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Debt-Free Degree

It’s been said student debt is a product that has been sold to us with such repetition and intensity that most people believe they can’t live without.

My 19 year-old son attends community college, drives a 15 year old car, and lives at home. He could have attended a number of universities. But as, Andrew Josuweit, at Forbes.com, says “skipping community college can be a $20,000 mistake.”

According to the College Board, "of all students who completed a degree at a four-year institution in 2013-14 had enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous 10 years." The variety of tracks are appealing.

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We are two weeks into a new year. Are you discouraged by the state of your financial affairs?

ZeroHedge.com recently revealed the states where consumers accumulated the greatest revolving debt. Hopefully, you were not among those who woke up regretting the addition of thousands of dollars to your credit cards over the holidays (at a 30% interest rate nonetheless).

Minnesota and Wisconsin dominate the list of cities with the top 10 best credit scores, while cities in California, Texas, and Louisiana account for 8 out of 10 of the worst scores.

According to MarketWatch, the average family in the worst states would be required to apply 15% of their median income toward debt repayment and it will take them over a year and a half to pay off their credit card debt.

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Not only do you and I have to live within a budget, but so do institutions of higher education. So, what do they do when things get tight?

According to a recent article at MarketWatch, when public colleges are strapped for cash, they go international.

The article reported that for every 10% drop in state funding provided to public universities between 1996 and 2012, public research campuses increased enrollment of foreign students by 12%, and those colleges that spend the most on their students raised international enrollment by 17%. 

ALL colleges do not resort to this approach, but it is a true reflection of those institutions with an international reputation and those hardest hit by state cuts.

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Do you want to get out of debt in the New Year?!

Originially posted on the Christian Post on January 6.

To learn Biblical answers to your financial questions, you can #AskChuck @AskCrown your questions by clicking here. Questions used may be lightly edited for length or clarity.

 

Dear Chuck,

I read your column about making New Year’s resolutions, and I’ve made mine: Get out of debt. It’s not my first attempt, but I’m hopeful that this time I can do it. I wish I had a more creative tale of woe, but it’s basically the same old boy-goes-to-college, boy-gets-loans-and-credit-cards, boy-wants-out! How should I get started?

Looking for a New Beginning

 

Dear New Beginning,

Congratulations on deciding to take another run at getting out of debt. I will address the student loans and the credit cards alike. And yes, you can do this! The final chapter to your tale should be three steps to boy-pays-off-all-debt!

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What is the number one financial regret of older Americans?

Most Americans are filled with regrets — financial regrets. Fully three in four, in fact, admit they harbor financial regrets, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults by Bankrate.com. Their biggest regret: not saving for retirement early enough (nearly one in five Americans put this in the No. 1 spot). What’s more, among those age 65 and up, 27% said this was the biggest regret, compared with 17% of those aged 30 to 49."

Those in the younger generation are probably just not old enough to realize they probably have also started saving too late! 

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Most college students focus on the present without any serious thought to what lies ahead 10-20 years from now. But, they should be saving for the future.

Students should save so that they are in the habit later in the workplace.

Giving to the Lord first, then paying themselves should become a way of life even before graduating high school. Learning to delay gratification for a future need is crucial.

In an August article at CheatSheet.com, Eric McWhinnie stated that spending less than you earn and investing the difference is the key to financial independence. I agree! Yet, most people fail to realize the benefit of starting early. In fact, only 27% of respondents in a survey at MoneyRates.com started saving in their 20s. The benefits are undeniable when observing the effects of compounding interest over several decades.

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Is your student loan stressing you out?

New college graduates are leaving school with an average of $37,000 in student loan debt and the impact can cause significant stress.

Research from the 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers indicates some significant impact to overall financial well being for workers who have student loan debt vs. those who don’t. Almost twice as many employees with student loan debt say they are stressed about their finances (81% to 46%), they use credit cards to pay for monthly necessities because they are unable to afford them otherwise (41% to 22%), and they find it difficult to meet their household expenses on time each month (65% to 35%). The same ratio of 2 to 1 say finances have been a distraction at work for those with student loan debt (50% to 23%).

These are all great reasons to make a plan to pay off your student loan debt. To do so, set a goal. That means to determine how much extra you pay towards getting out of debt and over what period of time you will do this to pay it off completely. Next, look for ways to reduce other expenses to be sure you have the amount of cash needed to meet that goal. Then look for ways to increase your income to apply towards the plan. Combining the reduction in spending and the increase in income can make a major difference.

Bankrate.com has some great tips. One of them is to set a goal to pay it off in 3 to 5 years by the plan I just outlined, but also committing any bonus money or salary increases all towards your debt repayment goals. Another plan is to “delay gratification” which means to stop spontaneous spending so you can save more to apply towards your debt reduction. 

Jesus teaches us not to worry about tomorrow. By eliminating debt, we have a far greater possibility of living without stress.

Now if credit card debt is giving you stress, turn to our partners at Christian Credit Counselors. They can set you up on a plan to get it paid back and avoid bankruptcy...and reduce your stress! Learn more at Crown.org.

 

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Do you know what craze made Nintendo stock soar recently?

Pokemon Go has captured the attention of gamers around the world. It is based on Augmented Reality (AR) computer-generated images and sounds that overlay the real world.

And, people are literally falling for this fantasy-driven craze!

According to an article at The New Yorker, Pokémon Go involves trying to “catch” Pikachu or Squirtle or other creatures with smartphones. What makes this game unique is that it uses a phone’s location services and camera so that people can supposedly catch Pokémon in real life.

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Are you a hovering overprotective parent wondering how much you need to do for your own children?

The current controversies over whether it is okay to be a helicopter parent or not involve misunderstanding the need to adapt and adjust strategies as children grow up. To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, for everything there is a season … a time to closely supervise, standing ready to rescue our children and a time to allow your kids to figure out a few things on their own.

Young children need some hovering for their safety, and to learn the basics of life. According to the Bible, the best way to teach your children the truth about the world is to talk with them as you spend time together. In Deuteronomy 6, Moses tells the young nation of Israel that parents are responsible for passing on the most important lessons: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength … Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

But as parents we also need to relax and trust God. Trying to raise perfect children is an impossible goal and protecting our children from any type of failure prevents them from learning important lessons.

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Can you afford to let your teenager get their driver’s license?

Ann and I have 4 boys. Three have passed the monumental age of 16 without getting their coveted driver's license.

Yes, my wife and I delayed this process due to concerns for their safety with teen crash rates soaring higher than any other age group. But there is also a financial consideration.

Did you know that the average premium will increase by 80% when you add a teenager to your existing policy?  That’s one of the reasons that our boys don’t get full privileges to drive until they are 18. Popular? No, but it has worked well in our family, teaching our boys lessons of patience, contentment and responsibility.

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