Financial Decisions That’ll Help You Down The Line

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy and Money. Our everyday behaviors and decisions impact our where we end up financially in the future. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Financial Decisions That’ll Help You Down The Line.

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When it comes to your personal finances, you need to think beyond your current situation. It’s essential to cover your basic costs, but you need to do so in a well-calculated manner so as to ensure that you’ve got savings for the future. In this article, we’ll discuss that point along with other helpful pieces of financial advice. If you want to protect your money then here are some financial decisions you could make right now to help you further down the line.

Investing some of your earnings.
The first financial decision you could make to help yourself down the line is to invest some of your earnings. This is something you should do on a continuous basis if you want to increase your wealth; it’ll bring you additional forms of income on top of your existing salary. And there are plenty of different investment routes you can take as a beginner. You might want to do some research on getting started in the property market. With the correct guidance and management advice, you could start buying properties to lease them out (that’d bring you a nice monthly income). You could even buy properties to fix them up and sell them at an increased value.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways to invest your earnings, too. Getting involved with trading can be very profitable if you do your research and learn how to monitor market trends carefully. You might want to consider spread betting over traditional trading methods. Earning tax-free profits is just one of many reasons to trade this way. Investing wisely is the type of financial decision that could really help you down the line. You’ll be able to start building up some savings for the future.

Creating an emergency fund.
Another financial decision that will help you down the line is creating an emergency fund. We all face unexpected costs at different points in life, so it’s important to have a backup plan in place for just such occasions. Your budget can only account for regular and predictable expenses, but you should also set aside a little bit of money on a regular basis for emergency costs. For instance, your house might need repairs after a natural disaster, or you might need emergency financial support if you leave one job and start searching for another. Creating a backup fund now could really help you further down the line. You don’t want to dip into your bank account for emergency costs and find yourself low on funds for necessities.

Spending your money sensibly.
This final suggestion is possibly the most important. If you want to improve your financial future then you should simply improve your financial present. By making a proper budget, you’ll be able to start tracking your expenditures accurately and making smarter decisions with your money. Calculate the cost of your essentials, and figure out how much income you need to devote to those necessary expenses. If you barely have any remaining funds then you could start reducing your basic costs in smart ways. For instance, you could save money on groceries by using coupons and start using price comparison sites to search for better deals from energy providers. You could reduce your monthly expenses if you did a little research. And it’ll benefit you in the future if you have more money to set aside for your savings.

Managing Money Matters

Some of the key focuses of my blog are: Financial Literacy, Money, Business and Entrepreneurship. A key aspect of any successful business is the effective money management. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Managing Money Matters.

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Money makes the world go round, does it not? We all rely on money so heavily, that the slightest change in our circumstances leads us to panic to say the least. But that’s just referring to our personal lives. When business comes into it, the need for money is greater. Without money, progression needed to survive in the business world can’t be achieved, and the chance of the business failing altogether becomes all too real. So, we want to show you the money matters that needed to be managed the most, and how they can ensure that your company will thrive for years to come. Have a read on to find out more!

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Your Employees Money

Start messing with your employees money, and it isn’t going to end well for you. To help you understand what we mean, let’s paint a picture. Your employees rely on the fact that you’re going to pay them exactly what they’re owed, when they’re owed it. So many companies fail on this, or pay the wrong amount. It’s not understood by management how much this can impact an employee’s life! So, before you start making error after error, think about how you can manage it more effectively. Paystub is just one of the websites that you can use to generate paychecks, allowing you to cross reference the amount that should be paid, as well as your employees. If you feel as though the burden of running payroll is too high, and that’s why you’re possibly making mistakes, then think about hiring an in house accountant. You’re so much more likely to be able to manage money effectively rather than letting it all weigh on your shoulders.

Your Investment Money

When you start getting to the point where you’re earning enough money, you need to think about having investment money. Managing investment money isn’t the easiest game to play, because you’ve got just as much chance of losing money as you do making money. So, in terms of your investment money, think about getting a broker to do the dirty work for you. You need someone who is going to be able to make expertly informed decisions for your company and the money that it is using. If you do do your investments the right way, the money that you could potentially earn from it will be more than you could image! Good investment ideas are ones such as stocks, virtual currency, and property, but it is all about finding which one works for your company.

Your Pension Money

When you have so much money coming in, the last thing that you might be thinking of is your pension. But like the people that you employ, you should seriously start investing into your pension. You can also hire companies to help get the job done for you so that you’re saving in the right pay, and securing your future for you and your family. Even if your retirement is years away, it’s best to put aside now, as you never truly know what is going to happen to your company!

How To Beat The High Co$t of Living

Two major focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, and Wealth Building. A key part of both of these areas is budgeting, planning and controlling costs. The following contributed post is thus entitled; How To Beat The High Co$t of Living.

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Another day, another bill. Another day, another dip in the bank balance. Another day, another moment when you wonder how you are going to cope with the rise in energy prices, bank charges, insurance costs, and more.

Rather than confront another day like yesterday, we wouldn’t be surprised if you huddled under your duvet in the morning, fearful of losing yet more money simply by going about your daily life.

Don’t despair! It is possible to beat the high cost of living, but you are going to have to work at it. You can put the ideas we give you in this article into your five-year plan, or better yet, your yearly planner. You see, you don’t have to let the financial aspects of your life get on top of you.

For starters, quit those bad habits that are eating away at your monthly income. Not only will you have more money in your pocket, but you will feel better as well. We are thinking of smoking and drinking alcohol, two expensive habits that are harmful to your health. We are thinking about watching too much tv; despite the many wonderful things to watch (and the utter drivel), you will save on your electricity bill if you spend time doing other things, such as (dare we say it), exercise! And quit your spending addiction. If you’re forever buying things you don’t need, then it’s little wonder you have no money for the essentials in your life. Put that credit card away!

Don’t let your utility companies take more money than they should. They are forever putting their prices up, but you are in your right to ditch them. You can get the same gas and electricity from another supplier, so use a price comparison service to find a cheaper deal. After switching, instill good habits around the home to make further energy savings. We have already told you to stop watching so much tv, but there are further ways to save money. Ensure your family are up to speed with your energy-saving habits as well, because as you know, they can often be responsible for draining your bank account!

Cut down the cost of driving too. For starters, don’t use your car if you are only travelling short distances. Why waste money on fuel when you can save money (and feel healthier) by using your two legs. As with your utility companies, use a price comparison site to save on your insurance. We use this site, https://cheapautoinsurance.co, but there are there are plenty of others available. Then practice safe driving. You see, the less reckless you are on the road, the less likely you are to do damage to your vehicle, and the less likely you are to pay out on huge maintenance bills. Driving safely saves money on fuel too!

Don’t let your bank take you for a ride. If they are charging you monthly fees just for having an account with them, it’s hardly fair! As with some of the other things on this list, you can do yourself a favour by ditching those banks who are inflicting damage on your account and transferring to another. You should be able to find lower rates and fees, and may even get rewarded for making the switch too. Check out this banking guide as a way to make the most of your money.

You can beat the high cost of living by making changes in your life, and by doing your homework into finding cheaper alternatives to the people who take your money away from you. So, don’t delay, start to make savings today, and continue to practice good habits and price comparisons in the months and years to come. It does make perfect financial sense, after all!

 

 

Know When To Call Upon The Power Of A Loan

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy and Money. In some instances, it’s important to know when to take out a loan if there is a financial crisis and there are no other options left. The following contributed post is thus entitled; Know When To Call Upon The Power Of A Loan.

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The rut of financial baggage is relentless and tiring. It happens to us all at least once through our lives, but because it can go on and on, we feel like it’s normal. Well, newsflash, it isn’t and no one should ever think that it is something we should be okay with either. Firstly you need to pinpoint the reasons as to why you are in this mess whereby you can’t seem to pay your bills on time, you’re cutting back on the things you need for your family such as groceries and clothes, and yet still here you are sat up late at night with a calculator in your hand. Life shouldn’t be a game of catch up but it ends up being that way when we are irresponsible with our finances, going in over our head and getting into debt. Slowly but surely, if you cannot seem to stop the ball of debt and financial burden from rolling, eventually it will roll over you. But when is it really the best timing to go for a loan to help alleviate the pressure?

Living lavishly

Human beings are just strange creatures at the end of the day, we mostly cause our own problems. It’s hard to admit but you need to seriously question if you’re living a life that you honestly should not be. Have you bought a car that looks and feels good to drive but the gas mileage is pathetic? Do you buy too many clothes just to look good at events that don’t really matter? Could you possibly be a little too passionate and keep buying tickets to your favorite sporting team’s matches? We need to stop living lavishly when we know we don’t have the money. Many people will try to make excuses such as needing to feel good about yourself when you’re sad and depressed, or trying to live a normal life for the family etc. well, tough luck, it’s time to seriously question whether you should be buying some things when you know you are in a pinch.

Do you have a plan

What if you had a bag full of money thrown at you, what would you do? Just for the sake of argument, it’s only enough to pay off your debts and start to control your finances. Do you know what you would do first? What bills, debts, credit cards and such would you pay off immediately? If you haven’t even thought about the long-term solution to your financial burdens, your short-term plans are almost nonsensical. Paying off this week’s debt is a single drop in the ocean, what about the tens of thousands of dollars you owe for your mortgage, car payments, phone contracts and more? Create a plan that deals with a point by point analysis of what is most important financially, and then come up with monetary rules for paying off those problems first and foremost.

Measure the deepness

Loans are a great financial tool to use when you need to just throw money at the problem to make it go away. They do provide you with a lot of power to end some financial crisis situations, that much cannot be denied. But, they come with their own set of rules as they are a solution but also a new addition to your financial responsibilities. Use this information that compares direct lenders only and see what kind of APR rate and interest is best suited to you. Some lenders charge high rates as they want to aggressively control how and when you start repaying them. Others are more open to allowing you to figure out what the best plan would be. You can get a small loan of around three to four figures or you can get into the five-figure sums if you need a large quantity of cash.

Take the hit

No one wants to dip into their savings account to get from under a financial jam, but you have to be willing to do so. If the worse comes to worse, then you need to set a limit on how much you will be eating into the money you have been saving all your life. Take the hit and stop yourself from going under. Filing for bankruptcy is going to be much worse than halving or completely devouring all your savings. As much as it hurts, set a plan in place for how much money you will take out of your savings account to help pay for your debts. Setting a threshold for how much money you have left in your main bank account is a common way of doing this.

Loans have the ability to put a large chunk of money right in your hand, in a very short amount of time. Therefore they have a lot of power to aid you in your financial troubles. However, know when you need to call upon a loan and devise structures so you make good use of the money.

The Three Biggest Sources of Money Stress

Two of the main focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy and Money. The following contributed post was written by Faye McDonald. It discusses The Three Biggest Sources of Money Stress.

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Most of us have felt it at some point or another. When you’re facing money trouble, stress becomes a real factor in your life. It can affect your sleep, your work, your relationships, and even your health. Here, we’re going to look at some of the biggest sources of money stress and what you can do about them. After all, the impact of money troubles goes a lot further than your bank account.

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Income
A lot of importance is put on getting a job with a good income. It’s true that if your paycheque is big, you’ll have an easier time managing all your costs and putting together savings for your future. However, while working on your career should be a focus, it shouldn’t be the only one. There are other paths to take to financial security and prosperity. It’s all about planning better with what you have. By creating a budget, it’s easy to find the little extra savings that you can contribute to long-term goals. These investments from Profitable Venture show that you can even start contributing them to strategies that can see them playing a part in growing your wealth outside of your job. Investments allow you to diversify not only your income but also your reserves for retirement and bigger investments in the future.

Debt
The fear of debt is often a lot worse than debt, itself. There are a lot of different strategies to try and handle it. None of them involve ignoring the problem and hoping you don’t get noticed, which is unfortunately what most people in a panic tend to do. There are options to help control it like debt consolidation loans from Buddy Loans, but you should always try talking to your creditors first and foremost. If you begin to suspect you will have trouble repaying your debts to the letter of the agreement, you may be able to negotiate it with them. You might not always have your debt reduced, but you can get your repayments restructured. Most creditors don’t want to have to turn to collectors just as much as you want to avoid them.

Insecurity
If you’re living on a low income, one of the biggest fears might be the risk that an unexpected cost could bring with it. If you suddenly have to pay for major car repairs, would it put you in debt? Besides insurance, building an emergency fund is one of the best ways to ensure that you at least have some safety nets to stop you from going into freefall. Contribute a little bit of your income every month towards a fund that can cover all of your expenses lasting three-to-five months. That way it can cover not only unexpected costs but some of the danger of being put out of employment, too.

Don’t forget that there are resources like the Money Advice Service that you can turn to when you can’t see any options that can help your financial situation. It’s easy to feel like you’re stuck in a downward spiral, but if you’re not a financial expert, there may be solutions and plans that you haven’t considered.

The Best Influence: Saving Money As A Father

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy and Money. The following contributed post was written by Emma Morgan. It discusses The Best Influence: Saving Money As A Father.

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When you’re trying to be a great dad, having little to no spare cash during the year makes it a challenge to stay positive, and money worries are often a cause of family quarrels and arguments. Therefore, it’s worth looking into ways you can be thrifty, and save money each day in your home and lifestyle. It’s never too late to begin making wiser, considered choices regarding your finances, so make plans as soon as possible to start making positive change.

You can put your excess cash into savings for next year and the future, or your money can go towards covering the cost of family life, and ensure that you and your kids want for nothing. Being smart with money is also a great thing to instill in your children; they’ll be influenced by your good habits. The following are some ideas, tips, and advice for fathers looking to cut back their spending, and ensure their outgoings aren’t too much, by making little lifestyle changes that will add up to making a big difference.

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Family Transport

Vehicles can cost a lot to maintain, so it’s worthwhile reducing the family’s car to just one, and figuring out how you can reduce using them regularly. It’s also worth checking out a car payment calculator so that you can get a better idea of your monthly outgoings regarding your car, for more successful budgeting.

Your daily commute might be costing you heavily in fuel, especially when you’re stuck in traffic. Therefore, many are choosing to cycle to work, and bikes are a common sight on the roads during rush hour. Public transport passes work out cheaper if you buy them in bulk, and many services will get you to work far quicker than if you were in a car on the roads, so this could be another option for you if you’re not confident when cycling.

Family Food

Often, it’s easy to get home and realize there’s nothing in the fridge to eat, and end up ordering an expensive takeaway. The same goes for when you’re out in the day; you can end up spending a lot of cash on food from shops and cafes. Therefore, when you write your weekly grocery list; make sure you meal plan each day for the family. If you have the ingredients ready to use when you get in or can create a tasty lunch to take to work; you’ll reap the savings every day.

Family Budget

Sadly, it can sometimes be easy to find yourself in debt, especially when you’ve had unexpected costs to fork out for, or you’ve got behind with payments on something. Therefore, it’s crucial that you create a detailed account of what you’re bringing each month and compare it to your outgoings. This is the best place to start regarding how you can make changes to improve things long-term, so make sure you include everything, right down to the last cent. You can begin to change your monthly budget and improve family life in the meantime, for a bright future as a father ahead.

Should HBCUs teach their students financial literacy and about the business of higher education?

This piece was originally published on Dr. Matthew Lynch’s online publication The Edvocate back in May of 2015. It was entitled Thoughts on Why HBCUs could use more Alumni than Graduates, and Financial Literacy. I decided to republish this story after the new President of my alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), recently visited our Washington DC alumni chapter to discuss his vision for the university which is currently on probation due to financial distress.

A lack of alumni giving has long been a major issue for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Something our new President Clarence Armbrister shared with us that I didn’t know, was that securing funding from Corporate America is difficult if alumni aren’t already giving significantly. Donors in fact inquire about alumni giving when deciding to give money themselves confounding the problem.

What’s at the heart of this conundrum? I think a major piece is that the concepts of wealth-building aren’t passed on in the ecosystems many HBCU students come from. When I say ‘ecosystems’ in this context, I’m referring to the environment the students have come from prior to matriculating into their particular schools – their home, their social circles, their church and the school system they’ve come from – in some instances where the goal is simply survival.

Coincidentally when you start studying money, a common theme you see is the importance of giving. Since many of these students are not receiving this information from wherever they come from, perhaps our HBCUs should consider planting these seeds in their student’s minds before they graduate – weaving it into their curricula somehow. After all, higher education is actually a business, and it isn’t free as someone somewhere has to pay for it.

In a previous post regarding the Tax Reform and Jobs Act, I discussed my alma mater being on probation, and challenged other HBCU alums to take some of the money they’ve received from their tax break and passing it on their alma maters – something which may have upset some readers. In this piece, I suggest that the HBCUs themselves should proactively arm their students with information which will not only empower them during their working lives, but also compel them to give support back to the places which gave them their start, allowing other kids to have similar opportunities.

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Being highly involved in the Washington DC Alumni Chapter for Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), I’ve become keenly aware of the issues facing Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCUs). As an education advocate and writer, I’ve helped promote the “Quotes for Education” collaboration between Allstate and the Tom Joyner Foundation the last two years. In numerous interviews with Allstate’s Senior Vice-President and Florida A&M University alumnus Cheryl Harris, the importance of HBCU alumni giving back to their alma maters was stressed. In addition to the other pressures these institutions are facing, one of the more significant problems is the lack of alumni giving.

At an Executive Board meeting, our Chapter President Robert Ridley shared with us an idea he read stating that, “A graduate is someone who gets a degree from an institution and never looks back. An alumnus is someone who gives their time and money back to their alma mater.” This was an important distinction that I’d never heard before, not even when I was a student at JCSU. It’s an important concept that arguably should be introduced from day one at our HBCUs.

Why is it important for graduates to give back to their alma maters? The main reason is to give future generations a fighting chance to succeed. This is particularly important for Black America. Secondly, institutions of higher learning rely on state, federal and extramural funding from private donors. Many HBCU’s are “Land Grant” institutions and their funding has been decreased ironically under the Obama Administration, in addition to the tightening of the borrowing criteria for the “Parent Plus Loans” which many HBCU students and families heavily relied upon.  Thus donations from alumni have become more important.

As unofficially told by an insider, for the 2014 fiscal year, less than 14% of my class of 1999 gave anything back to JCSU, a staggeringly low number. When our school President Dr. Ronald Carter gave an overview of the current health of the University here in Washington, DC, he cited low alumni giving as one potential threat to the University’s future. A key piece of that evening was encouraging alumni to consider cutting back on certain luxuries to free up money to give back.

Why don’t HBCU Alums give more to their alma maters? Why would only 14% of my class give back to the University? One reason is that many students who’ve attended HBCUs feel as though they’ve given enough of their money to their alma mater when pursuing their educations, and don’t feel inclined to give anything else after graduating. Another reason is hard feelings towards one’s alma mater. Many graduates feel bitter about their experience for one reason or the other as well. I’ve heard this personally and read about it in other articles.

Another piece to this puzzle though is socioeconomic. Of the many curses to being born black in the United States, a key one is starting from lower rungs on the economic ladder than our counterparts of other ethnicities. If for example, your parents planned ahead and saved a college fund for you, your economic burden will likely be lessened or non-existent upon graduation as discussed by Georgette Miller, Esq. in Living Debt Free. You’ll have less debt and more disposable income (some to donate) after starting your career.

“They just weren’t thinking that way,” my father said in a discussion about my grandparents in a discussion about mortgages. I stumbled upon the basics of financial literacy by accident (from books like Rich Dad Poor Dad and The Millionaire Next Door), and wondered why my parents didn’t teach me more about the vital knowledge shared in these books. They didn’t know themselves and I think this is true for a lot of African American families in the United States.

Likewise, I hypothesize that many other college graduates from my community have a low level of financial literacy and that in part drives this lack of giving that we see from alumni towards their HBCUs. In other words, they know how to lavishly spend it, but not how to gradually save and grow it. If my hypothesis is true and many students are matriculating into our HBCUs with a low level of financial literacy, HBCU’s may do good to start educating their students on these topics from day one and also stressing that higher education is in fact a business. A good place to start would be Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU), or something similar.

I honestly didn’t seriously start giving to either of my alma maters until going through the FPU class taught at my church. In FPU, I learned that the greatest misunderstanding about money is that one of major keys to building and maintaining wealth is blessing others. Put another way, sustained financial health and giving are a function of one another, and in order for one to be able to give, one’s own financial house must first be in order.

Student loan debt can also help explain the lack of giving, but my suspicion is that there’s a percentage of graduates that once they get established, their finances aren’t situated so that they’re able to give back, or giving back just isn’t a priority. Coming from the African American community, there is truth to the myth that we as a community often collectively make poor financial decisions, particularly when ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, ‘signaling’, and trying to portray a certain image. For this reason, and because so many of us don’t get it at home, HBCUs once again may do good to expose their students to a financial literacy a curricula such as FPU which ultimately stresses sound financial decision making and ultimately charitable giving.

So why give back? Giving back to our alma maters, especially HBCUs is important if we want to see future generations grow and thrive. One of the keys to advancement of the African American community in the United States is financial stability as a group. Likewise the community itself has a responsibility to give its younger generations a fighting chance to participate in our new global economy. In the United States, economic power influences everything else. Regarding my own graduating class of 1999, we can do better than a 14% rate of participation in terms of giving back to our alma mater, as can graduates from other institutions.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. In you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:

What are your plans for your tax cut? Thought on what can be done with heavier paychecks and paying tax
Who will have the skills to benefit from Apple’s $350 investment?
Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions on household income and wealth building
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Your net worth, your gross salary and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76.  Lastly follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Father’s Day 2018: Dad’s doctor and his lawyer, and a discussion on careers

Your brother is going to be my Doctor, and you’re going to be my Lawyer!”

Happy Father’s Day. My 2017 Father’s Day blog post talked about some of my father’s life and money lessons, and there were many. I wrote some more about us in my second essay submitted to A Voice For Men entitled: Two very well-behaved boys left to figure things out on their own: Reflections on growing up ‘Blue Pill’, which discussed how my brother and I had to figure out several aspects of manhood on our own. There weren’t a lot of men around growing up, and there were limitations in what we were taught by the men we did know.

For this 2018 post, I’m going to go in a different direction and will discuss what Dad wanted both me and my brother to be career-wise, versus what we actually became. This piece isn’t an “ode to fathers” per se, but instead a set of thoughts and ideas based upon something my father said to us as children, which will serve as a jumping off point for things me and those in my circle regularly discuss today as adults – things that have impacted our family dynamics as the years have gone by. As described in my piece Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in academic achievement, Dad’s fatherly guidance helped me reach my academic potential. He also stimulated me to start thinking about potential careers at an early age.

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“Your brother is going to be my Doctor, and you’re going to be my Lawyer!” Dad said on one of our summer visits in the mid-1980s. The three of us were crossing a street in downtown Schenectady, NY and he turned and gave his proclamation to the both of us – communicating with one of his hands – his signature style. Like many parents, Dad had his own plans for what we should be. Somewhere alo4ng the line, he determined that it should be a Medical Doctor and a Lawyer, and as with everything Dad said, he said it with lots of authority, pretty much commanding us.

Not having either in my immediate family circle on either my mother’s or father’s side, I didn’t know much about what lawyers did. I had some idea of what medical doctors did because I had gone to see them on numerous occasions as a child. One of Dad’s first cousins was in fact a medical doctor, but we didn’t see him enough to be able to ask him about his career. In elementary school it hadn’t occurred to me what I wanted to be career-wise, though I got the inkling that it would be something scientific after really enjoying “Life Science” in the seventh grade – essentially beginner’s Biology. My brother had begun showing signs of being both artistic and creative.

But what made my father so enamored with medical doctors and lawyers in terms of careers for his sons? Dad was always one for stability which is why he became a junior high science teacher. Neither of his parents had gone to college, so he was a first-generation college graduate. From what I can see, some parents naturally want their children to do better than them. In the mid-1980s, the conventional wisdom was that medicine and law were two very high-profile professions which would lead to affluent and comfortable careers/lifestyles.

“I know that your grandfather would be very proud of you being a doctor and all,” Dad said on several occasions regarding my Ph.D. years later. He didn’t necessarily understand what my doctorate stood for or the skills it represented, but the title of ‘Doctor’ meant a lot to him – something I witnessed in the coming years both positively and negatively. Coincidentally, I think he initially discouraged me from pursuing a doctorate – potentially because he only knew Ph.D.s in the context of the school system, and not the ‘Research’ and ‘Regulatory’ worlds.

With one of the principles of my blog being “Critical Thought”, I believe it’s important to look at things in their entirety. So, while Dad wanted these two prestigious careers for us, what would it have taken for us to get into these two professions? The answer is it would’ve taken lots and lots of school for the both us and then, most likely, considerable debt to pay back. This is something very important to consider for parents and students looking to attend college to pursue ‘White-Collar’ careers.

In terms of higher education, thinking out the entire plan long-term is critical – considering the cost of the degree, how to get a quality degree for the least amount of money possible, what the expected salary will be on back end, and finally how much debt will need to be paid back. According to a 2014 article in Forbes, the average amount of debt for Law School graduates ranged from $84,000 to $122,158. Also, according to a recent 2018 article by Credit Donkey, the average medical school graduate finishes with $192,000 of debt.

Keep in mind that these are on top of however much debt was accrued during one’s undergraduate studies. The numbers probably weren’t as high thirty years ago, but it’s important to be mindful of blindly chasing certain careers based upon titles and prestige. If it’s something a student really wants to do, that’s different, but the costs still ought to be considered.

If you run the numbers and your prospects aren’t good, I would recommend not going into debt for that particular degree. A mentor recently taught me that the economy actually dictates the need for specific careers at a given time. I don’t know what the prospects were like for lawyers in the mid-1980s when Dad announced his wish for me, but as I progressed in my education, I heard more and more stories about the market being ‘saturated’ with them. I likewise heard that the landscape for medicine had changed, and in some ways, it wasn’t as lucrative a career as it once was.

In terms of my career, I figured it out as I went along. I had an interest in the Biological Sciences and thus followed that path. I pondered going to Medical School at one point, but decided against it after a professor at Johnson C. Smith University encouraged me and some of my classmates to study up on what it entailed – the demands, the lifestyle, and the backend costs.

It’s also important for students and parents to keep in mind what the student is good at, and where their gift/passion lies. While I turned out to be the son that was interested in the Biology, my brother’s gifts were completely different. He turned out to be a ‘design and build’ –type of guy. He had the gift for designing things, constructing things, taking them apart, and he was quite formidable with tools and devices. He started studying Architecture in college but didn’t finish, but in hindsight, he may have also been well suited for one of the ‘Skill Trades’ – something that didn’t come up as a child as college and ‘White-Collar’ careers were emphasized as opposed to ‘Blue-Collar’ careers.

Speaking of the trades, since finishing my own education, I’ve realized that there is power in learning one or more of the skill trades. There will always be the need to build and fix things. That includes: the electricity and plumbing in your home, airplanes we travel on, the public transportation vehicles we ride to work on every day, and so much more. If your refrigerator breaks down as mine did recently, for example, you either have to buy a new one or hire someone to come and fix it – unless you can do it yourself.

Unfortunately, our society looks down on the Blue-Collar careers in some ways, though they pay very, very well and don’t require the schooling doctors and lawyers need – the same is true for the debt required to train for the latter two careers. In my opinion, individuals who are proficient in the trades people are willing to pay for; and those who also have some business training, stand to make lots of money as they can do things like start their own companies and hire other people.

My brother never finished college and has become a bit of an inventor/entrepreneur which actually is the route that our technology giants like: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg took. There may have been some luck involved for each of them, but these men are reminders that in some instances, ideas and skills are more powerful than the degrees themselves. Today for example, there are quite a few individuals making significant incomes without being ‘degreed’ – those who can write code for Blockchain Technology applications for example. Also, while my brother isn’t degreed, he’s also not saddled with a significant debt payment of any kind – a tremendous advantage.

As for me, depending on your belief system, I got lucky. I pursued a Ph.D. in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field at a time when the economy rewarded individuals with such degrees. What’s even more significant is that I finished only with a little bit of debt from my undergraduate studies. Because I pursued a STEM degree, I didn’t pay for any of my graduate studies so I didn’t have a hefty loan to pay back for those five to six years of graduate school. This brings me to my closing point. It wasn’t until I finished that phase of my science training that I realized that I was missing something very, very important – something some kids are given early, and something others stumble upon later in life if at all.

Regardless of whether or not you get a college degree, a trade or some sort of entrepreneurship, the critical piece is understanding money. Something not discussed much in our younger years was wealth-building – something that is possible for everyone, and independent of one’s career choice as it involves a specific set of behaviors that I’ve written about in my Net Worth and Debt Snowball pieces. Understanding the concepts of Wealth-Building: budgeting, living within one’s means, delaying gratification, investments, and ‘Compound Interest‘ – these are the keys to a great and bountiful life, not necessarily the careers and titles themselves, contrary to what many people think.

Prestige and titles are nice, but if you read Dr. Thomas Stanley’s The Millionaire Next Door, you’ll see that there are many high-income professionals who look the part, but who are actually struggling. In my blog post about the Tax Reform and Jobst Act, I referenced a 2016 article in the Washington Post entitled: The shocking number of Americans who can’t cover a $400 expense which showed that even some individuals making over six figures, surprisingly couldn’t cover such an emergency.

I never wanted to be one of those people. I may be different from most, but I’d rather secretly live nice and comfortable with a simple outward appearance, as opposed to looking wealthy and struggling behind closed doors. That’s a personal choice however – one which everyone must make for themselves.

* * *

In closing, our parents sometimes have dreams of what they want us to be. Some kids actually go ahead and fulfill their parents’ dreams while others go their own way. In some instances, our parents can discourage us from what we really want to do based upon what they know and feel from their lives.

There is thus a complex set of decisions to be made based upon: what one really wants to do, their unique gifts, what they’re passionate about, and how they’ll be able to earn a living on the back end. In the end, the economy dictates what’s needed at that particular time – it will determine who gets hired and how much they will be paid. Lastly, no matter what path is chosen, the critical piece is understanding money. Once again, Happy Father’s Day.

Thank you for taking the time out to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Two very well-behaved boys left to figure things out on their own: reflections on growing up ‘Blue Pill’
Father’s Day 2017: reflections on some of Dad’s money and life lessons
Mother’s Day 2018: Memories of my grandmothers
Mother’s Day 2017: one of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in academic achievement
The benefits and challenges of using articulate speech

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

My personal experience with Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball revisited

“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7

One of the principles of my blog is the “Teaching of Wealth Building and Financial Literacy”. A key component of Financial Literacy is understanding debt – specifically what happens when you carry too much of it. I painfully learned what it’s like to carry exorbitant amounts of debt – a place I hope never to return to.

I got out of debt because some friends graciously shared Dave Ramsey’sFinancial Peace University” with me. While there are supporters of Financial Peace University and Dave’s “Debt Snowball”, I found that there are also detractors and critics. I wrote the following piece on the Examiner in early 2016 after someone else wrote an article about why she quit her Debt Snowball. I didn’t write this to rebut the author in a confrontational way or to discard her experience altogether, but instead to share an alternative perspective. By the way, to read about how to prolong your Debt Snowball, see my Mother’s Day 2017 blog post.

* * *

Over the holiday season, an article appeared on my Twitter feed from another passionate Financial Literacy writer (there are many) titled; Why I Gave Up on Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball. Being a coordinator within the Financial Peace University ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church, and also in the final stages of my own Debt snowball, the article resonated with me and prompted the crafting of this piece. This piece won’t refute Jennifer Calonia’s experience, but will actually agree with some of her points and discuss my own experiences.

No one plans to go into crippling financial debt which usually occurs because of a lack of Financial Literacy; living above one’s means, or something else such as today’s soaring costs of higher education. Many people don’t understand what they’re doing and the long-term ramifications as was in my case. Roughly nine years were spent completing my Ph.D. and then the two and a half years of subsequent training – all on a taxable graduate stipend which ranged from $17,000-$22,000, and then a postdoctoral salary of $37,000. During that time, my expenses often exceeded my income for a number reasons. My old Saturn SL2 was bought with my father’s credit card. It was maintained using another credit card whose balance eventually ballooned to $8,500 (just paid off this month). An unhealthy relationship or two also contributed to the bonanza.

After starting my first real job in the Federal Government, my debt swelled at least two to three times due to wanting to learn to invest in real estate, and wanting to do too much too soon money-wise. It was a good idea but the trainings came at a steep price which in hindsight could’ve been obtained for less money. Those who gave those particular trainings dangerously encouraged us as students who didn’t have tens of thousands of dollars saved up, to use our credit cards, under the assumption that the costs of the classes would get paid off relatively easily once we some real estate deals were done (to be covered in depth in a later piece).

After accumulating my mound of debt, my life was blessed when two friends (from the same trainings) discovered and shared Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU). Just briefly, four of the key components of FPU – the cornerstones of Dave’s “Baby Steps” include:

• Saving an Emergency Fund – one month and then four to six months
• Learning how to budget
• Using cash instead of credit cards and debit cards
The Debt Snowball

The Debt Snowball is a strategy for eliminating debt. The individual lines up all of their debts smallest to largest, steadily paying them off one by one using the money from each paid off debt on the next one, steadily increasing the size of the payments on the larger ones until everything is paid off using “Gazelle Intensity” as Dave Ramsey calls it. Dave Ramsey uses the parable of the Gazelle who represents consumers who are preyed upon by the Cheetahs who represent credit card companies, banks and marketers.

Jennifer Calonia’s points are honestly all valid. My own Debt Snowball has taken two to three difficult years (and that’s without children), and it is easy to feel like quitting. Life continues to happen not just to you, but those around you – some of whom aren’t making good financial decisions and ultimately need your help – often unexpectedly. There is also the pull to do what others are doing – taking lavish vacations and acquiring luxury items for example. Finally, because you’re living on a fixed income when doing the debt snowball, some people may conclude that you’re “strapped” for cash which can be hurtful if you’re sensitive to the words of others.

These are all reasons why Ramsey discusses prayer when pursuing this effort (if that’s in your value system of course). From experience, when doing the Debt Snowball, one has to know that there are times when this financial plan can and must be altered temporarily – the holiday season for example. Furthermore, periodic rewards are realistically a good idea too (within reason). In other words, if you’re doing the Debt Snowball, you have to allow yourself some fun, or else you’ll stop it and never go back.

Much to my surprise, Dave Ramsey does have his detractors and critics as does every author/speaker/guru. There is for example a second method to paying down debts which involves paying down the highest interest rate obligations first. Some consider this more financially intelligent than the debt snowball which is powerful because of the ‘emotional’ effect of seeing the debts go away.

“We’re going to live like no one else, so later we can live like no one else,” Ramsey says frequently during frequently during FPU meaning that some sacrifices are initially involved, for greater gains and a comfortable life later on. Money is an emotional topic and as with most things, everyone has to make the best decisions for their own lives. Being on the cusp of completing my own debt snowball, it admittedly wasn’t easy, but if one can find a way to stick to it, it does work.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

Chris Brown discusses true stewardship and financial peace
Your gross net worth, your gross salary and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal
Mother’s Day 2017: One of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
Father’s Day 2017: Reflections on some of Dad’s money and life lessons
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing and technology story
Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in class, household income, wealth and privilege

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

What are your plans for your tax cut? Thoughts on what can be done with heavier paychecks and paying less tax

Depending on your world view, this blog post may upset you, but it contains some ideas worth pondering. As they once told us at the Writer’s Center, if you’re not making someone uncomfortable, you’re not doing a good job of writing. This may also be my first blog post to incorporate all of the principles of my blog.

Our calendar year is marked by different seasons. Each year builds up to the excitement of the traditional ‘Holiday Season’ – Thanksgiving and Christmas. When the ball finally drops in Times Square, all of the excitement stops with the birth of new year. The holiday decorations and advertising goes away and ‘Tax’ season starts. It wasn’t until I became a working adult myself that I realized that Tax season was its own season, spanning through the Super Bowl, Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, March Madness; right up until Easter Sunday.

You start seeing advertisements on TV for franchises like ‘H&R Block’, and software like ‘Turbotax’. If you have one your tax preparer starts calling you for your annual appointment. You see people dressed up like the Statue of Liberty on street corners encouraging you to have your taxes done at franchises like Liberty Tax. If you’ve paid taxes, you start gathering your materials together to have your taxes done – your W-2 and other associated forms, your gift receipts, your mortgage interest deduction statement, etc.
Depending on your diligence, you either get them done early, or you procrastinate right up to the middle of April. It’s an exciting time, or a desperate one. Depending on how you’re living your life, the refund (if you get one) will propel you further ahead, or it will be gone as soon as you receive it.

* * *

The 2018 tax season will be different than most in recent times in that many Americans will receive a tax cut, thanks to the recently passed ‘Tax Reform and Jobs Act’. Tremendous controversy surrounded the bill – specifically its beneficiaries. If you were 100% against the bill and are still convinced that it was written solely to help the wealthy, no discussion of the increased standard deductions or the adjusted tax brackets will sway how you feel. This is particularly true if you live in one of the high tax states like my native New York State, whose residents are losing the ability to write off some of their state taxes – taxes which are much higher than the other states.

I would highly encourage everyone to do their own research and not take what you hear on the major cable news networks as the gospel. For this post, I’ve done my own research and am citing projections from the Tax Policy Center of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution which was last updated on December 22, 2017. The majority of the rancor and debate in the Main Stream Media (MSM) has centered around the wealthiest

Americans being the biggest beneficiaries of the law. That discussion leads us down the road of ‘Identity Politics’, ‘Fairness’, and varying perceptions of what’s right and wrong. It brings up President Barrack Obama’s position that, “Some Americans can afford to pay more taxes,” versus the other point of view which is that it’s wrong to excessively take money from those who have created it, or inherited it for unsustainable government spending.

My focus is on the potential benefits for individuals living on ‘Main Street’ and what they can do with a little more money in their pockets. I would encourage everyone else to do the same – ask yourselves what you can do to make your life and the lives around you better, as opposed to focusing on what others are getting. It’s tricky because its gets us into discussions about doing for self, and personal responsibility – difficult discussions, but important ones nonetheless.

The new law seems to have already encouraged companies like Apple to reinvest in the United States, but what are the effects of the Tax Reform and Jobs Act personally for people living on Main Street? First, how it affects your life will in large part depend on how you’re living your life in the here and now. Are you living ‘paycheck to paycheck’ or ‘hand to mouth’ as some would say? Are you living outside of your means? Are you riding a high level of debt? Do you have any emergency money? These questions will determine if you’re able to take any extra money you get back and build with it, or if it will get gobbled up right away.

According the Tax Policy Center’s report, one of the major changes in the bill is the increased Standard Deduction for single people and married couples – $6,500 to $13,000 for single people and $9,550 to $18,000 for married couples. For us on Main Street, this one change is going to either increase your refund, or decrease the amount of tax you owe – a win for most people. The tax brackets and associated percentages have also been adjusted. I was originally going to discuss the host of other changes and provisions, but I’ll just simply say that many of the other changes were made based upon the generous expansion of the Standard Deduction.

In addition to the changes in taxes at filing time which will be seen when filing in 2019 for the 2018 tax year, it appears there are going to be changes to Main Street’s paychecks in the near future. Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes published an article on January 11, 2018 titled IRS Releases New 2018 Withholding Tables to Reflect Tax Law Changes. Based upon these changes which are to take effect in February, many Americans are going to get ‘raises’ due to changes in the amounts withheld. Many people are going to have extra money to spend.

This brings me back to the title of this blog post. What are your plans for your tax cut? As in my ‘Net Worth’ piece, this is a rhetorical question – one whose answers I wouldn’t recommend broadcasting. There are reasons for my asking this question. Do citizens on Main Street need some extra money at tax time and in their paychecks? The data in the next section suggest that they do.

* * *

About a month or so ago when the tax cut debate reached its crescendo, someone on Twitter shared an article entitled The shocking number of Americans who can’t cover a $400 expense, written by Ylan Q. Mui of the Washington Post. The article was published on May 25, 2016, and was based on a 2015 Report by the Federal Reserve which I’ve linked to this piece.

The article cited Figure 12 from the Federal Reserve’s report. Of the three groups surveyed, the group making less than $40,000 said they’d have the hardest time covering a $400 expense – overall less than 50%. The group making $40,000 to $100,000 had the second hardest time covering a $400 expense – overall 62%. As expected, the group making greater than $100,000 fared the best – overall 81% could cover a $400 emergency expense. That said it surprised me that someone making above $100,000 would have a hard time covering a $400 expense. By the way, the groups were broken down by race. Interestingly, black/non-Hispanics were the least likely of this $100,000 or greater group to be able to cover a $400 expense – 63% and Hispanics were close by at 67%.

The argument could be made that individuals making less than $40,000 just don’t make enough money to live off of, but what about those making above $40,000? The same is true for individuals making $100,000 or greater. This data suggests that either the United States has become too expensive a place in which to live, or that some people are mismanaging their finances. In both cases, it seems quite a few people could use the extra money. One could suggest that it’s unwise to not carry enough for a $400 emergency, but that’s dangerous because it gets us into discussions about personal accountability/responsibility, and self-reliance.

Rodney Brooks also of the Washington Post wrote an article entitled 71 percent of Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement. In the article he cited data from a national survey by Experion in collaboration with Get Rich Slowly stating that 71% of people surveyed said they didn’t have enough money to retire. Why would Americans not have enough retirement money? Mr. Brooks further cited data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stating that among other things, the percentage of homeowners 65 and older with mortgage debt increased from 22% in 2001 to 30% in 2011. Among homeowners 75 and older, the rate more than doubled to 21.2% from 8.4%.

Furthermore, 49% of the people polled had credit card debt, and 46% had less savings than they expected to have five years earlier. Katie Ryan O’Connor, an editor from Get Rich Slowly, was cited in Mr. Brooks’ article stating that 71% of the people in the survey said they were not invested in the stock market, and 41% said that they had no plans to invest due to lack of funds. The data cited in these two articles suggest that some Americans could benefit from having some more money in their pockets. If you’re wary of investing money, a wise alternative may be to simply shove it under your mattress for an unforeseen emergency. Over the holiday season, a relative shared that simply getting, “rear-ended on the expressway,” causing a $500-dollar emergency would put many Americans in financial distress, so this seems to be real. By the way, a really good course for learning about the importance of emergency funds and the dangers of debt is Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.

* * *

I’ve discussed a lack of money for $400 emergencies and retirement savings, but what else can one do with an increased standard deduction and a heavier paycheck? One alternative is to put something into the collection plate of charities, causes and institutions of your own personal interest that also need money. That can be anything, but I’m going someplace in particular with this.

Early on in President Trump’s first year, some Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Presidents bravely visited the White House, upsetting many alumni, students, and African Americans in general. Why did they go? The answer is simple. Their institutions, many of which are close to folding, needed money. Higher Education is a business – one which relies on funding from the Federal Government via grants and loan programs, in addition to gifts from private industry, and donations from generous and loyal alumni.

Three out of the four years I wrote for the Examiner, I interviewed Allstate’s Cheryl Harris about her company’s ‘Quotes for Education’ program in collaboration with Tom Joyner. What consistently came out of those interviews were discussions about anemic rates of giving by HBCU alumni – something that continues today. For my alma mater, Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), we’ve experienced the same thing. In 2014, as the treasurer for our DC Alumni Chapter, I unofficially got wind that my class of 1999 had an 11% alumni giving rate. That is only 11% of the alumni from my class gave anything to the university that calendar year. It’s a strange phenomenon in that in 2018, HBCUs – those still open, are still very necessary in terms offering higher educations for students who can’t get them anywhere else.

Recently on December 6, 2017, Reginald Stuart of the online publication, Diverse Education, published an article entitled SACSCOC Places Johnson C. Smith University on Probation. The article discussed how the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commissions on Colleges (SACSCOC) placed my alma mater on a 12-month probation due to concerns about the long-term financial viability of the institution. The article stated that SACSCOC’s actions do not immediately impact the school’s accreditation, though a failure to correct the standards cited could lead to the university losing its accreditation and subsequently permanently shutting its doors. The article further stated that JCSU, in addition to Bennett College and St. Augustine’s University, are ‘tuition-dependent’, meaning that they enroll a high percentage of students who need federal financial aid to attend college.

Why would my alma mater and others like it have such low alumni giving rates? It’s a difficult discussion to have once again because it gets us back into personal responsibility. One explanation for the anemic HBCU alumni giving is indifference about the future crops of students. An alternative explanation is that perhaps many HBCU alumni simply don’t have enough money to give back to their alma maters. It thus again suggests that perhaps they could benefit from a tax cut like the one just passed. If you’re an HBCU alumni who will benefit from the Tax Reform and Jobs Act, regardless of how you feel about President Trump and the Republicans, a potential use for your new extra money in your paychecks could be a donation to your alma mater or an organization like the United Negro College Fund, which gives money to black students at both HBCUs and ‘Predominantly White Institutions’. But that’s up to you.

* * *

Clearly, there are a lot of people who can use extra money. How it’s used will depend on the individual. Will it be spent frivolously on a new pair of shoes and other depreciating items? Or will it be used for something long lasting like a down payment towards a house, retirement savings or donation to a charity? Consider the best way to use your gift from the Grand Old Party. Whose lives and community will it stabilize and enrich? Will it be your own? Or will it be someone else’s? Whose job is it to take care of you and your people? Is it yours or someone else’s? I touched upon this briefly towards the end of my blog post titled Challenging misconceptions and stereotypes in household income, wealth building, and privilege. And in closing, what are your plans for your tax cut? Again it’s a rhetorical question – one I wouldn’t necessarily broadcast. Instead, it’s something to think about.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. In you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy:

Who will benefit from Apple’s $350 investment?
Challenging stereotypes and misconceptions in class, household income,  wealth, and privilege
We should’ve bought Facebook and Bitcoin stock: An investing story
Mother’s Day 2017: one of my mother’s greatest gifts, getting engaged, and avoiding my own personal fiscal cliff
Your gross salary, your net worth and what they mean
The difference between being cheap and frugal

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.