a bookshelf. Check out Vimeo for indie films and documentaries.

3. Hulu (free or $8 per month)

While Hulu’s free version allows viewers instant access to a limited number of TV episodes through a web browser, Hulu Plus steps it up a notch. For $8 per month,you can access currently airing shows as well as many past seasons, and you can watch either online or on a variety of mobile and set top devices. The catch? You have to sit through repetitive commercials. Lots of them—even with the paid version.

4. Netflix ($8 per month)

Since Netflix posts entire seasons all at once, it’s a great place for binge-watching.You’ll just have to wait until a season ends to even get started. But hey, no commercials. Accessing the service shouldn’t be a problem either. You probably have 10 devices in your house right now that came preloaded with the Netflix app.

5. Amazon Prime ($100 per year)

What initially began as a way to get discounted shipping is now a major contender in the online streaming market. The selection of included shows isn’t as big as Netflix, but the free two-day shipping on most Amazon products makes this a great option if you’re a regular Amazon customer anyway. And if Amazon Prime doesn’t include the show you want, you can usually buy a season pass or pay per episode.

6. Sling TV ($20 per month)

Sling TV launched in January with its Best of Live TV package. It includes 17 live channels like AMC, CNN, ESPN, ESPN2, HGTV and Disney. There are also $5 add-on packages for sports fans, movie buffs and your little ones. If ESPN has been the only reason you’ve clung to your cable box, you may be out of excuses now.

7. HBO NOW ($15 per month)

According to the company’s website, HBO NOW subscribers will have “instant access to every episode of every season” of HBO’s catalog of shows beginning in April. The service will also include popular feature films.

8. HDTV Antenna ($25 and up)

If you really want to cut back, all it takes is an antenna. Luckily they’ve come a long way since your grandmother’s bunny ears. Not only do they look better than the finicky metal rods, but the HD quality is even better than what you get over a cable line. Plug this into a TiVo box, and you can also get full DVR scheduling and recording on all available over-the-air channels. See what stations are available in your area at www.antennaweb.org.

9. Library (free)

Here’s a shocker: You can find everything from contemporary TV shows to workout videos at your local public library. The only downside is that you have to drive to a physical location, but at least you can keep your rentals for a week or two.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of alternatives to cable, but it’s a great mix-and-match way to get started. And even if you’re not quite ready to give up your favorite sports or movie channels, you can always call your cable provider and try to negotiate a better deal.

Knowing your options usually works to your advantage.

Are you overspending on these additional everyday luxuries? Tell us how you cut back on expenses in the comments below.

(Courtesy of Dave Ramsey, “Top 6 Life–Changing Articles of 2015” http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/9-cost-effective-alternatives-to-cable?ictid=5UVYB209)

Top Reason to List Your House For Sale Now!

Top Reason to List Your House For Sale Now! | Keeping Current Matters

If you are debating listing your house for sale this year, here is the #1 reason not to wait!

Buyer Demand Continues to Outpace the Supply of Homes For Sale

The National Association of REALTORS’ (NAR) Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun recently commented on the inventory shortage:

“While feedback from REALTORS® continues to suggest healthy levels of buyer interest, available listings that are move-in ready and in affordable price ranges remain hard to come by for many would-be buyers.”

The latest Existing Home Sales Report shows that there is currently a 5.1-month supply of homes for sale. This remains lower than the 6-month supply necessary for a normal market and well below November 2014 numbers.

The chart below details the year-over-year inventory shortages experienced in 2015:

Housing Supply Year-Over-Year | Keeping Current Matters

Anything less than a six-month supply is considered a “Seller’s Market”.

Bottom Line

Meet with a local real estate professional who can show you the supply conditions in your neighborhood and assist you in gaining access to the buyers who are ready, willing and able to buy now!

10 Numbers That Will Revolutionize Your Budget

We’re here to talk numbers. Wait! Come back!

These aren’t chalkboard-squeaking, SAT-sweating, pencil-breaking numbers. These are fun numbers. You know the ones that show themselves on bills and bank accounts, the ones that make you wealthy. These are the numbers of the budget.

For 20 years, Dave’s class Financial Peace University (FPU) has taught families how to win with money by laying a solid foundation, which is—you guessed it—a budget! The 10 numbers below prove that even the most free-spirited among us can benefit from a little focus on the numbers each month.

1 – One piece of paper is all you need to make a budget. Forget the fancy spreadsheets and scientific calculators—you just need space to write everything out. Of course, if you’re a nerd and it makes you feel better, go ahead and fire up Excel or print one of Dave’s budget forms to get as detailed as you’d like.

$8,000 – Families who learn to budget in FPU report an average turnaround of $8,000 in the first 90 days. This represents $5,300 reduction in debt and $2,700 saved. Think about where you were at just three months ago. Wouldn’t it feel nice to be $8,000 ahead today?

We’d love to help you get there with Dave’s $8,000 Turnaround Giveaway, celebrating 20 years of life change through FPU. You can enter once a day through September 2!

56% – We talk about budgeting all the time, so it might sound like it’s what all the cool kids are doing. It’s not. In fact, 56% of Americans admit they don’t budget. Many of them don’t even know what they spend each month on housing, food and entertainment. Don’t be like these folks. Be weird!

0 – A zero-based budget is the key to winning with money. Give every dollar a name, on paper, on purpose before the month begins. This means your income minus your expenses should equal zero. Take control of your money by telling it what to do!

15% — Studies show people spend 15% more money when they pay with a card instead of cash. Identify budget categories where you tend to overspend. Then make a cash withdrawal for those areas and place the money in the envelope. When it’s gone, it’s gone!

3 – A kid’s budget is broken into three areas: give, save and spend. Budgeting helps kids understand the value of work and how to use their own money to make purchases and bless others. It also teaches kids to be content—a refreshing quality in today’s youth.

20 billionThe turnaround tracker is at 20 billion and counting. More than 2.5 million families have taken FPU since it launched in 1994. The tracker is a real-time calculation of the estimated turnaround that occurs each time another family signs up for FPU. While you’ve been reading this, another family likely paid off their car loan and saved $1,000!

18% – Families who use the zero-based budget save 18% more money than people who don’t. This means they’ll build an up emergency fund and pay off debt more quickly simply because they’re applying the wisdom of giving every dollar a name. If you’re smart, you do what works.

4 – The first time you budget, it’s going to hurt. The next month, you’ll still be confused. By the third month, your needs—and the ability to meet those needs— will finally start to make sense. By month four, you’ll feel like an old pro. What once took hours will eventually take just twenty minutes and might—just might—be a little fun.

312 – Dave and Sharon Ramsey filed for bankruptcy in September 1988. As a result, they made big changes to how they handled their money. Dave and Sharon began budgeting immediately and the budgeting continues today. They’ve completed 312 budgets so far. Yes , Dave and Sharon still complete a budget each month—and that means you should too.

Budgeting really is the secret to winning with money. Start now or refine your current budget with our free Guide to Budgeting or search for an FPU class in your area.

How has budgeting changed your life? How has it helped you reach a goal that seemed unattainable? Tell your story in the comments below!

(Courtesy of Dave Ramsey, “Top 6 Life–Changing Articles of 2015″http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/10-numbers-revolutionize-budget?ictid=4UQRP211)

5 Simple Ways to Cut Down Your Grocery Bill Without Coupons

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with the grocery store. Some coupon-savvy families squeak by on less than $300 a month, while others jam-pack their carts to the tune of $300 a week.

So who’s right?

It depends. We recommend spending 5–15% of your take-home pay on food, which includes groceries and meals out. But even if your food budget falls within that healthy range, maybe you’d still like to see it come down a few notches. Check out these five easy ways to change your grocery shopping habits for the better—without clipping coupons.

1. Redefine Dinner

If the word dinner conjures up a big homemade meal with a nice cut of meat, two steaming sides, a crusty French loaf and a chocolaty finish, cut yourself some slack! This isn’t the 1950s and weeknight suppers don’t have to be a big production.

Your kids and spouse will survive on BLTs, omelets or a nice salad several times a week. So don’t be afraid to plan simple, one-item-only meals. Reduce your guilt andyour budget by redefining the most expensive meal of the day.

2. Buy the Store Brands Already!

You know generic pasta is cheaper, but you’re still not convinced it won’t ruin your great-grandmother’s lasagna recipe. In a 2009 Consumer Reports study, 29 brand-name foods went up against their generic counterparts. Of the 29 pairings, 19 scored “equally good” in the blind taste test. In other words, your less-expensive lasagna will taste just as delicious.

Still not sold? According to a 2014 academic study, when chefs bought staples like salt, sugar and baking soda, they were much more likely to buy the generic than were non-chefs. And they’re the food experts! The study concluded that if more of us purchased store brands, we could save roughly $44 billion collectively. It pays to be brand un-loyal.

3. Change Up Your Grocery Stores

What made you pick your current grocery store? Is it the friendliest? How about the most convenient? Maybe you just know where everything is? Don’t let a comfortable routine cost you money.You may even find that two grocery stores are your best bet—one for meats and bulk items and another for everything else.

If you’re still not sure which grocery stores are worth checking into, ask around. People love talking about getting a good deal, and the ones who are getting the best deals will gladly gush about their favorite spots. Figuring out a new grocery store may be frustrating at first, but it’s worth learning a new layout to keep that extra $20 in your wallet.

4. Make a Detailed List

A list is simply a plan. You must plan out what you’ll make for breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the next week and then write out each ingredient you’ll need for those meals (plus a few snacks, of course).

When you arrive at the store, remember to buy only what’s on your list. This is key to staying on budget! And if you go shopping as a family, let your kids help plan the meals on the front end so they know this trip isn’t a junk food free-for-all. It’s much easier to stay on budget when you’re shopping with a plan and working as a team.

5. Always Use Cash

The best way to stick to a lower food budget is to pay with cash. When you enter the grocery store with cash in hand, you know exactly how much you can spend. Plus, you’ll stick to the meat-and-potatoes necessities of your budget rather than your ice cream-and-cookie impulse buys.

If you still find you’re eating high on the hog at the beginning of the month and then scraping by on tuna fish by the end, make a cash run every two weeks, instead of every month. This way, you’ll have a better picture of how much you can actually afford to spend each week, versus for the entire month.

Better Habits, Better Budget

By simply starting a few new habits, you can lower your monthly food budget and meet your money goals even faster. That means more cash to pay down debts, invest for the future, or save up for something fun—like a babysitter and a nice meal out where someone else cooks and cleans up.

See why Dave recommends eMeals to help you gain control of your family meal plans and food budget.

(Courtesy of Dave Ramsey, “Top 6 Life–Changing Articles of 2015” http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/5-ways-cut-grocery-bill-without-coupons?ictid=604O1208)

Resolve to Hire a Real Estate Professional in 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC]

Resolve to Use a Real Estate Professional in 2016 [INFOGRAPHIC] | Keeping Current Matters

Some Highlights:

  • Happy New Year!
  • If you plan to buy your dream home or sell your house in 2016, resolve to use a real estate professional!
  • Real Estate Professionals are there for you through the entire process to help with paperwork, negotiations, pricing, and so much more!

6 Reasons You Should Get Pre-approved For A Mortgage

mortgage-preapproval-01

(courtesy lighterside-staff-authorBy Lighter Side Staff  |  S.D. Shank )

Shopping for a home before getting pre-approved for a mortgage is like walking into a grocery store without a wallet. You may have the desire to buy, but you lack the ability. Let’s cover some basics…

What is a mortgage pre-approval?

In a nutshell, a mortgage pre-approval is written assurance from a lender or broker that you’re able to borrow money to purchase a home up to a certain amount. It’s based on the income, employment and asset documentation you supply at the time of application, in conjunction with your credit history.

1. Without it, most agents won’t work with you.

Makes sense, too. Right? Think about it: when you hire an agent, he/she will invest countless hours showing you homes over the course of your house hunt. If you were in their shoes, wouldn’tyou want assurance that your hard work would lead to a favorable outcome for both you and your client?

2. You’ll know how much house you can afford.

Getting pre-approved before you begin house hunting allows you to know how much house you can realistically afford. Knowing this narrows down the options and makes the selection process more efficient. Not to mention, it protects you from the unpleasant surprise of realizing the home you fell in love with doesn’t fit your budget.

3. It adds clout to your offer.

In many markets, homes attract more than one offer. If the sellers are weighing one offer against another, they may lean towards the one accompanied by a pre-approval letter. That’s because pre-approvals instill confidence that the buyer is financially capable of purchasing their home.

4. It could increase your negotiating power.

In addition to strengthening your offer when compared to buyers who haven’t taken this step, getting pre-approved may give you the upper-hand when negotiating the price. If the homeowner is eager to sell, they may be more willing to accept a lower offer from someone they’ve been assured is financially capable of purchasing their home.

5. It saves time.

Obtaining a mortgage is a lengthy process. Getting pre-approved ahead of time shortens the time between contract to close — this way you’re ready to proceed with finalizing the mortgage once you’ve found the home you want to purchase.

6. It carries more weight than a “pre-qualification”.

A pre-approval differs from a pre-qualification. With the former, the lender has actually checked your credit and verified your documentation to approve a specific loan amount (usually for a particular time period such as 30, 60 or 90 days). A pre-qualification can be useful as an estimate of how much you can afford to spend on your home, but it’s a less accurate indicator of your ability to purchase. A pre-approval always carries more weight.