October 16, 2012
20-Somethings Buck Pressure to Spend
Newlyweds Erin and Michael Gallagher
Michael and Erin Gallagher are just 26 years old but have made a strong start financially, socking away $50,000 by maxing out their 401(k)s while honoring a $20,000 budget for their October 5 wedding in downstate Illinois.
Jennifer and John Lucido, both 32 years old, now have $250,000 in the bank and have built a 2,500-square-foot home near Detroit.
By comparison, the typical U.S. household had saved $42,000 for retirement in 2010, according to the Center for Retirement Research, which funds this blog.
Both couples are members of that rare species of 20-something super savers, spurning intense peer pressure to spend money on consumer items, go out for dinner a lot, and run up their credit cards. Neither couple got where they did the easy way either. They worked hard, but they were also quick to catch on to important lessons about being frugal and saving – from their parents or from each other.
“I have clients in their 30s and 40s who don’t even have $200,000 in their 401k,” said Naomi Myhaver, a financial planner at Baystate Financial Services in Worcester, Massachusetts.
An August article in The Journal of Consumer Affairs suggests one reason people like them are so hard to find. Young adults are extremely vulnerable to peer pressure to run up credit card debt so they can support a high lifestyle and social life.
In the study, 225 college students were asked questions such as whether they have “very strong” connections to their friends or “feel the need to spend as much as [friends] do on activities we do together.” College students have an average of 4.6 credit cards and $4,100 in debt…
July 31, 2012
Student Loan Prevention: Part 2
Last week, Squared Away published the first five of 10 strategies to help parents and their college-bound kids limit their borrowing through student loans. As promised, readers can find the remaining five ideas below.
On a complexity scale, finding a college is comparable to buying a house, and some of these debt-cutting strategies are extremely difficult to put into practice. In addition to the financial challenges involved, the emotional aspects of parent-child dynamics and the college application process are daunting.
But the soaring cost of an undergraduate education has made student debt prevention a top priority for most families. Here’s more help from college financial advisers.
Deborah Fox of Fox College Funding LLC in San Diego said the days of majoring in English, philosophy or history are over – or should be. Given the financial pressures of college, she said, students can’t afford to “just study what’s interesting to you.” When weighing future earnings for graduates with such majors, the numbers just don’t add up, especially if the English degree is from a high-cost institution like Columbia University (high cost among private colleges) or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (expensive for in-state students).
Fox asks her clients to identify skills the college-bound teenager is good at. When entering college, they should already have a handful of potential occupations in mind. Then they can focus on relevant internships, jobs, courses and life skills that will help them get a job when they graduate – and begin paying back their loans. Freshmen should immediately begin testing their theories about the work they’ll want to do – “possibilities they could get excited about,” she said. She tells clients’ kids to “start exploring them immediately, shadow [people in their field], take someone out for coffee. Find out what is the day-to-day work like.” …Learn More
July 26, 2012
Student Loan Prevention: Part 1
It’s panic time! College-bound teenagers and their parents are excitedly touring colleges this summer, or they’re signing the dreaded Stafford loan documents to pay for college in the fall.
One thing is crystal clear in the emotional fog of this exhilarating rite of passage: parents and their teenagers both need to get serious about limiting their dependence on student loans. Squared Away asked several experts on financing a college education for their best tips on minimizing total borrowing for college.
Some of their debt-cutting strategies are difficult to swallow. But since 2005, student loans have shot up 55 percent, to $24,301 per student, for an undergraduate degree that has, as one financial adviser noted, become “ubiquitous.” Yet college places an unprecedented financial burden on parents also saving for retirement and on graduates when they get their first full-time jobs. Debt prevention also requires families to face head-on the emotional roadblocks to an affordable education.
Squared Away came up with 10 debt-prevention strategies. Here are the first five ideas, with five more scheduled for next Tuesday. Links to Web resources are also sprinkled throughout the article.
- Aid Deadlines Are Crucial
Buy a calendar and red marker and closely track every single deadline for merit or need-based aid – they’re different for each college under consideration.
“If I could give you one piece of advice that would be it,” said Lyssa Thaden, a financial education manager for American Student Assistance, which educates and counsels student-loan borrowers.
Thaden listed four common mistakes that cost parents dearly, requiring them to borrow more: …Learn More
June 14, 2012
Progress Stalls for Young Adults
The promise of America is progress, but that progress stalled for the youngest generation: U.S. workers under age 45 earned dramatically less than workers who were that same age a decade ago, the Federal Reserve Board’s latest survey shows.
For Americans 35 through 44, the median household income – the income that falls in the middle of all earners – was $53,900 in 2010. That’s 14 percent less income than in 2001 when households in the 35-44 age bracket were earning $63,000, according to the Fed’s Survey of Consumer Finances released Monday. For young adults in the under-35 age bracket, median income fell to $35,100 in 2010, from $40,900 for that group in 2001.
The median income also declined, by nearly 9 percent, for Americans in their peak earning years, 45 through 54, to $61,000 in 2010 from $66,800 in 2001. [Incomes for all years are in current dollars.]
The sharp decline in real incomes, especially for young adults, occurred in a decade bracketed by the high-tech bubble of early 2000 and the jobless recovery of 2010 from the financial crisis. Without further analysis, it’s difficult to pinpoint precise explanations for the patterns. But the reasons vary depending on the age bracket being analyzed.
For the youngest workers, incomes may be lower if many are extending their college educations – high school and college graduates face the lowest level of employment ever recorded.
June 5, 2012
College Loans: A Punitive System?
News emerging on several fronts points to what increasingly looks like a student-loan system stacked against young adults fresh out of college.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York last week said college debt outstanding surged to a record $904 billion – the figure, from a new and improved Fed data set, was higher than had previously been thought. What was also noteworthy was that the central bank said a $300 billion spike in college debt since 2008 has occurred during a time other U.S. households slashed $1.5 trillion from their loan balances in a massive, post-recession belt tightening.
Student loan debt “continues to grow even as consumers reduce mortgage debt and credit card balances,” Fed senior economist Donghoon Lee said.
Washington is the first place to look for one Kafkaesque aspect of the college loan system. Politicians are engaged in brinksmanship over whether to allow the expiration of a temporary interest rate reduction for the Stafford Loan program put in place in 2007. This would cause the rate to double, returning to its previous level of 6.8 percent.
That’s a nice interest-rate spread for the federal government, which currently pays historic lows of about 1.5 percent on 10-year U.S. Treasury Bonds and 2.5 percent for 30 years. Even taking into account the sky-high default rate on student loans, is 6.8 percent a fair price for recent graduates to pay? …Learn More
May 8, 2012
Graduating in Era of Low Opportunity
Philip Seymour Hoffman playing the washed-up salesman, Willy Loman, in “Death of a Salesman,” is all the rage on Broadway. But when I saw the play recently, it was Biff who got me thinking about young adults today.
In the Arthur Miller classic, Willy anguishes over son Biff’s failure to hold down a job in the city. But the irony is that Biff, played by Andrew Garfield, probably did very well for himself after leaving Brooklyn for Texas. I imagine he became an oil baron or wound up owning substantial real estate in downtown Houston.
Young people graduating from high school or college today don’t have the virtually unlimited opportunity that existed in the 1940s when Miller wrote the play: the personal drive to find a job and establish a career is not enough anymore. Young graduates who sign up for unpaid internships and double up on college degrees are well aware of this.
Last year, 54 percent of adults ages 18 to 24 were employed – that was the lowest level since the government started tracking the data, in 1948 – according to a February report by the Pew Research Center. Despite an improving job market, it was only 55 percent in March. Job creation – 115,000 were added in April – is below the pace that will open up meaningful opportunity for young people. …Learn More
April 2, 2012
Young Adults Face Unique Money Issues
Many young adults right out of college are planning career moves or marriage – while grappling with complex financial issues.
Student loans weigh them down. And despite the improving job market, it’s still tough to find a job. Wages and salaries for those who are employed are stagnant in many industries. Thanks to the proliferating opportunities for e-shopping, young adults also face more temptations to buy than any previous generation.
“I feel like I’m definitely in the lion’s den,” said Eric Bell, who, at 28, is trying to get his financial education website for 20-somethings, YoBucko, off the ground. A former private banker, he is also looking for a job in his field, paying off student loans, and cheering on his girlfriend in her attempt to buy her first home.
Below are a few previous Squared Away posts written with young adults in mind. A link is provided at the end of each article’s title, or you can join the conversation on Facebook.
- Young Adults Adrift in E-Spending Ocean
PayPal, Groupon, smartphone apps that pay for store purchases, online retailers galore – technology has made shopping a breeze. Young adults unfamiliar with the old-fashioned cash economy may not realize how damaging electronic commerce can be to their budgets. …