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My financial life has had many ups and downs.  I know what it’s like to be a cash-strapped college student, to get a decent job in corporate America, and also to take on the challenges of entrepreneurship.  The thing that really transformed my way of thinking in regards to finances was working in the financial services industry.  As a former stockbroker and registered investment advisor I was able to speak to people at all points in their financial journey.


I was able to speak to recent grads starting out, who were trying to figure out what to do with their new salaries.  I was able to speak to parents, who knew tuition would skyrocket and wanted to plan for their kid's education.  I was able to speak to soon to be retirees who had worked diligently their whole life to amass their nest egg and wanted to protect it so that they could enjoy retirement.  On the other hand, I also spoke to people who could never retire, who struggled to make ends meet, and who had made horrible decisions when it came to managing their finances.


The thing that really put a spin on my perspective was working in a specialty group that helped people to transition assets once a death had occurred.  At the end of one's life all the material things, financial gains, and experiences will really tell quite a story.  But what will that story say?  What will what you have accumulated in life say about you as a person or your experience here on Earth.  It’s easy to look at a bank account and see hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of dollars.  It’s easy to look at a garage and see cars, boats, bikes or an RV.  It is also even easy to look at pictures of trips taken and places visited to think about the experience gained.  But what do these things really say about the way you lived.


Ultimately the reason that I believe Financial Health matters is because it has such a huge impact on the way you live.  At the end of the day the thing you need to have a healthy financial life is the same thing you need to have a healthy life, and that’s balance.  Many individuals get so focused on one aspect of managing their finances that they stop seeing the forest for the trees.  Some of the areas where people get hung up in managing finances include debt, savings, and retirement planning.  Paying attention to the pain points for you financially is not a bad thing, but it must be done with balance.


You can focus so much on cutting down debt or saving money, that you never use any funds to enjoy yourself.  Some people plan diligently for retirement saving relentlessly, only to pass away before retiring and enjoying the fruits of their work.  So to be healthy financially you must plan as diligently for tomorrow as you live for today.  So take a moment, to be honest with yourself about your finances.  Then take an inventory of your debt, savings, and goals.  Then look at ways to meet your financial goals and practice healthy financial living.

 
 
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So you just graduated college.  Congratulations.  Now you have the task of managing your finances ahead of you.  The great thing about college is that it sets you up for success, but things can differ from your collegiate experience once you graduate.


Some of the things you lose after graduating include: a meal plan, work study, financial aid, a reasonable expectation of expenses, and student housing.  Lets break each of these concepts down.


Having a meal plan means that you are guaranteed to eat a certain number of times a day.  That number could be two or three, it really depends on what you decide.  Most colleges also have other onsite restaurants where you get a dollar amount to be used there as well.  Having to buy groceries really makes you appreciate how much food you can get with a meal plan.


Work study is really advantageous to college students.  It allows you the ability to earn money, have a flexible schedule, and a modest work commute.  You know upfront how much you have been granted for work study so it helps you to decide how to allocate the funds.  As long as you show up to work, you get paid.


Financial aid is the total of the scholarships, grants, loans and other aid that you receive as a student.  Hopefully you receive lots of grants, and scholarships so that you have to take little or no loans out.  Essentially what financial aid does for lots of students is allow them to focus on school, without having to worry immediately about the cost.  


The reasonable expectation of costs comes from the fact that typically the school will publish an expected cost of attendance.  So you are able to calculate how much you will pay during the time you are in school, based on your course load.  If you are already in school then you have an idea of what the additional fees are that you incur.


Student housing is a great benefit to students because of the interaction you get on campus.  You are close to your classes, activities, and your peers.  Depending on the school housing can be a few thousand a semester upwards.  Ideally student housing is much cheaper that being housed off campus in the surrounding areas.


So what does this mean for you as a new graduate.  It means that your activities are not likely to be so centralized.  Also that you must make plans for all the things you once received under the umbrella of tuition and fees as a student.  Now you will not only have to budget your money, but your time as well.  


As a working professional you need to know exactly where your money is going.  Something you will soon come to realize is that all those costs add up fast.  For instance, if you eat in a workplace cafeteria you will see hundreds of dollars a month going toward that expense.  Which may mean it will be cheaper to pack a lunch.  Essentially what you will have to determine is what expenses to keep and which ones to minimize.