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Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness?

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Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Who Qualifies for Student Loan Forgiveness?

Here’s every Millennial’s dream—you wake up one day to find all your student loan debt completely forgiven.

Recently, that dream became a reality for dozens of former students when the U.S. government gave $17 billion of debt relief to 725,000 borrowers.¹

Still, that hardly puts a dent in the $1.6 trillion in student loan debt collectively owed by 43 million Americans.²

So, what are the chances that your loans will be forgiven, and how do you know if you qualify?

Here are three ways to qualify for student loan forgiveness…

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

Work for a qualifying non-profit or public organization? Then you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program.

Under this program, your remaining loan balance will be forgiven after you make 10 years’ worth of payments.³

And fortunately, it just got far easier to qualify—before recent reforms, the denial rate for the PSLF program was up to 99%.⁴

So if you’re a public servant, head over to the Federal Student Aid website and click Manage Loans.

Teacher Loan Forgiveness

Similar to the PSLF program, the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program is available for educators. If you’ve taught in a classroom for 5 years and meet the basic qualifications, you could be eligible for up to $17,500 of debt forgiveness.⁵

But be warned—there are some highly specific qualifications. From the Federal Aid website:

“You must not have had an outstanding balance on Direct Loans or Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program loans as of Oct. 1, 1998, or on the date that you obtained a Direct Loan or FFEL Program loan after Oct. 1, 1998.”⁶

Sound complicated? That’s because it is. As with most financial moves, meet with a debt professional or financial planner to see if you qualify.

Total and Permanent Disability Discharge

If you’re totally and permanently disabled, you may be eligible for a complete discharge of your student loan debt.

You’ll need to submit proof of your disability to your loan servicer. The proof can come in many forms, such as a doctor’s letter, a Social Security Administration notice, or documentation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

As with everything involving bureaucracy and disability, you may quickly find yourself mired in red tape and conflicting phone numbers. That’s why it’s always wise to seek out professional help if you think you might qualify.

The sad truth is that few actually qualify for these programs. If you work in the private sector, are healthy, and face significant debt, you’ll need to find alternative strategies for moving from debt to wealth.

Still, it’s good to know that there are options out there for those who qualify. So if you think you might be eligible for one of these programs, don’t hesitate to explore your options.


¹ “Here’s who has qualified for student loan forgiveness under Biden,” Erika Giovanetti, Fox Business, Apr 26, https://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/student-loan-forgiveness-programs-biden-administration

² “Student Loan Debt Statistics: 2022,” Anna Helhoski, Ryan Lane, Nerdwallet, May 19, 2022 https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/loans/student-loans/student-loan-debt

³ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness? To Qualify, Borrowers May Need To Do This First,” Adam S. Minsky, Forbes, May 16, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamminsky/2022/05/16/want-student-loan-forgiveness-to-qualify-borrowers-may-need-to-do-this-first/?sh=6aa44a617cdb

⁴ “Want Student Loan Forgiveness?” Minsky, Forbes, 2022

⁵ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher

⁶ “Teacher Loan Forgiveness,” Federal Student Aid, https://studentaid.gov/manage-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/teacher


The Cost Of Smoking Cigarettes

The Cost Of Smoking Cigarettes

Not many people would argue that smoking is bad for you.

It’s linked to lung cancer and heart disease, and is associated with nearly 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.(1) But smoking damages more than your body. It can also seriously hamper your financial health in ways that might surprise you.

The upfront cost of smoking

Cigarettes aren’t cheap. Prices per pack vary from $$6.11 in Missouri to $11.96 in New York, but the national average comes out to around $8.(2, 3) Smoking a pack per day will run you $56 per week, $224 per month, and $2,912 per year. Over 20 years you’ll have spent $58,240 on cigarettes. That’s a lot of money to light up!

Health care costs of smoking

But smoking carries more subtle costs. Hospital bills, medication, and treatment all cost money, and smoking bumps up your chances of needing those at some point in your future. In total, smoking-related illness costs the United States over $300 billion per year.(4) Smokers also have to face higher insurance costs because of the health risks presented by their habit. All told, smoking one pack per day costs around $15,000 a year, or $40 per pack.(5)

The opportunity cost of smoking

What would you do with $15,000? If you’re smoking a pack per day, your answer is to spend it on a highly addictive chemical that feels great in the moment but will damage your health long-term. But what would happen if you put that $15,000 to work? Could that be the cash you need to start building a business? Maybe that could be the foundation of your child’s college fund or inheritance. That nicotine hit might be what you think you need to destress or get out of bed in the morning, but it’s costing you more than short-term cash. It’s denying you the potential to live on your terms and start building your future.

Quitting cigarettes can feel daunting. They’re an easy coping mechanism that you might depend on. Imagining a day without lighting up with your morning coffee could be downright terrifying. But smoking costs you more than just 6 bucks per pack. It costs you more than your future health. The price of a quick nicotine fix could be stopping you from reaching your full potential and stealing life-changing opportunities.

Trying to quit? Check out these resources from the CDC.


¹ “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/index.htm

² “Cigarette Prices by State 2022,” World Population Review, https://worldpopulationreview.com/states/cigarette-prices-by-state/

³ “Economic Trends in Tobacco,” CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/economics/econ_facts/index.htm#

⁴ “ Hidden Costs of Smoking,” American Cancer Society, https://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/benefits/events/flyers/tobacco-free/hidden-cost-of-smoking.pdf


Furnish Your Home Without Breaking Your Bank

Furnish Your Home Without Breaking Your Bank

Furnishing your house can be pricey.

One interior decoration blog estimated that decorating a living room from scratch could cost between $14,400 to almost $50,000!(1) The numbers for the dining room, bedrooms, and kitchen are similarly high. Furnishing an apartment averages between $3500-5800.² But is there a better way? How can you save some cash if you’re trying to furnish your home? Here are a few helpful tips to guide your decorating process!

Plan and prioritize

Start by taking stock of what furniture you have that can be used in your new home. Some of it might work in your new home, some of it might not. Try to get an idea of what existing furniture will go where and make note of new items you’ll need.

Arrange your list of new items in order of importance and buy those first. Mattresses for your bedroom? Top of the list. Abstract modern art to hang in your bathroom? Maybe hold off on that until you’ve taken care of the essentials!

Paint

Concerned that your kitchen is a little drab? Worried that your table cloth doesn’t match your dining room? You might be surprised how far a new paint job will get you! It might be a more budget-friendly way to spice up your living situation than tossing all your old furniture out the door, especially if you do it yourself. Things like tables and wooden chairs are all potential candidates for a new coat of paint, as are the walls of your home.

Shop smart

But there’s no doubt that at some point you’ll need to get a new piece of furniture. What then? Cough up and pay a ridiculous price? You might be surprised by the resources available to acquire furniture at a bargain. Local thrift stores can be treasure troves for things like chairs, coffee tables, and bookcases. Craigslist and eBay are also worth investigating, as are estate and garage sales. And you can always scour the curbs for a free sofa if you’re feeling bold!

Furnishing your new house can be fun. It’s a chance to unleash your creativity and make your home a special place. Just make sure you follow these budget-friendly tips before you start indulging!


¹ “Budget Breakdown: How Much Does It Cost To Decorate A Room?” The Kuotes, https://www.kathykuohome.com/blog/budget-breakdown-how-much-does-it-cost-decorate-a-room/

² “The Cost of Furnishing an Apartment: A Step-By-Step Guide With Breakdown Of Furniture Costs,” Bonnie Stinson, Furnishr, Jan 7, 2022 https://furnishr.com/blog/cost-furnishing-apartment/


The Right Way to Respond to Economic Volatility

The Right Way to Respond to Economic Volatility

Inflation. Tumbling market values. Supply chain catastrophe. Wars and rumors of wars. Pandemics.

These words have been plastered all over the news and social media feeds for the last two years. And there’s no sign of it stopping.

As individuals and as businesses, we can’t control the economy.

But what we can control is how we respond to it.

The key is to stay focused on your long-term goals, and make sure your actions align with them.

Here are a few tips on how to navigate economic volatility…

1. Check your emotions. Fear is the natural response to economic volatility. What will happen to your job? What will happen to your business? What will happen to your retirement savings?

Know this—one of the worst mistakes you can potentially make is acting rashly on those fears. Volatility creates opportunity. Don’t lose out on potential because of headlines you read. Instead, assess your situation, what you stand to lose, and opportunities you might have.

2. Stay focused on your goals. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day noise of the news. But if you want to help your sanity—and make sound financial decisions—it’s important to keep things in perspective.

How far are you from retirement? What kind of lifestyle do you want in retirement? What’s your strategy for protecting against long-term losses?

If your goals are in line with your current reality, take a deep breath and ride out the storm. If not, it’s time to reevaluate where things stand and make adjustments as necessary.

3. Review your budget and financial strategy. Once you’ve gotten past the initial emotional reaction, it’s time to take a clear-eyed look at your budget and finances.

There are two critical components to examine here—your emergency fund and your debt.

If you have an adequate emergency fund in place, keep it intact. Resist the temptation to tap into your savings to cover short-term losses. You’ll need your emergency fund for different expenses, like emergencies.

As for debt, make sure you’re not overextending yourself with credit cards and loans that only might make sense when the economy is booming. If you lose your job in a downturn, the last thing you want is high-interest debt hanging over you.

4. Meet with your financial professional. It’s simple—a licensed and qualified financial professional can help stop rash financial decision making in its tracks.

A financial professional can help you see the big picture, keep things in perspective, and develop a strategy that can help you stay on track—no matter what the economy throws your way.

While economic volatility can feel frightening, it’s important to stay focused on your long-term goals. Having the right mindset and guidance can help you navigate a crisis with confidence.


Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Credit Score vs. Credit Report

Your credit score is a big deal. At the least, a low score can saddle you with high interest rates, or at the worst, prevent you from getting important loans.¹ It can even be a roadblock to renting a house or getting a job!²

But what exactly is a credit score? And how is it different from a credit report? It turns out the two have a close relationship. Let’s explore what they are and how they relate to each other.

Credit Report. Your credit report is simply a record of your credit history. Let’s break that down.

Many of us carry some form of debt. It might be a mortgage, student loans, or credit card debt (or all three!). Some people are really disciplined about paying down debt. Others fall on hard times or use debt to fuel frivolous spending and then aren’t able to return the borrowed money. As a result, lenders typically want to know how reliable, or credit worthy, someone is before giving out a loan.

But predicting if someone will be able to pay off a loan is tricky business. Lenders can’t look into the future, so they have to look at a potential borrower’s past regarding debt. They’re interested in late payments, defaulted loans, bankruptcies, and more, to determine if they can trust someone to pay them back. All of this information is compiled into a document that we know as a credit report.

Credit Score. All of the information from someone’s credit report gets plugged into an algorithm. It’s goal? Rate how likely they are to pay back their creditors. The number that the algorithm spits out after crunching the numbers on the credit report is the credit score. Lenders can check your score to get an idea of whether (or not) you’ll be able to pay them back.

Think of a credit report like a test and the credit score as your grade. The test contains the actual details of how you’ve performed. It’s the record of right and wrong answers that you’ve written down. The grade is just a shorthand way to evaluate your performance.

So are credit reports and credit scores the same thing? No. Are they closely related? Yes! A bulletproof credit report will lead to a higher credit score, while a report plagued by late payments will torpedo your final grade. And that number can make all the difference in your financial well-being!


¹ “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby, The Balance, Mar 4, 2021, https://www.thebalance.com/side-effects-of-bad-credit-960383

² “The Side Effects of Bad Credit,” Latoya Irby.


Deconstructing Wealth

Deconstructing Wealth

Wealth, simply put, is the stockpile of resources you have at your disposal.

The rarer the resource, the “wealthier” you are.

On a surface level, that definition conforms to the common stereotypes of wealth. Can we all agree that a stacked bank account is a rare and precious resource?

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that wealth takes many shapes and forms.

Your knack for finding the right word at the right time?

Your secret talent for creating with your hands?

Your indestructible support network that’s there for you, no matter what?

Those are all resources. Those are all rare. Those are all wealth. They just don’t have a dollar value… yet.

To be fair, you shouldn’t monetize all of your assets, especially if those assets are people. Leveraging your network for money is something that must be done with the utmost care and respect, if at all.

But the fact remains that you likely possess an abundance of resources that could be converted into increased cash flow. Your talents, your ability, and your time are all precious assets that have the potential to boost your income.

The takeaway? When you break it down, you’re wealthier than you may think. The real question is, how will you monetize the resources you’ve been given?


Why Used Cars Are So Expensive

Why Used Cars Are So Expensive

What you’ve heard is true—used cars really are getting more expensive.

And it’s not just a minor price hike. Used cars saw a 66%-110% price increase from December 2019 to December 2021.¹ For comparison, overall prices have increased “only” 12% from 2019 to 2022.²

Why? Like almost everything over the last two years, it all comes back to the pandemic.

Here’s the story…

New cars need microchips. That’s where all the computerized magic happens that consumers have come to expect when they drive out of the dealership.

But chip manufacturers were hit right between the eyes by the pandemic. They faced extensive lockdowns, followed by surging demand once the economy began to recover. Factories were simply unable to produce new cars quickly enough. Consumers needed alternatives. So they started buying used cars, en masse.

Demand shot up. Supply went down. And as a result, prices for used cars have soared.

Fortunately, there may be relief on the horizon. If chip manufacturers reopen and new cars hit the market, used car prices should start to trend downward. J.D. Power estimates the market will stabilize in late 2022 or early 2023.³ Morningstar puts the date in 2023.⁴

But whether those predictions become reality remains to be seen. For now, if you’re in the market for a used car, expect to pay more than you would have just a few years ago.


¹ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/

² “$1 in 2019 is worth $1.12 today,” in2013dollars.com, https://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/2019?amount=1#:~:text=Core%20inflation%20averaged%203.02%25%20per,2022%2C%20a%20difference%20of%20%240.09

³ “When Will Used-Car Prices Drop? 3 Things Car Shoppers Should Know,” Jane Ulitskaya, Cars.com, Feb 3, 2022, https://www.cars.com/articles/when-will-used-car-prices-drop-3-things-car-shoppers-should-know-446525/

⁴ “Used car prices continue to surge. Here’s why — and when they could come back down,” Mike Stunson, Miami Herald, https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article257060717.html#storylink=cpy


Mind Traps and Your Money

Mind Traps and Your Money

Your mind is incredible. But it’s not perfect. It makes mistakes. And those mistakes can wreak havoc on your finances.

This isn’t to talk bad about your brain—it’s like a supercomputer ceaselessly working to make sense of the world and keep you safe. The trouble is, sometimes it does this by coming up with shortcuts that feel like they should make sense, but can lead to serious errors.

These mistakes are sometimes called mind traps. They can derail logical thinking and lead you astray. And they can have a big impact on your money.

Here are some of the most common money mind traps, and how you can avoid them!

1. All or nothing thinking. This is a classic example of the “great” being an enemy of the “good”. You might feel that unless you can go all out on saving and building wealth, you might as well do nothing. Go big or go home, right?

It’s an obviously flawed line of thinking. Saving even a little is always better than saving nothing. But the temptation not to is still very, very powerful. Why? It might be because of anxious or perfectionist tendencies. Anything short of perfection seems like failure. And that sense of failure is so uncomfortable that it seems safer to not even start.

But here’s the truth—you’ll never go big unless you start small. Waiting for the stars to align, or even to get all your ducks in a row, will result in permanent inaction.

The solution? Commit to save $20 per month (or whatever amount works with your budget). Read one blog article about money. Follow just one money influencer. You might be surprised by the difference that even just a little change can make!

2. Magical thinking. For example: “I’ll start saving when I get a raise.” Spoiler—you won’t.

Why? Because you didn’t start saving after your last raise. What would make this time any different?

This is magical thinking. This time is going to be different, even if you do nothing different. It’s the hope that circumstances will change on their own, and with them, your behavior.

The solution is to be proactive. If you want to save more money, you have to take action. That might mean reworking your budget or setting up automated transfers into savings. It might mean looking for ways to make more money. But whatever it is, do it now. If the “present you” won’t do it, neither will the “future you”.

3. Catastrophizing & personalizing. Have you ever opened your bank account and thought “This is the end of the world?” It’s happened to everyone at least once. Suddenly, you realize you’re far closer to zero than you realized. Worst of all, you’re not sure why.

To be clear, that’s NOT the end of the world. There could be plenty of good reasons why you’ve spent more this month, and there are plenty of ways to get your financial house back in order.

But that’s not how it feels. It feels like defcon 3. Surely this means that you’ll default on the mortgage, lose the car, and ruin your future.

And that catastrophizing almost always leads to personalization. You start blaming yourself. How could you let this happen again? What’s wrong with you? Those negative voices are off to the races, and it can feel impossible to get them under control. And it’s all because you’re looking at your bank balance with no plan.

The solution is to step back, take a breath, and remember that it’s just a number. It does not define you. Sure, you need to take responsibility for your actions. But follow your train of thought. Where are you jumping to conclusions? What are you assuming? If you can catch yourself in the moment, it’s a lot easier to calm those anxious thoughts before they get out of control.

Mind traps are dangerous because they’re so believable. They seem like rational thoughts, but they’re really just faulty logic that can lead to costly mistakes.

The good news is, once you’re aware of them, you can start to catch yourself in the act. And with practice, it gets easier and easier. So next time you find yourself thinking you have to go big or go home, or that your finances will magically fix themselves, or that you’re a failure, take a moment. Write down your thoughts. And then ask yourself—is this really true? Or is it just a mind trap?


Money is Symbolic

Money is Symbolic

Money is symbolic.

Sure, it’s a source of value and a medium of exchange. But above all, it’s a symbol.

What is a symbol? It’s a visible representation of something that’s invisible.

Think about it—can you see success? Not really. It’s an abstract idea. So money is largely how people evaluate if they’re succeeding or failing.

What do you see when you imagine a successful person? Expensive cars, big houses, fancy clothes, and lots of zeros in a bank account.

Those are the symbols of success. And make no mistake—money is the central symbol of success.

How do you feel when your bank account looks full? You probably feel awesome! You get a quick rush, and your steps are just a touch lighter.

But what about when you’re in debt or when you can’t make ends meet? Maybe you feel not so great. You might become stressed and anxious, and feel like you’re not good enough.

That’s because money is a visible representation of your success or failure. It’s a way to keep score.

You see that loaded bank account, and you think “Everything looks good! I’ve really got my act together.”

You see an empty bank account, and you think “What have I been doing? I’ve really messed up my finances.”

Here’s the sticking point—the symbolic nature of money is great for motivation. But it’s terrible for guiding decisions.

Why? Because chasing the symbol can easily lead you to making moves that give you the appearance of wealth without being wealthy. You start buying things far beyond your budget to represent wealth you don’t actually have. This is the fast-track to living paycheck-to-paycheck.

But as motivation? That’s where the power of the symbol lies. Think about that bump you get when you see your net worth climb. Use that feeling as fuel to keep pushing when you hit roadblocks and obstacles.

So what does money mean to you? Is it a scorecard? A way to motivate yourself? Or something else entirely?

How you answer those questions will determine whether money is a powerful tool or a dangerous weapon in your life.


The Danger of Overestimating Your Financial Literacy

The Danger of Overestimating Your Financial Literacy

Have you overestimated your financial literacy?

It’s a precarious position—few things are more dangerous than being overconfident AND wrong. It’s a direct path to acting rashly and making big mistakes.

And when it comes to money, those mistakes can be costly.

This isn’t speculation—it’s a scientifically studied phenomenon called the Dunning-Kruger effect. Put simply, it’s the tendency for unskilled people to grossly overestimate their own competence. The lower the skill level, the more likely they are to overestimate themselves.

And that plays out in personal finance time and time again.

Think about that family member with yet another hair-brained business idea. Or the NFT-slinging college student who’s certain that one of the .JPGs on his computer will be worth millions someday.

It’s the same pattern—you learn a factoid about money. “Compound Interest makes your money grow.” “Real estate can be lucrative.” “You need to start saving ASAP.”

You take that information and, instead of using it as a foundation to do more research, you use it as ammunition. Now you’re an expert! And experts don’t need to read or learn—they already know everything.

From there, it’s a slippery slope into dangerous territory.

Next thing you know, you’re swept up in businesses you don’t understand, or handing your money to “gurus” who promise get-rich-quick schemes.

It’s not always so dramatic, of course. Overestimating your financial literacy can manifest in more subtle ways—like not bothering to comparison shop for a mortgage because you’re confident you already know all there is to know about home loans.

But the end result is always the same—you make mistakes, and those mistakes cost you money.

So, how can you avoid falling into the trap of overconfidence?

The first step is to acknowledge that it’s a trap. Be aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect and its impact on your personal finances.

The second step is to commit to lifelong learning. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts, meet with a professional—whatever it takes to continuously expand your knowledge.

And finally, be humble. Recognize that there’s always more to learn, even if you’re already pretty savvy when it comes to money.

If you can do those things, you’ll be on your way to financial success. And that’s something you can feel confident about.


Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation

What gets you more motivated—the reward or the process?

That’s the question that divides intrinsic motivation from extrinsic motivation. And learning the difference could salvage your career from disaster.

Why? Because different motivation types are useful in different circumstances.

Intrinsic motivation is process focused. It comes from the sense of satisfaction from a job well done. It’s why you keep coming back to hobbies you love, or why you’re compelled to work on that project even when it’s not required. You do it for the love of the game.

Extrinsic motivation is reward focused. It comes from the anticipation or acquisition of something tangible, like a trophy, a raise, praise, or a bonus. It’s the reason you put up with a high paying job you hate, or why you grind out those extra reps at the gym. You do it for the payoff.

Intrinsic motivation is internal, while extrinsic motivation is external.

Here’s the strategic difference—intrinsic motivation is powerful long-term, extrinsic motivation is powerful short-term.

Think about it. How long can you really tolerate that awful job? Eventually, it’ll wear you down, no matter the pay. It will tax your mental health, your relationships, and your quality of life. Trying to leverage reward motivation over the long-term is a recipe for burnout.

That being said, it’s excellent if you need a burst of energy. “Just a few more months, and then I’ll be debt free. I can make it.” Extrinsic motivation is often what we rely on to push through short-term challenges.

By contrast, intrinsic motivation can provide powerful groundwork for planning long-term goals. What are the hobbies and activities you find inherently rewarding? Are they career oriented? Family focused? That’s where you should focus your long-term energy.


The Laid-Back Way to Build Wealth

The Laid-Back Way to Build Wealth

Automating your finances can take the pain out of wealth-building behavior.

You know how it goes. The thought flashes through your mind—”I need to start saving money!”

And then… well, that’s it. You read a few articles on saving and try to spend less, but after a week or two your mind has moved on.

Why? Because all forms of positive change are energy intensive, at least at first. And your brain, smart as it is, likes conserving energy.

So to jump-start saving, you need to take several one time actions that are borderline thoughtless.

Enter automation. It’s a small step with massive return potential.

It’s simple…

  • Log in to your online banking account
  • Set up a deposit
  • Choose to make the deposit recurring instead of one time

Like that, you’ve set the stage for dozens of wealth-building actions well into the future.

And what did it take? A few taps over a few minutes.

So what are you waiting for? Automate your savings right now. I’ll wait! Even if it’s $5 per month, it’s a step in the right direction—to build wealth for your future!


Homeowner Associations: Are They Worth the Hassle?

Homeowner Associations: Are They Worth the Hassle?

Most people think that buying a home in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association (“HOA”) is the only way to access certain amenities and services.

But everyone’s heard their share of HOA horror stories. Nitpicking neighbors, outrageous fees, and dysfunctional meetings are just a few of the woes that an HOA can bring your way.

So, should you join an HOA, or stay away? Here are a few factors to consider if you’re currently in the market for a new home and not sure if an HOA is a green light or red flag.

When it comes to HOAs, there are pros and cons to both being in one and not being in one. Here are some of the pros of being in an HOA…

You have access to amenities that you may not have otherwise. This can include things like a pool, a clubhouse, or even just a nicer street.

Rules and regulations of the HOA can help keep your neighborhood looking neat and trim and boost the value of your home—single family homes under HOAs sell for 4% more than the market average.¹

HOAs can often enforce rules more effectively than individual homeowners. That can be helpful if you have a problem with neighbors who are damaging property values.

HOAs can have substantial value. One survey found that for every dollar of fees, an HOA brought $1.19 of benefit.²

But HOAs aren’t all flowers and sunshine. Here are some of the cons of being in an HOA…

HOA fees can be expensive. Yearly fees range from $1,000 to $10,000, which can put certain homes out of your price range.

HOAs can nitpick trivial things, like the color of your house or the kind of plants you put in your yard. There are few things worse than having someone else tell you how to decorate the home you’re making mortgage payments for.

HOAs can be toxic. Like all organizations, HOAs are subject to corruption. Board members can be aggressive and narrow minded, chairmen can become tyrants, and neighbors can be selfish. Rest assured, there’s almost nothing worse for homeowners than getting stuck with a toxic HOA.

HOAs can be useless. There’s nothing worse than an organization that demands money and then doesn’t do anything. In some cases, HOAs fail to enforce rules or regulations, making them little more than a money-sucking black hole.

The key takeaway is that a healthy HOA can be a benefit, while a toxic HOA is a massive liability.

How can you tell the difference between the two? First, check out the quality of the other homes. Are they well maintained, or falling apart?

Second, review the covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&R). These are the rules and regulations you’ll have to follow if you move into the neighborhood. If you see anything outrageous or suspicious, ask about them.

Finally, talk to your potential neighbors. Are they happy with the HOA? If not, why? Their answers may be trivial—or they may reveal significant issues.

HOAs can be a great way to maintain property values and improve your quality of life. But they can also be expensive, time consuming, and even toxic. So do your homework before you buy a home in an HOA neighborhood, or you may regret it later.


“HOA Pros and Cons for Homebuyers: Rules, Fees, and Perfect Lawns,” Valerie Kalfrin, HomeLight, Dec 23, 2019, https://www.homelight.com/blog/buyer-hoa-pros-and-cons/


Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Should You Buy an Electric Car?

Electric cars are becoming more and more popular, as people look for ways to save money on fuel costs.

But is it really worth the investment? This article looks at the cost of electric cars and whether they’re a good purchase in the long run.

The main way that an electric car can save you money is with its lower fuel costs, especially when gas prices are high. One study found that an EC is 60% cheaper to fuel compared to cars with combustible engines.¹

That’s not all—because they have fewer parts, they can require up to 31% less maintenance. No more oil changes!

Finally, some states incentivize purchasing electric cars with tax credits. These credits can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, making the switch to electric even more enticing. Incentives vary from state to state, so do your research before making your final decision!

But there are serious drawbacks to consider. Many places have yet to build the infrastructure needed for electric cars. An electric car may not be feasible if you live beyond the cities and suburbs.

You should also consider the sticker price of an electric car, which is often higher than gas vehicles. The cost of the car can be offset over time with the lower fuel and maintenance costs, but it’s important to do your due diligence to make sure that the numbers add up for you.

Plus, the consensus seems to be that electric car prices will only drop in the future. Perhaps you should purchase an electric car at some point, just not now.

It’s important to do enough research to know the different benefits of an electric car before you make a purchase. An EC may save you money in fuel costs but they are often more expensive than traditional cars, so it might be hard to justify that investment. It’s worth doing your homework to determine if buying an EC will actually help you save money over the long term.


¹ “Here’s whether it’s actually cheaper to switch to an electric vehicle or not—and how the costs break down,” Mike Winters, CNBC, Dec 29 2021, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/29/electric-vehicles-are-becoming-more-affordable-amid-spiking-gas-prices.html#:~:text=Electric%20vehicles%20tend%20to%20have,to%20internal%20combustion%20engine%20vehicles


Why People Aren't Going Back to Work

Why People Aren't Going Back to Work

It’s official—Americans aren’t going back to work.

Even though there were 10 million job openings in June of 2021.¹

If you’ve been out and about, you’ve seen firsthand that jobs aren’t getting filled.

You may have noticed the signs at your local grocery store. Or the longer wait at your favorite restaurant. Or slower service from businesses you depend on.

They all stem from the same source. Americans aren’t rushing back to work.

But why? The COVID-19 pandemic caused mass unemployment and havoc for millions of American families. Wouldn’t they want to start earning money again, ASAP?

It’s not the unemployment benefits holding them back. Those dried up months ago, and the numbers still haven’t budged.

And again, it’s not that there aren’t jobs. There are millions of opportunities out there!

Here’s an idea—many people have woken up to the fact that most jobs suck.

Most jobs leave you completely at the mercy of your boss. If they mismanage the business, your job’s in danger. If you want a bigger bonus, your job’s in danger. If another pandemic breaks out, your job’s in danger.

They give you no control over your hours, your income, your location, or your future.

Who would want to go back to that?

Instead, Americans are looking for a better opportunity. They want control of their future, their wealth, and their hours. They want to replace the insecurity of a 9 to 5 with more reliable sources of income.

If they see an opportunity that checks those boxes, they’ll be willing to re-enter the workforce.

Americans are looking for a better path. The million dollar question is, who will provide it for them?


¹ “Many Americans aren’t going back to work, but it’s not for the reason you might expect,” Paul Brandus, MarketWatch Aug 14, 2021, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/many-americans-arent-going-back-to-work-but-its-not-for-the-reason-you-might-expect-11628772985

² “What states are ending federal unemployment benefits early? See who has cut the extra $300 a week,” Charisse Jones, USA Today, Jul 1, 2021, https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2021/07/01/unemployment-benefits-covid-federal-aid-ending-early-many-states/7815341002/


Your Boss May Be Killing You

Your Boss May Be Killing You

We all know that work can be stressful. But did you know that it can actually kill you?

Workplace stress has been linked to a wide range of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It can also lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.¹ And worst of all, it can even lead to death—an article from 2012 reported that women in high-stress jobs were 40% more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.²

That’s right—long hours at the office, tight deadlines and “crunch sessions,” those berating speeches from your boss, they all add up. And they may have lethal consequences.

So what can you do about it? Here are some tips:

1. Talk to your boss. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your workload, discuss it with your boss and see if there’s anything that can be done to lighten the load.

It’s no small task. For many, their boss is the source of the stress! That’s why it’s critical to prepare beforehand. Write down how you’re feeling and how work stress is affecting your life. Come up with a few ways your boss can help.

Often, these conversations go better than expected. A good manager will realize that pushing employees to the brink is a foolish strategy.

But know this—there’s a real chance they won’t get it. Worse still, they may blame someone else, or even you, for the problem. In that case, it might be time to consider a new opportunity.

2. Take breaks. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few minutes to yourself to relax and rejuvenate. Go for a walk—it’s the go-to strategy for great writers and artists. Download a meditation app and take a 10-minute breathing session.

The key is consistency. Taking routine breaks at the same time every day not only gives you something to look forward to, it also normalizes taking a break in the eyes of your boss.

Again, if your boss gives you grief for taking care of yourself, it’s time to consider moving to a new job.

3. Get organized. Make a list of your tasks and priorities, and try to tackle them one at a time. Break large projects into small components that you can knock out piece by piece.

Why? Because feeling overwhelmed can be a huge part of being stressed. You know the feeling—you see a reminder that you need to finish a large project and your heart sinks. Suddenly, all you can think about is how much you have to do in such little time. Often, it feels easier to shut those feelings down and procrastinate, which only makes the problem worse.

When you have a plan of action, it’s much easier to stay calm and focused. You know exactly what needs to be done and when, so you can put your mind at ease and get to work. And knocking out small pieces of the project motivates you to keep pushing forward.

4. Stay healthy. Exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and get enough sleep.

It’s tough to stay healthy when you’re feeling stressed, but it’s important. Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. Eating nutritious foods can help keep your energy levels up and your mind clear. And getting enough sleep helps you stay alert and focused during the day.

If you can’t seem to make time for your health, try this: schedule your workouts into your calendar, just like you would any other meeting. And set a bedtime alarm to remind you when it’s time to turn in for the night.

5. Seek help if needed. If you’re struggling with stress and it’s impacting your health, work, or personal life, it may be time to seek professional help.

There are many great therapists who specialize in stress and anxiety. They can help you develop healthy coping strategies, establish boundaries, and manage your stress in a more productive way.

In the end, workplace stress is a real threat to your health—and maybe even your life. But by taking some proactive steps, you can help protect yourself from its harmful effects. So don’t wait—start making some changes today.


Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

Getting Out Of Debt Doesn't Make You "Free"

Debt is an unfortunate reality for most people in America.

The average household owes $6,000 in credit card debt alone, and the total amount of outstanding consumer debt in the US totals over $15.24 trillion.¹ It’s a burden, both financially—and emotionally. Debt can be linked to fatigue, anxiety, and depression.²

So it’s completely understandable that people want to get rid of their debt, no matter the cost.

But the story doesn’t end when you pay off your last credit card. In fact, it’s only the beginning.

Sure, it feels great to be debt-free. You no longer have to worry about making minimum payments or being late on a payment. You can finally start saving for your future and taking care of yourself. But being debt-free doesn’t mean you’re “free” to do whatever you want and get back into debt again. It means you’re ready to start building wealth, and chasing true financial independence.

For example, when you first beat debt, are you instantly prepared to cover emergencies? Most likely not. And that means you’re still vulnerable to more debt in the future—without cash to cover expenses, you run the risk of needing credit.

The same is likely true for retirement. Simply eliminating debt doesn’t mean you’ll retire wealthy. When you become debt-free, you can put those debt payments towards saving, leveraging the power of compound interest and more to help make your dreams a reality.

But now that you’ve conquered debt, that’s exactly what you can do! You have the cash flow needed to start saving for your future. You can finally take control of your money and make it work for you, instead of the other way around.

So don’t think of being debt-free as the finish line. It’s not. It’s simply the starting point on your journey to financial independence. From here, the sky’s the limit.


¹ “2021 American Household Credit Card Debt Study,” Erin El Issa, Nerdwallet, Jan 11, 2022, https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/average-credit-card-debt-household/

² “Data Shows Strong Link Between Financial Wellness and Mental Health,” Enrich, Mar 24, 2021, https://www.enrich.org/blog/data-shows-strong-link-between-financial-wellness-and-mental-health


Entrepreneurship Will Change You

Entrepreneurship Will Change You

Starting your own business can be a challenge.

It will test your talents, your mental toughness, and your ability to adapt. And those tests—if you pass them—can spark extraordinary growth.

Here are four ways entrepreneurship will change you.

You’ll develop self reliance. Entrepreneurs need to learn to solve their own problems, or fail. They don’t have a team to handle the daily grind of running a business.

Instead, new entrepreneurs handle everything from product development to accounting. It’s a stressful and high stakes juggling game.

But it can teach you a critical lesson: You’re far more resourceful than you thought. You’ll learn to stop waiting for help and start looking for solutions.

You’ll discover loyal friends. One of the downsides of entrepreneurship is that it may expose toxic people in your circle. They’re the ones who might…

  • Mock your new career
  • Feel threatened by your success
  • Try to one-up you when you share struggles

As you and your business grow, you may need to limit your interactions with them. They might be too draining on your emotional resources to justify long-term relationships.

Rather, your circle should reflect values like positivity, encouragement, and inspiration. Those new friends will support you through the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.

You’ll learn how to manage stress. Late nights, hard deadlines, and high stakes are the realities for entrepreneurs.

To cope, you must build a toolkit of skills that can carry you through the hardest times. Otherwise, you may crack under the pressure and lose any progress you’ve made.

It comes down to one key question: Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?

Are you driven by insecurity? Or by vision?

If you’re trying to prove a point to yourself or others with your business, you may fall apart at the first hint of failure.

If you’re driven by vision, you’ll see failure as part of the process.

Examine your motivations. Over time, you’ll grow more aware of your insecurities. Talk about them with your friends, families, and mentors. As you bring them into the light, you may find they have less and less power.

Entrepreneurship can spark an explosion of professional personal growth. You’ll grow up. You may start with an employee mindset, but you’ll mature into a leader. That’s how entrepreneurship will change you.

P.S. If this seems daunting, start with a side hustle. It can ease you into the role of entrepreneurship without throwing you into the deep end too soon!


Passive Income Requires Work

Passive Income Requires Work

“I want passive income!”, said the community of struggling entrepreneurs (and retirees).

“But what exactly is passive income?” they asked. A simple Google search revealed thousands of articles with a common theme—passive income is money you make while you sleep!

But is passive income really possible, or does it just live in the dreams of people looking for a way to make money without working?

To answer that question, let’s look at what passive income is (and isn’t). Then you can see if it will work for you!

Passive income, generally speaking, is a product or service that requires an upfront investment of time, effort, or wealth to create.

Examples include…

- Rental properties that require wealth to purchase, and are cared for by a property manager while creating rental income - Books, music, and courses that required time and creativity to create and now generate income without regular upkeep - Investing wealth in a business as a silent partner and taking a slice of their revenue

Can those income sources generate cash flow while you sleep? Of course! But notice that all of those opportunities require either work or resources that can only be acquired by work.

Does that mean you shouldn’t prioritize passive income sources? No! They can sometimes provide the financial stability you need.

Just don’t expect a passive income stream to effortlessly appear in your lap.

Remember, there is no such thing as free money. All wealth building opportunities require time, effort, and energy to reach their full potential.

If you want to learn more about creating passive income sources, contact me. We can review your talents, your situation, and your dreams to determine smart strategies for developing passive income.


Common Sources of Retirement Income

Common Sources of Retirement Income

Does retirement income sound like an oxymoron? It’s understandable—most people’s only source of income is their job.

But by definition, your job ceases to become your source of income once you retire.

Instead, you’ll need to tap into new forms of cash flow that, most likely, will need to be prepared beforehand.

Here are the most common sources of retirement income. Take note, because they could be critical to your retirement strategy.

Social Security. It’s simple—you pay into social security via your taxes, and you’re entitled to a monthly check from Uncle Sam once you retire. It’s no wonder why it’s the most commonly utilized source of retirement income.

Just know that social security alone may not afford you the retirement lifestyle you desire—the average monthly payment is only $1,543.¹ Fortunately, it’s far from your only option.

Retirement Saving Accounts. These types of accounts might be via your employer or you might have one independently. They are also popular options because they can benefit from the power of compound interest. The assumption is that when you retire, you’ll have grown enough wealth to live on for the rest of your life.

But they aren’t retirement silver bullets. They often are exposed to risk, meaning you can lose money as well as earn it. They also might be subject to different tax scenarios that aren’t necessarily favorable.

If you have a retirement savings account of any kind, meet with a licensed and qualified financial professional. They can evaluate how it fits into your overarching financial strategy.

Businesses and Real Estate. Although they are riskier and more complex, these assets can also be powerful retirement tools.

If you own a business or real estate, it’s possible that they can sustain the income generated by their revenue and rents, respectively, through retirement. Best of all, they may only require minimal upkeep on your part!

Again, starting a business and buying properties for income carry considerable risks. It’s wise to consult with a financial professional and find experienced mentorship before relying on them for retirement cash flow.

Part-time work. Like it or not, some people will have to find opportunities to sustain their lifestyle through retirement. It’s not an ideal solution, but it may be necessary, depending on your financial situation.

You may even discover that post-retirement work becomes an opportunity to pursue other hobbies, passions, or interests. Retirement can be about altering the way you live, not just having less to do.

You can’t prepare for retirement if you don’t know what to prepare for. And that means knowing and understanding your options for creating a sustainable retirement income. If unsure of how you’ll accomplish that feat, sit down with your financial professional. They can help you evaluate your position and create a realistic strategy that can truly prepare you for retirement.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to promote any certain products, plans, or policies that may be available to you. Any examples used in this article are hypothetical. Before enacting a savings or retirement strategy, or purchasing a life insurance policy, seek the advice of a licensed and qualified financial professional, accountant, and/or tax expert to discuss your options.


¹ “How much Social Security will I get?” AARP, https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-answers/how-much-social-security-will-i-get.html


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