Getting to know Apprise’s clients is important to me. I appreciate the opportunity to share aspects of my life as well. As I started writing this week’s blog, I couldn’t help but think about what’s happening in my own home as the beginning of another school year approaches.
Since the pandemic started, our four kids have lived at home. Last year, our school-age kids only took classes remotely. Next week we will help two of our boys move into their college residences. They will start their junior and freshman years at the University of Maryland.
Having everyone home with us during the last 18 months has been an unexpected blessing. To me, it’s the major positive associated with the pandemic. We’re fortunate to have enough room that everyone can have personal space when they need it. We can also work or study without being on top of each other. That helps minimize the distractions, too.
Thinking about our boys leaving is somewhat bittersweet. Taking in-person classes will be better for them. Their college requires vaccinations. The county in which it’s located requires masks, too. When one considers the benefits, that seems like a small price to pay. They will have the chance to socialize. There will be more opportunities to interact with their friends and peers. Hopefully, they can go to football and basketball games and root for their teams, too. More importantly, in-person classes should also provide a better learning environment.
At the same time, it will be hard to see them leave. I’ve appreciated the conversations we’ve had that would not have taken place if they weren’t living at home. I’ve enjoyed the bike rides and the games of frisbee/disc golf. Family game nights have been great fun as well. I always look forward to dinner with my family, too. Sometimes dinner ends quickly. I prefer that it doesn’t. I love it when some or all our kids linger after we finish eating. When they do, we have some great discussions.
Our boys need to experience college this year. It will help them grow and mature. It will leave them better positioned for the next stage of their lives. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be happy to see them leave. Their regular presence in our home will be missed. At least they’ll be close enough that we can go see them on occasion. Technology will allow us to keep in touch better than my wife, Diana, and I could when we were their age, too. Of course, they might not want to hear from mom and dad as much as we want to hear from them.
Diana and I love our kids. We want nothing but the best for them today and every day. We want them to experience great success. They need to further their education in the best way possible. We wish them only the best this school year. We hope the year is more normal, too. But we’ll miss them.
Fortunately, we will still have our other two kids home with us. At least for now. I know that will change before we know it, too. Time passes much too quickly. Enjoy the time you have with your kids. It will be over in the blink of an eye.
Sorry for the diversion and thanks for listening to some personal thoughts. Time for some back-to-school shopping and financial tips. You will also find some tips to help your older children as they start to create their own financial pathway. I’ll share the shopping tips first.
Back-to-School Shopping Tips
1. Make a List of What You Need. I admit that I’m not the best list person – I let Diana take the lead on that. She’s great at it. Make sure you know what you need. Whether you’re shopping online or in a retail store, it’s easier to buy all you need of an item rather than shop for the same thing multiple times.
2. Take inventory. Most of us already have some of the supplies we need on hand. Sometimes we buy more than we need. We have many partial sets of things like markers or crayons. Try and can combine them to make full sets. Make sure you know what you already have on hand before buying anything.
3. Set a Budget. Set a maximum spending limit. Shop around to price out the items you need. Adjust your list as necessary to make sure you stay within your budget. Have your children take part in the process. That can help them learn a valuable financial lesson. It can provide a lifelong benefit.
4. Spread out Purchases. If you still have time, you may want to spread out your purchases over a few weeks. Some items may be on sale this week. Others next week or the week after that. Consider shopping the loss leaders at your store. These represent items on the front page of a store’s weekly circular. They have been deeply discounted – the store offers them at low prices to encourage you to come into the store. They hope you’ll buy other, more profitable items while you’re there.
5. Split Bulk Deals. Be careful about buying in bulk. If you do, tip 2 above takes on added importance. If you don’t have several kids in school at once, you probably shouldn’t make large-scale supply purchases. You can still take advantage of such deals though. Consider going in with a few other parents. You can split the costs and then reimburse each other using platforms like Zelle or Venmo.
6. Take Advantage of State Sales-Tax Holidays. Many states offer a shopping day or weekend during which they waive sales tax. Maryland’s just passed. It lasts from 12:01 a.m. on the second Sunday in August through midnight on the following Saturday.
7. Take Advantage of Student Discounts. Retailers such as Apple, Dell, and Microsoft provide discounts to college students who can show some type of proof at checkout. For example, we benefited from a student discount when we bought a computer for our son Michael this year.
If you have a college-age child, you may want to hare the next set of tips as well.
Financial Tips for College Students
1. Consider a Part-Time Job. Depending on your financial situation, you might not want to do this on day one. Figure out how much free time you have first. A side hustle can help offset some of the common costs college students face. It can allow you to do some additional activities.
Your college job won’t last forever. But it can teach you some important money lessons. These lessons can improve your financial literacy. There is no better time to start learning how to manage your paychecks and finances than now. It can help you establish good habits that will benefit you for a lifetime.
2. Consider Getting Your Own Credit Card. If used correctly, credit cards can be useful. Don’t open an account with the first bank that reaches out to you. Do some research on a website like Bankrate.com or NerdWallet first. Look for the best deal. When doing so, consider different attributes such as:
· Interest rates
· Rewards points
· Annual percentage rates (APRs)
· Grace periods
· Annual fees
Plan to pay your bill in full each month – interest rates are too high to do otherwise. Getting a credit card can help you build your credit history. It will be helpful when you’re ready to buy a car or house in the future, too. Having a good credit history leads to a good credit score. If it’s your first credit card, start with a low limit. That will help you keep things under control.
3. Apply for Scholarships and Grants. Especially if you’re a high school senior, there are many scholarship opportunities. Once you get to college, you should find others. Apply for as many as you can. They don’t have interest rates, and they don’t have to be repaid. Any scholarships or grants you receive can help offset debts and lower the overall cost. Make sure you read the criteria before applying. You only want to apply for scholarships and grants for which you are qualified.
4. Open – or Contribute to – a Roth IRA. If you’re a student, you probably aren’t paying much income tax on your earnings. Consider contributing as much as you comfortably can to a Roth IRA. You will pay little or no tax on your contributions. Your contributions will grow tax-free. You can also withdraw the funds without paying taxes at retirement. Note that you can generally withdraw money contributed to your Roth IRA with no tax or penalties. Under certain circumstances, you can withdraw the earnings tax-free as well.
Note that you should encourage your child to open a Roth IRA as soon as they start working. (You can’t contribute unless you have earned income.) If you’re in the position to do so, consider making the contribution on your child’s behalf. Consider this: contribute $3,000 to a Roth IRA when your child is 18 years old. If it grows at an annualized rate of 8%, in 50 years, it will be worth $140,705. Under present law, those earnings will be tax-free. No taxes will be paid on any withdrawals either.
Most schools do not teach financial literacy. That pushes the responsibility to us as parents. Consider including your kids when implementing these back-to-school financial tips. You can teach them some valuable lessons. You can also spend a little more time with your kids.
The responsibility to help our children become more financially literate doesn’t stop when they go to college. In fact, that gives us the opportunity to share some even more valuable financial lessons.
Please let me know if you try implementing any of these tips. I’d love to hear how it goes. Feel free to reach out with any questions, too. You can send me an email at email@example.com or schedule a free call.
I’ll be back next week with “Apprise’s Five Favorite Reads of the Week.”
Have a great week.
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Phil Weiss founded Apprise Wealth Management. He started his financial services career in 1987 working as a tax professional for Deloitte & Touche. For the past 25+ years, he has worked extensively in the areas of financial planning and investment management. Phil is both a CFA charterholder and a CPA.
Located just north of Baltimore, Apprise works with clients face-to-face locally and can also work virtually regardless of location.