Category Archives: student loans

The Student Loan Grinch

Holiday tableIt’s the holiday season.  Time for succulent turkey and stuffing, mouthwatering prime rib, an eggnog sweet potato bake (yep, this looked like a yummy recipe), roasted apple salad, creamy pumpkin pie, and holiday cheer!  Ah, maybe not for student loan borrowers. People are going to Hawaii, Bali, Tahiti, or the Caribbean to escape the cold.  Except for student loan borrowers. People are Christmas shopping for family and friends.  They are buying for themselves a new coat, a holiday outfit, a new car, or a new PlayStation for their children.  Maybe not the student loan borrower.

Grinch statueWhy?  The Student Loan Grinch is why.  In other words, student loan debt is the Grinch that stole the holiday season for many student loan borrowers.  If your student loan monthly payment is more than your mortgage, if your total student loan debt is more than your annual income, if your monthly student loan payment is more than you can afford, you probably won’t be enjoying the holiday season.

How to avoid the Grinch

SAVE, SAVE, SAVE!  Remember in my Are You Saving for College blog I mentioned that you should have a money plan.  Remember “Fail to plan, plan to fail?”  Did you set up your money plan?  Create a money plan and get your financial house in order.

Do you know where your money is going? Do you know how you’re spending your money?  Without a money plan, you have no clue.  You won’t know if you have money to save.  You won’t know that you’re spending money on things you don’t need; and this money should go to savings instead.  Have you heard of the 50-30-20 budget rule?

  • 50% of your paycheck is used for living expenses, such as housing, transportation, and bills.
  • 30% is used for entertainment, recreation, gifts, and dining out
  • 20% should be saved for emergencies.

This rule works provided you are already saving your pre-tax pay into a retirement savings at work.  If not, you may want to reduce the 30% to 20% and save that 10% for retirement.  In other words,

  • 50% of your paycheck is used for living expenses, such as housing, transportation, and bills.
  • 20% is used for entertainment, recreation, gifts, and dining out
  • 20% should be saved for emergencies.
  • 10% should be saved for retirement.

Account for every dollar.  Review your money plan and tweak it when needed.

Get into the habit of saving

Gold piggy bank with cash imageU.S. News & World Report has an article called, “7 Habits You Can Learn From Highly Successful Savers.”  Here are the 7 habits that they offer:

  1. Pay yourself first. In other words, save.  Motley Fool reported that “a frightening 37% of adults aged 35 to 44 have absolutely no money in a savings account.”  Follow the 50-30-20 budget rule above.
  2. Avoid lifestyle inflation. When you receive a pay raise, save the increase instead of spending it on unnecessary things.  Increase your retirement contribution or increase your monthly savings amount.
  3. Be frugal; it pays off. Plan on spending less than you earn.  Remember if you buy a latte a day or dine out frequently, you’re killing your money plan. You don’t need a luxury home or car.  You don’t need designer clothing.  You don’t need to eat gourmet foods.  In the past, shopping was my therapy when I was depressed or stressed.  I had high credit card debt buying all kinds of stupid, unnecessary things.  Some I never used or used once.  The best therapy is to live modestly and save money.  Here’s a thought…save your money for a dream vacation to reward yourself for being a successful saver.
  4. Save for retirement. Set aside 10 to 15 percent of your income toward a retirement plan.  Or, at least match your employer’s contribution if they offer one.  For example, if your employer matches 5% of your income, contribute at least 5% of your income.  That’s a total of 10% of your income!  By age 30, you should have saved the equivalent of your annual salary.  So, if you make $55,000 annually, you should have at least this amount in your retirement account when you turn 30 years old.  At age 40, you should have at least $150,000 saved.
  5. blank Scrabble tiles with tiles spelling plan on them.Set goals. Yes!  Have a money plan!  You know you’ll need to replace your car or large appliances, and make home repairs, so plan and save for it.  Save for vacations instead of using credit cards.  In the past, I’ve used credit cards for my vacations and I suffered later with a large credit card bill.  Not smart.  Get a second job to help save more money.
  6. Regularly review expenses. Review interest rates and insurance policies.  Pay off your credit card bills, so that you can save more.  Review expenses to see if it’s still necessary.  Should you adjust your auto insurance policy?  Can you refinance your mortgage to reduce the interest rate and monthly payment?
  7. Save for emergencies. You never know when or what will happen in the future.  Plan for unexpected expenses; such as family crises or medical issues.  The rule is to save 3-6 months of your pay.

Check out these apps to help you save money:

  1. Joy (iOS)
  2. Trim (website)
  3. Honeyfi (Android & iOS) – for couples
  4. Twine (iOS) – for couples
  5. Mint (Android & iOS)

Create your money plan, get your financial house in order, and then…

 Save for College

glass jar of money with blue college label on itI want to add one more habit and that’s to save for college.  In my How to Save for College blog, I told you about college saving plans.  Have you opened one yet?  Are you contributing monthly to it?  Ask your friends and family to contribute to the plan as a holiday gift.  It’ll be the best gift you or your child will ever receive!

I have seen too many families depend on financial aid.  How financial aid awards are determined isn’t a big secret as some families have expressed to me.  The U.S. Department of Education (ED) uses an EFC formula to determine a family’s financial need so that families who are truly financially needy receive the help that they need.  The rest of us should be saving for college and not borrowing student loans.  When you borrow student loans, you’re inviting the Grinch into your life.  If you’re going to depend on the government to pay for college, use the college savings plan and not student loans.

Start Now

Saving for College mentioned, “If you start saving from birth, about a third of the college saving goal will come from earnings.”  Time is on your side when you start early.   I’m not saying that if your child is, say, 8 years old, that it’s too late to start.  Whether your child is a month old, 9 years old, or 15 years old, start saving now!  If you’re going to college in a year or two, start saving!  Every dollar that you save will help you borrow little or no student loans.

Use your state’s 529 college saving plan

This is the best type of college savings plan for most families.  Don’t know if your state offers a plan?  The College Savings Plan Network offers their My State’s 529 Plan.   See if Smiley face with Santa hat winkingyour state offers a plan and get instructions for enrolling in the plan.  I’ve seen many news stories reporting that more people are using the 529 Savings Plan to save for college.  Do you like trends?  This is a fabulous trend to get into.  If you’re not into trends, still open a 529 Savings Plan today!  It’s a smart move.

Stay tuned for my next blog.  Please share my blog with your friends.

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Gail Sasao



How’s Your College Savings Plan Going?

shutterstock_325751585Have you started saving for college?  For those of you who are saving for college, congratulations!  Good job!  Now, what about the rest of you?  There are so many articles and videos out there about saving for college.  Here are a few:

Stop the information constipation and get started!  The key is to start.  Open a 529 savings plan today and start saving the minimum amount each month.  Set up auto deposit so you won’t have to remember to save.  Put your money to work.  Janet Bodnar of Kiplinger said, “Successful investing hinges on just three steps: Start soon, start small, and keep it simple.”  This is a great tip for college savings.

Paying for college the wrong way

business-1037739_1920I borrowed student loans to get my college degree and over ten years later I’m still repaying my student loans.  Had I saved for college and not borrowed student loans, I could be traveling more.  I failed to plan.  Don’t be like me.  In my financial aid job, I see so many people doing the same thing that I did.  They will have an unnecessary debt burden for years to come.  Don’t be like them.  Whether saving for yourself or for your child, save for college.  Create your money plan.

Your child can help save for college

Have conversations with your child about saving money and saving for college instead of borrowing loans.  Help them create their money plan.  When your child receives birthday and holiday cash, add it to their 529 savings plan.  Ask family and friends to contribute to the child’s 529 plan instead of buying stuff.  They will be helping invest in the child’s future.  When your child starts working, have her/him contribute most of each paycheck to the 529 savings plan.  They’ll be investing in their future.

Be a money mentor for your child.  You know that children learn by example.  Be a great example of someone who saves and spends wisely.  Let them know that you saved a percentage of your paycheck.  “Lucy, I put 5% of my paycheck into your 529 college savings plan.”  “Chad,achievement-3772064_1920 as of today we saved the maximum amount in your 529 college savings plan for the year.”  “High five!”

How much does college cost?

Part of your money plan is looking at college costs.  What is the cost of tuition in your state?  What is the cost of tuition at your alma mater?  Tuition increases about 6-9% annually, so what will be the cost of tuition in 10, 12, 15, or 18 years?  Play with the FAFSA4caster to see how much financial aid you could receive.  Anticipate pay raises and increases in your household size for additional children.    For example, I entered an 18-year-old child, married parents ages 40 and 38 with $106,600 annual income living in Colorado.  There is a total of three people in this household.  This child qualified for

The student earns work-study by working in a work-study job while in school.  This money that the student earns can be saved for the upcoming school year assuming the child lives at home.

I chose the University of Colorado Boulder with an in-state tuition rate of $23,167 for one year.  Instead of borrowing student loans to pay for tuition, use your 529 savings plan.  If your child lives close to school, he/she can live at home to save on living expenses.  Most schools require that students live on campus during the first, and possibly the second, year to interact with other students and to participate in campus activities.  See if your school allows local students to opt out of this requirement.

Stay tuned for my next blog.  Please share my blog with your friends.

Gail Sasao




What’s Your Money Plan

abundance-achievement-bank-534229Have you heard the saying, “Fail to plan, plan to fail?”  I found this to be true in my own life.  So, do you have a money plan?  “Most Americans are saving far too little, and not having savings makes you vulnerable to going into debt for emergency expenses or ending up with too little money to support you during retirement.”  [The Motley Fool:]   Dave Ramsey says, “Imagine if you had $1,000 cash in your hand, ready to pay for that unexpected event.”

Step 1:

The first step and a key step is to create a habit.  Yes, I did say habit.  Start saving a little every month, say, $10, from each pay check.  That’s $20 a month if you get paid twice a month.  Can you set up direct deposit of $10 from your paycheck into your savings?  Check with your payroll office to see if you can do that.   Or, set up your bank account to automatically transfer $20 monthly from checking to savings. Easy peasy, right?  Keep it up until you don’t have to think about it or remember to do it.  It will be as automatic as breathing.  The key is to start!

Congratulations!  You’ve now started saving for emergencies!   If you’re already saving, increase the amount that you save, say, by 5% or double the amount that you’re currently saving.  You should be saving around 10% of your paycheck monthly for emergencies and the goal is to save between three and six months of pay for emergencies.  For example, if you earn $1,000 a month, you should save between $3,000 and $6,000 for emergencies.

I have no money to save:

Ah, but you’re saying, “Right!  How can I save when I have no money?”  I know what you mean.  I’ve been there.  So…here’s what you can do.  The Motley Fool suggests making a game of it by challenging your spouse, partner or friend to who can have more no-spending days.  The amount that you didn’t spend should be plopped into your savings account.  For example, if you would have bought a latte and bagel today from Starbucks, put that amount into your savings.  I challenge you. How many no-spending days can you do?  Increase your no-spending days and see how much you save.

I did say make this fun, so, you can still have your favorite beverage and bite to eat.  Simply planning your day will lead to a successful day.  How about making


your favorite beverage at home and buying your favorite bite to eat from the market?  What can you prepare the night before?  Beverage makers can be timed so your drink is ready to go when you head out the door.  Get one that works for your schedule.  Toast your treat while you’re getting dressed for work.  See how much you save by making your beverage and bite to eat at home.  Do the same with lunch.  Instead of buying lunch daily that costs between $10 and $20, bring lunch from home.  There are many great options available.  From my local Natural Grocers, I buy a container of mixed greens, a pack of cherry tomatoes, my favorite dressing, and a container of my favorite grilled chicken.  I have lunch for the week and I spent around $3 to $4 per meal instead of $10 to $12.  I saved $7 to $8 per meal and put that into my savings!  Share your plan with us!  Forbes’s article, 35 Realistic Ways to Save Money Starting Now, gives other great ideas for saving.  Let’s plan for success.

Create a Money Plan:

The next step, and an important step, is to create a money plan, or what’s called a budget.  Oh no, did I say a dirty word!?  Budget gets a bad rap, but it’s really a tool for success. It doesn’t have to be a hard thing to do.  Simply, a budget is income minus expenses.  If you spent all your paycheck before you receive your next one, you’re in deep trouble.

What a money plan allows you to do is see where you’re spending.  You can tweak areas where you’re overspending.  There are many budgeting apps out there.  Check out the Forbes 15 Powerful Money Apps.  I use Mint and love it.  Choose the app that works best for you.  If you want a worksheet that you can work on and save to your computer, the Make a Budget worksheet is a fairly simple, but good one that you can use.  The links to both the apps article and the worksheet are located in my show notes.  Create another good habit–budgeting monthly.  Share with us what you’re doing and tell us what’s working and what’s not.  How did you fix what’s not working?

So, how are you going to plan to fail or to succeed.

Share my blog with your friends and family.

Gail Sasao



Why are you borrowing student loans to get your child a college degree?


Did you know…

CNNMoney reported that “about four in ten people who’ve gone to college have taken out loans to pay for school.”  [] The Federal Reserve latest report said that over 1.52 million dollars of student loans were borrowed in 2018, compared to 1.49 million dollars in 2017.  It’s July 2018; so we’re only halfway into 2018!

Burdened by Student Loan Debt

In a Chicago Sun Times article, people spoke out on how their student loan debt.  Watch the video!  []  One person called his situation, “the stink of debt.”  You could be one of them.  Really!

Too many of us desperately want a college degree because it might improve our situation.  We know about student loan debt, but we close our ears and eyes to the statistics and the experiences of others.  We borrow as much as we can thinking we’ll pay it off when we get a job.  But…what if we can’t find a job after graduation?  Maybe the job pays only enough to pay living expenses and there’s nothing left to pay student loan debt.

Parents Burdened by Student Loan Debt

“Student loan debt…crushing the financial futures of the parents who cosigned for their kids.” []  One mother said, “it’s emotionally draining.”  Parents who co-sign on a private student loan with their child are a co-borrower.  The parent is also responsible for repaying the loan should the child become unable to repay it.

Optimized-USNewsCrushingRealtyofParentPLUSLoansimageFor some parents, the Parent PLUS loan is in addition to their own student loan debt.  Parents borrow the PLUS one year at a time and haven’t planned for borrowing for the four or more years that their child will be in college.  If a parent borrowed $20,000 for the first year multiplied by the four years the child takes to get a degree totals $80,000. []

A Debt-Free Life = A Better Life

In the Chicago Sun Times article, Judith Ruiz said, “If I didn’t have student loans, I could be doing so much more with my life.” In the Moneyish article, mother, Susan Zambo said, “I feel like there is a rock around my neck.”

You can have a college degree without student loan debt.  You deserve it!  Why can’t you have a degree, a great job and be able to buy a house, a new car, start a family, or go on a luxury cruise.  There is a way to avoid student loan debt and get a college degree.

Share my blog with your friends and family.

Gail Sasao



How are you planning to pay for your child’s college expenses? Credit card? Student Loans? 401(k)?

architecture building campus college

Did you know…

College costs rise annually causing students to borrow more loans.  More and more students are graduating from college with student loan debt.  Forbes reported that “student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category—behind only mortgage debt.”

“The percentage of borrowers who owe $50,000 or more has tripled”, says CNBC.

Loan debt makes it difficult to buy a home, a new car, start a family, or save for emergencies.

Parents with Additional Debt

Parents are burdened by parent loan debt or withdrew from retirement savings to pay for their child’s college costs that only delays their retirement.

CNBC mentioned that “the average parent borrows $21,000 in student loans for their children’s education…  The debt comes as these parents are approaching retirement and it is on top of the loans students take out to pay for their own education.”

Government Reducing Aid

Annually, the government cuts funding appropriated for education, so less students qualify for grants.  Instead students are borrowing more student loans to cover the costs.  Student loans with the interest subsidized by the government are being phased out.  This means that there will soon be no interest-free loans for students.  The interest rate is market-based or based on the economy.  Currently, the interest rate for the undergraduate Direct Loan is 4.45%, which is higher than the mortgage interest rate.

In addition, the current administration wants to cut the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.  This means that people who work in public service won’t be able to have some of their student loans canceled.

A Debt-Free Way to Pay for College

Did you know there’s a better way?  You don’t have to borrow loans to pay for college.  Parents don’t have to borrow loans or withdraw from their retirement account to pay for college.

Share my blog with your friends and family.

Gail Sasao