Monthly Archives: June 2012

Where to Live at College?

One of the first things students think about when college comes around is, “where am I going to live?!” For some students, living on campus in the dorms is where they belong. The dorms are close to class and student activities, and cluttered with other students just begging for a study buddy or a friend. For others, off campus living holds many benefits. Conversely, living off campus can be a make or break move financially for any young and eager student. There are generally two options a student has when it comes to off campus living; rent an apartment or live at home.
Renting an apartment can be a large commitment for a new student with a full class load. Rent can range anywhere from $500-$1000. However, there are also things like internet and electricity bills, not to mention things like cleaning, which can really take a toll on your checking account and free time. Students who make the decision to rent an apartment usually find themselves working at least a few nights a week, taking up valuable study time.

I, like many other students, have taken option number two; living at home. After moving to Iowa City from a little town in Illinois to attend college, my grandparents graciously offered my twin sister and I one of the apartments they rent out or a room in their basement. I was prepared to jump into apartment living. The excitement of living on my own was almost more than I could handle. I was ready to sign the lease when my sister stopped me and said we should consider living with our grandparents. Forgive me if I didn’t find as much excitement in living with my grandparents as I did with living on my own. Thoughts of curfews and homework checks clouded my mind. But, then I sat down and figured out how much money I would be spending renting an apartment. With a $500 rent, at least $100 in groceries every two weeks, and a little extra gas money driving the extra distance to class, living in the apartment began to lose a lot of its appeal.

My second semester of college and of living with my grandparents is rapidly coming to an end and I could not be happier with the decision I made to live with my grandparents. The money that I saved not renting an apartment now populates the empty space that I once called my savings account. The education I am receiving at college is paid for and I am able to afford filling up my gas tank to visit home every now and then. The choice I made to live with family instead of renting an apartment on my own was one of the best decisions I could have.

$100 Invested in 100 People

Investment Idea: $100 dollars in $1 bills handed out to 100 random people.

Total Investment: $100

Total Time Cost: 00:30:00

Extra Costs: Print out and design of information cards and then taping each card to each dollar. (10 Minutes)

Total Time Spent on Investment: 10 minutes of prep work. 20 minutes of handing out dollars.

Research and Preparation:

I have always felt that there is an underlying connectedness between all people. By helping other people you can help yourself too. My favorite TV show for years has been My Name is Earl, and his mantra of “do good things and good things happen” has always seemed like a great way to live your life. In that spirit I decided I wanted to take my first $100 investment and break it into $1 bills to hand out to one hundred random people on the streets of New York City.

Who couldn’t use an extra dollar in their lives?

To explain why I’m doing what I’m doing, I decided I needed to attach some sort of note to the dollars.

1. I needed cards, so I Googled free online business card maker and found Avery. All it requires for you to sign up with it is an email account. I used a fake one and it went fine.

http://dpo.print.avery.com/dpo7/app/US_en/dpo.jsp?projectId=9153180

Avery is pretty great. You can choose lots of patterns, styles and looks for any type of office. I choose basic cards that could fit ten to a page. It then exports your document as a PDF, which you can print using any printer.

On my cards I needed a way to tell the people something quick and short, so I wrote this:

Hi my name is Brett, and I am investing $100 dollars in as many things as I can think of. Right now I am investing $1 in one hundred different people.
Read more on AltInvestments.org.


(Printed out sheets)

(Cut out cards)
Next I then went to my local bank and withdrew a $100 in single dollar bills.

($100 in singles)After I got home that night I applied the cut out cards to the dollars using simple double sided tape, and was done.


(Dollars all set to go)
Reason for Investment:

My parents and most Hollywood movies have taught me one thing: have faith and believe in other people. With that said, I decided to take it a step further and invest in other people, even if they don’t know I am investing in them. I chose to hand out my first investment and hopefully get some good karma and free PR out of it. If I gave you a dollar today please enjoy it and spend it on something you wouldn’t normally buy. Use it to invest in a better life for yourself, just like I hope my investments will give me.

Thank you.

Returns: Karma, free PR.

https://s3.amazonaws.com/altinvestments.org/img/altin.png

How a Target-Date Fund Works

A “target-date” fund is a mutual fund consisting of typical assets such as stocks, bonds, cash or cash equivalents. The percentage mix of assets is reshuffled automatically by the fund to meet the objective of the investor by a certain future date, such as retirement.

The main advantages to a target-date fund are: low minimum investment which provides for greater diversification of outside investments, the fund is managed by a professional fund manager, and there is low investor maintenance or monitoring once the initial investment has been made.

As the preselected date approaches, a target-date fund will shift assets towards more conservative investments to avoid or attempt to mitigate any downturns in the economy. This re-allocation is done with no direction or input of the investor but by the mechanics of the fund itself.

When selecting a target-date fund, it is important to examine the initial composition of the fund assets. All funds typically have different percentage allocations based in equities or stocks, bonds, and cash. The difference between the funds rests in the make up of the allocations. One fund may be made up strictly of domestic equities and treasury bonds, while another fund may have a portion of the equities and bonds based internationally. There can be other differences among funds, such as what type of equities are in the asset mix, whether they are large, small or mid-cap stocks, or if the equities are from emerging markets, or the type of bonds and cash equivalents that make up a portion of the fund.

A disadvantage of a target-date fund is that they are not independent. The target-date fund is usually a compilation fund made from the offering company’s other funds. This compilation of other funds can lead to higher expense fees depending upon how a fund company computes their charges, the fee for managing the target-date fund may include all or part of the fees charged for the component funds. Hence the investor in the target-date fund is paying a fee for the cost of managing the component fund as well as the target-date fund.

Whether an investor should or should not invest in target-date funds depends upon how much the investor wants to be actively involved in the management of his or her retirement fund. If the investor wants to be an active participant continuously until retirement, then a target-date fund is not the best investment choice. Conversely, if an investor does not want to be involved in the direction or management then a target-date fund offers that convenience, however, the more passive investor will need to investigate, compare, and analyze the target-date fund before committing to invest in the fund in order to assure that the retirement goals will be met.

An investor must perform due diligence with any fund. With a target-date fund the diligence and investigation must be in depth and up front. With a more traditional self-directed fund the investor must continually monitor during the entire investment in the fund.

How Do I Find the Best Credit Card?

Are you looking for a new credit card or a first time credit card? This can be a task made difficult due to all the offers out there. The best way to choose a credit card is to research the different credit card companies to find the best card to meet your needs. Find a company that offers the best rates for you according to your credit rating. A good credit rating can get you a better deal on a credit card. If this is the first time applying for a credit card, then look for one that is made especially for those who have never established credit.

Credit Cards

The best credit cards are the ones with lower interest rates, no annual fees, and a reliable company you can trust. Other things to look for when shopping for a credit card are the application fees, late fees, over limit fees, and even how the bill can be paid. Some credit card companies have hidden fees, so be sure to read all the facts before signing up for that card. These are facts you need to know about; and you will need to consider how they will affect you in being able to pay back the charges you have made on the credit card.

An introductory rate credit card is an offer to get you to switch credit cards to another credit card company at a lower interest rate. The key word is introductory; which means this rate will change after you have had the card for so long. Other cards are one interest rate for the life of the credit card. Even though the interest rate may be a little higher at the beginning than the introductory rate cards; you will know what interest rate you will pay throughout the years that you use the credit card. Some offer a variable interest rate credit card; where the interest rate is always changing, and this makes knowing what will be paid back in interest charges confusing.

Can you pay online or are mailing the payment the only way? This might be something that would help you decide which one you like. Do they charge a fee just to take out the card with them? Some credit card companies charge a processing fee making you pay before you even get to use your card. This makes you owe before you even get to enjoy spending. Reading the cardholder agreement will help you determine what each card has to offer.

One way to find the best credit card is to make a list of what you want out of your credit card company, and then start looking at credit card sites on the web and comparing what each has to offer. Things to put on the list to check on are such things as finance charges, grace periods, minimum payment, and cash advance fees, to name a few. All of these things are good to find out about and know before choosing a card.

What Are the Best Jobs for College Students?

Most people understand the importance of going to college; however, upon arrival many students will quickly discover that they are going to need to find a job to cover their living and entertainment expenses. Jobs for college students do not pay a lot of money, but students do not need to make as much money as most of them believe. Even though a lot of these jobs do not pay a lot, many of them offer other benefits to their employees.

college jobs

Retail Stores

Many college students discover that working at a retail store, whether it be a grocery store or a clothing store, is relatively easy work. All that the management really expects is for them to have a positive attitude, show up on time and assist the customers. While these jobs typically do not offer commission or any kind of great pay, most of them offer some extra incentives. For example, many clothing stores will allow the employees to buy their stylish clothes for a substantial discount, so the employee will feel like they are making more money. This actually works out better, because the student will not have to pay income tax on the clothes.

Bars and Restaurants

Students who have an out-going personality and enjoy conversing with others should consider applying for a job at a restaurant or bar. Employees will work a little harder in these jobs than they would in a typical, minimum wage job, but the tips can be very good. It is typically easier to get a job serving at a restaurant than it is at a bar, since bartenders typically have more responsibilities, but servers can typically work their way up. Another nice thing about working for a bar or restaurant is that everyone enjoys being in this atmosphere anyway, and this will allow them to get paid to do so.

Sales

College students may also have an opportunity to work in certain sales job, with electronics being the most popular. Students will be able to work around and learn about the technology they love, but they will also have the ability to earn a commission on their sales. A lot of these stores will also give their employees a really good deal on electronics, such as cell phones. Receiving a cell phone and plan for a few dollars per month can make this job an excellent option.

Internet

Students who are really motivated and good at time management could start an online business. One of the most popular options is freelance writing, because it does not require any financial investment. If students want to invest a little money, they could buy some products and sell them online. The possibilities for working on the Internet are endless, but it takes the right personality to be successful.

These are just a few options for college students to choose from. The key thing for students to remember is that they need to determine what type of work sounds the most appealing. It is also important to note that some college towns may not have the same number of choices, so some students may have to take any job they can get.

Should I Buy Pet Insurance?

The question of pet-insurance and whether it is necessary might seem like a moot one if you have never head to take care of a pet. However, if you do love pets, and have ever had to actually take care of one, you will know something about the cost of treating them when they do fall sick or are injured: it’s high.

Pet Insurance

It can be as high as human treatment and even higher in some cases, because, let’s face it, not that much research has gone into looking after pet health (not as much as has gone into human health for example) and therefore good pet health care is hard to come by, and the harder it is to come by, the more expensive it will tend to be. Simple things like stitches on a dog’s paw or even managing a persistent worm problem can be quite costly.

Added to this is the fact that veterinary medicine is employing increasingly expensive methods of treatment, from x-rays to monitoring equipment for organ performance and things of that nature.

It is with this in mind that pet insurance starts to sound like a good idea. Pet insurance differs from human health insurance in one important aspect: it is rather more similar to property insurance, in particular, motor vehicle insurance.

Pet insurance is relatively new in the United States, with the first one being issued in the United States and instigated by the risk incurred when using animals for important roles on Hollywood. Sweden and Britain respectively, lead the world in terms of percentages of pets that have pet health insurance.

Policies can differ in several aspects. You can have lifetime and non-life time variations, with lifetime variations covering a condition that the pet has for it’s lifetime, literally, while non-lifetime insurance cannot be renewed when the policy is being renewed annually.

Pet insurance can also include third-party liability insurance, so that if for example a pet is a direct cause of a car accident or injury to an individual, the owner of the pet is insured from covering costs incurred; these would be covered by the insurer.

As mentioned earlier, these aspects of pet insurance as well as others vary from country to country and also vary according to the insurance company providing the cover. Some of these variations include dental care, preventive cover like vaccination, prescription drugs, tail clipping (in the case of certain dogs and cats) and neutering.

In the long run, of course, a carefully negotiated policy will save you money. Pet behavior is often unpredictable but knowing that you have a fall back plan can help you save on those sudden costs as well as give you that much-searched for commodity when dealing with a pet: peace of mind.

What is a Pension?

A pension plan is a specific type of retirement plan in which the employer will make a contribution to funds that have been put aside for the employee’s future benefit. This money is then invested on behalf of the employee permitting benefits to be received at retirement. As a general rule, a pension plan is tax exempt, is built up over numerous years, and consists of money that was contributed by both the employer and the employee.

retirement

How Do I Get a Pension Plan?

A pension plan comes with the job. All you have to do is show up to work and work. When you become an employee, you are enrolled in the pension plan with your employer automatically. However, some companies do require that you are employed for a full year before you are officially enrolled in the pension. And just because the pension is yours does not mean that you have any say so in the investment decisions.

When Can I Have Access to My Pension?

You cannot obtain early access to your pension plan. You will be unable to gain access to the funds from your pension until you have retired from the company. As a general rule, retirement age is 65; however, some companies may allow you to begin payments at 55 for early retirement. If you choose to begin receiving early retirement benefits from your pension, you won’t receive as large of a monthly payment as you would if you were at full retirement age.

Upon retirement, you will begin receiving monthly installments of the same amount each month until the funds have been depleted. The payout will generally depend on your length of time with the company as well as your salary.

What to Know About Pension Payouts

When you do begin receiving payments from your pension plan, you will be responsible for paying taxes on the funds received throughout the tax year. Because of this, a pension plan is considered as a form of a retirement plan.

Now, while most individuals opt for the monthly installments, those with a pension plan do have the option to choose a lump sum payment upon retirement. However, by choosing the lump sum option, you are given all the funds at once meaning that taxes must be paid on the entire amount at the end of the tax year. In addition, you could leave yourself with no money in the long-term by spending too much upfront. The wiser option is the monthly installments; however, the choice is ultimately yours to make.

Don’t Rely on a Pension Alone

When it comes to planning your retirement, you should never rely on one individual retirement plan to carry you through your retirement years. This is extremely true with pension plans since a pension is not going to be enough to carry you through.

How to Pick Charities to Donate To

The decision to donate to a charity is not just a noble one; it is a reflection of empathy on one’s part and an understanding that where one has been blessed by fate, others have been less fortunate. So for those seeking to improve the lot of humanity, to give back, for those seeking to “be the change they seek”, there are a number of pointers that can ensure that their gestures actually have the impact they have in mind and reach their intended target.

Choose a charity

The method of choosing which charity to donate to that are outlined below are not perfect methods but they will offer a guideline that can help one make an informed decision on how to impact the world around them.

(Credibility. Efficacy. Community Neighborhood. Immediacy. Passion. Anonymity)

Credibility

It is important that you choose a charity that has gone through a vetting process of some sort. This process varies from one area to another but certain aspects of the vetting process are fairly easy to spot: the charity should be registered, and have a recognizable board and patronage of standing within the community; it’s activities and how it puts it’s resources to use should be transparent, and easily accessible financial records play an important role in this; it’s impact should be visible, and not simply at a PR level but intrinsically, in line with it’s stated vision and goals.

Efficacy

The charity should be able to actually effect change in the individual lives and communities it works with. It is all very well to provide shelter for the homeless, but alongside this, those sheltered should find a system that helps them better themselves so that they move on to a way of life that helps them earn a living and provide for themselves so the shelter can help another lost cause.

Community

The charity should be impacting directly on the community it exists in. Global charities naturally have global reach, but to actually work, charities need to experience the reality of the people whose lives they are seeking to have an impact on.

Immediacy

There are sometimes situations that demand an instant response from the community, whether local, nationwide, or even globally. These often occur during natural disasters like earthquakes, outbreaks of disease and tsunamis. In this particularly situation, creditable organizations like the United Nations make impromptu calls for immediate help and these are calls that one should respond to when seeking to donate. In this particular scenario, every dollar counts, and the immediacy of the situation also validates it.

Passion

One should also find a charity that appeals to one’s passions, or beliefs. It is easier to relate to a cancer charity, for example, if you have suffered from the disease or have known somebody who has been ravaged by it. The things we are passionate about are often the ones we are also most effective with.

Anonymity

As much as possible, do seek a charity that ensures the donor remains anonymous. It gives real meaning to your offer; the reward is in you yourself knowing.