Posted by: cslfconnects | April 29, 2009

Financial Literacy – Not just once a year in April

pile-o-moneyOne of the most prevalent phenomenons we witness in financial aid and college planning is a general lack of understanding of how money, credit and debt work. Parents are ill-equipped to prepare their students to become borrowers because they themselves often have faced their own struggle with budgeting and credit.

Since April is Financial Literacy month, we wanted to invite our borrowers, financial aid professionals and guidance staff to make use of some tools for besting the money beast. Consumers who understand money and debt are their own best advocates and make better choices in their spending and repayment. Read on to take advantage of some great free resources!

The folks over at http://www.financialliteracymonth.com have put together a list of “A-list tips” from an assortment of great personal finance blogs and sites. Not only is there a list of great tips right there (http://www.financialliteracymonth.com/Tips-and-Gadgets/AListTips.aspx), but it is a fantastic way to connect to a wealth of other sources of great information!

Here are just three sites to get you started:

1. Free Money Finance

This free site aggregates post relating to everything “money” – here are just some of the categories:

  • budgeting (see link that follows this entry for entry to that specific category – great way to get started on the basics of money!)
  • career
  • consumer news
  • creating cash
  • debt
  • estate planning

And it goes on and on! There are more ways to get your financial act in order, and the budgeting page has multiple entries on how to manage your money online, as well, using things like Quicken, MINT, and something I’ve never heard of, called YNAB, short for You Need A Budget. Doesn’t get more straightforward than that!

http://www.freemoneyfinance.com/budgeting/index.html

2. Make Love Not Debt

cranky_pants_coupleMake Love Not Debt is a site that describes itself as a “relationship finance blog” and I have to say, I really love this idea.  Not only does this site cover a plethora of debt and money-related topics, but it does so in the context of being in a relationship, whether that’s your P.O.S.S.L.Q. (person of the same sex sharing the same living quarters), your spouse, or your whole family.  Great idea. Someone should teach “relationship finance” in high school along with home economics; I think the divorce rate would plummet.

See their entries about budgeting as well. And check out the comments – or leave some. The blog format of this site makes it highly interactive and community-positive.


Budgeting: Or How We Learned Not to Kill Each Other

3. My Dollar Plan

Created by Madison DuPaix, My Dollar Plan bills itself as “…a personal finance site focused on retirement planning, college savings, investing, tax strategies, financial goals, credit and budgeting. You’ll find information on a variety of finance topics based around [Madison DuPaix's] personal life.”

I liked the very streamlined, no-nonsense approach of Ms. DuPaix’s site. If you don’t have a lot of time to plumb the depths of some of the more far-reaching sites, you might find her site to be a breath of fresh air.  For social media fans, you can find Ms. DuPaix and My Dollar Plan on Twitter, facebook and MySpace as well.

family2In her category called “Our Budget” you’ll find lots of family budgeting issues you’ll relate well to:

http://www.mydollarplan.com/category/our-budget/

Whether you’re a college student new to budgeting or trying to get all your “dollar ducks” in a row, Financial Literacy month is a great time to commit to understanding and de-mystifying your personal finances.  The combination of “math and money” often intimidates both the college-bound and their parents, but with so many tools online to assist you, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You’re not alone in trying to figure it out and there’s a very supportive online community to help you get a leg up on your financial understanding and to keep you on top of things.

For students and their families, one of the most overwhelming parts of figuring out financial aid is figuring out the actual cost of attendance.  To get a realistic grip on how much you’ll spend that first year, factor in all the incidentals, not just tuition, room and board.

Students must consider the direct costs associated with a college education, such as tuition, fees, room, and board as well as the indirect costs of an education. These indirect costs can include books and supplies, living expenses (if living off-campus), telephone, transportation, clothing, entertainment, medical, and other necessary personal expenses. To calculate your direct and indirect college costs, use our online calculator and budget worksheet.ledger_calc_coffee1

Now, don’t forget to go to http://financialliteracymonth.com and check out the rest of the tips. There’s even a place where you can print out a pledge to approach your finances consciously and responsibly –

Willing, Ready, and Able to take financial responsibility…

Are you ready to accept responsibility for changing your financial situation?

Do you believe that you can and will change the way you make financial decisions?

Can you identify at least one benefit you hope to gain by changing your money management behavior?

If you consistently answered yes, pledge to continue on the path to financial wellness:

  1. I will make informed financial decisions, understanding the difference between wants and needs.
  2. I will communicate with my family about money matters so that we are all working toward the same goals.
  3. I will be aware of the effects of advertising on the financial decisions I make, and resolve not to be influenced by them.
  4. I will take care of my finances today by tracking expenses and creating a budget that is flexible and realistic.
  5. I will take care of my finances tomorrow by saving for my future.
  6. I will meet the credit obligations I have made on time and as agreed.
  7. I will continue my personal education about financial health, budgeting, credit, and personal debt.
  8. I will plan for periodic expenses, including the next holiday season.
  9. By good example, I will teach my children the importance of budgeting, saving, and the wise use of credit.
  10. If I am over-obligated, I will take the necessary steps to seek assistance.

You are ready, able, and willing to follow the path to financial wellness!

So after you make use of these tips and the others from the site, then you can sit down and think about goals and dreams. That’s actually the satisfying and fun aspect of planning!

mapping_your_future_logoDon’t forget to visit CSLF on the web for more great information on money and budgeting. Most people will find this link on managing credit card debt especially helpful:

http://www.cslf.com/ontheroadtosuccess/HowDoIHandleCreditCards.html

To access the whole “On the Road to Success” interactive information guide, start here:

http://www.cslf.com/ontheroadtosuccess/WhyGoToCollege.html

With a greater awareness and commitment, now you’re ready to take financial literacy beyond April and into the rest of the year.

Mariana Evica
“The Loan Geek”
Connecticut Student Loan Foundation
http://www.myspace.com/first_rate
http://www.cslf.com
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