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Written by Brandon Thompson
Budgeting, spending habits, savings, retirement, and student loans should be included in college educational programs, specifically, professional programs requiring a tremendous investment that the average American household cannot afford. Medical school, Nursing School, Pharmacy school, etc., are all massive investments taken on by adults ages 18-29. Without any prior working experience, students typically lack an income due to the requirements of most programs, requiring student loans, which could lead to poor money management. Most schools give students what they ask for without adequately looking at their social and financial lifestyles. One has opted into financial courses whenever student loans are considered, but how many of us actually work on our budget and watch our expenses?
In January of 2021, I paid off the entire year of debt, all through budgeting and forecasting expenses and incomes. However, most of my income came from student loans, so I had to spend wisely, or I would have to borrow more and pay for more. Throughout this paper, I will explain the importance of budgeting and spending and what it includes; savings and the possible accounts available for students, retirement, and finally, student loans.
According to Lightner, B. (2019), A budget is a plan that shows estimated income and expenditures for a specific period. Budgets are typically made by individuals, families, businesses or other organizations, government agencies, or countries. Budgets typically cover a given period, such as a month or year, quarterly (every 3 months), or bi-annually (every 6 months). They are used as guidelines for spending and saving. A budget covers all income and expenses, or it may apply only to funds used for a specific purpose (holidays and events like Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.). After a budget is created, all applicable income and expenditures are tracked to ensure compliance with the budget. Budgeting is very subjective, and it looks different from household to household.
A simple Excel spreadsheet is enough to help keep one on track in monitoring their spending. However, one must have a level of discipline already established to diligently sit and update your spreadsheet daily or weekly. With that in mind, I suggest using a method of tracking that works for you. There are plenty of intelligent apps out there or simply hire a personal freelance accountant.
The envelope method is one way to ensure that expenses do not exceed estimated amounts. The amount assigned for each spending category, such as groceries or dining out, is put in a labeled envelope in the form of cash. When purchases in these categories are made, the money is taken from the designated envelope.
Allocation of funds to specific categories creates a frugal lifestyle. For example, I allocate $120 for groceries every 2 weeks, $240 per month. This amount is divided into two since my household consists of two individuals who split things equally. Therefore, the more people contribute to expenses, the less burden it is financially on one individual. This is ideal for roommate situations when in college.
Furthermore, I have started the cash system and now consider myself a card-less user. Credit cards could lead to more spending temptations and are indeed a trap. One must use credit cards to your advantage as it is not free money. For example, knowing that I live off student loans, I got a credit limit of $1000, considering my monthly payment. I only use my card in emergencies, and if I do, I always pay for what I use in full. Avoiding regular use of credit cards is my best advice, or use it wisely to boost your credit score.
Establish a savings account as early as possible. After moving here, I was amazed to learn that banks do not have what we call back home, a “standing order.” Generally, a standing order is an allocated amount of money users would like to withdraw from their account at a specific time established by the user, to be placed in a separate account with established rules. For example, I did this in my Business career where I had $200 deducted from my paycheck every 18th of the month. This $200 is placed in an account that I can access whenever I want. However, to prevent impulsive spending, I set up a system where I had to go through many steps to access the funds before I created a specific date. Saving accounts should be as it states: for savings. Establish a percentage of your salary or loan for savings after you deducted your expenditures.
Pension and retirement plans became included as job benefits during the 20th century, increasing employment overhead for many firms and providing workers with a significant income upon retirement. Late in the century, many pension funds failed, as it was revealed that substantial employers had borrowed money from their employees’ pensions that they could not pay back. Trescott, P. B. (2021)
Hospitals now offer what they call the 403b. After a certain number of years, they will match your percentage contribution. This retirement plan travels with you if you are a nurse. I am still familiarizing myself with this concept; hence, it requires research. Luckily, there are financial advisors available at most institutions.
According to Zimmer, S. M. (2020), similar calculations are involved for those participating in some of the federal government’s student loan forgiveness plans. These plans were developed in response to a growing problem: students graduating from college with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt were either unable to find employment or were unable to find jobs at a salary high enough for the students to pay back their debts. In the United States, the student loan process typically begins by filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Then, as best as possible, try to take as few loans as possible. Personally, I averaged $16,000 in student loans after obtaining my BSN degree in nursing. I lived on this for two years while paying for classes. This ties into living frugally and adhering to a budget. This might seem impossible, but it indeed is.
One study interviewed three groups of young adults, (1) “College students” ages 18 – 24, who are currently enrolled, (2) “College completers” ages 21 – 29, former students who earned a degree, graduated, and perhaps continued their education before joining the workforce, and (3) “College non-completers” ages 21 – 29, former students who altered their path and left college to pursue other goals without earning their degree.
This study examines the money management skills, payment behaviors, and financial literacy of college students, completers, and non-completers. Key findings include: (1) Young adults from all three segments are optimistic about their ability to manage money. (2) The majority demonstrate fiscal responsibility in several ways, including paying bills on time, tracking their expenses, and not spending more than they have. (3) The importance of having a good credit record is top of mind for this population, and college students are taking steps to establish good credit. (4) The majority of those no longer in college proactively monitor their credit, having viewed their credit report and being highly conscious of their credit score. (5) Parents are the most influential resource in teaching young adults to manage finances, both for those in college and those who have left to pursue a different career path. All three groups realize they need to learn more, but the financial education topics in which they are most interested are driven by current life stages and the needs associated with each stage. When quizzed on several essential economic issues such as interest capitalization, a large portion of young adults were unsure. (6) When it comes to paying for purchases, debit cards are nearly universal and are the most frequently used payment method. Mobile payment usage among students and completers is similar to their debit card possession rates but is used by fewer non-completers. The majority in all three populations have a credit card, though a higher ratio of completers has them. Despite the number of alternative payment methods available, cash still matters, especially when paying for low-cost purchases.