Dear Millennials, Let’s Be Friends. Sincerely, The Stock Market

2159087073_b2425e73ea_zDear Millennials,

I fear something is amiss in our relationship. A week doesn’t go by without me reading an article or watching a news segment about your utter distrust in me and disdain for those I work with – or in your minds, my puppeteers.

I do apologize for the scare I gave you in 2008 and the subsequent recession. I understand some of your loved ones may have been hurt by my failings (and fallings). It gave me no pleasure to see so many retirement accounts, index funds, mutual funds and other investments take a tumble. It terrified me to watch my Dow Jones peak at14,164 in 2007, and then fall to a mere 7,882 a year later.

You spent years hearing phrases such as “crisis,” “depression,” “TARP,” “bailout,” “too big to fail,” “subprime” and “collapse.”

Some of you were just graduating college and entering a difficult workforce, while others saw your parents’ savings and college funds significantly reduced. Undoubtedly, my erratic behavior impacted you all in some way, which is why today you aren’t interested in me as a bedfellow or even a friend.

I empathize with you that I may seem untrustworthy. But, despite all this, let’s be friends.

Read the rest on US News and World Report.

***

Long-time readers – yes, this is a refresh of a post I did in 2013. However, it’s completely different.

Picture from Michi W. on Flickr

Posted in US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: ,

Welcome to Broke Millennial: Personal Finance Advice for Millennials (and others)

Hello there –

Is this your first time here? Perhaps you saw a giant photo of me next to the words “Millennials want to save, many can’t.

Other than now knowing that my discretionary income is put towards spending time with my friends and enjoying New York City, you probably don’t know what I’m all about. Let me explain.

I started this site almost two years ago in an attempt to make learning about finance at least some what enjoyable for the common millennial. Generally, I share stories from my own life and tie them into a financial literacy lesson. Some are as simple as why saving is important or what is a credit report/score, to how to build credit history, or rolling over a 401(k) or handling fraud.

Hopefully you’ll spend some time poking around my site and share this with any millennials (financially literate or not) in your life. Or hey, maybe a Gen Xer or Boomer might even be interested! I don’t discriminate based on generation.

Here are some of my most popular posts to date:

And as a bonus, here my origin story.

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Erin (aka Broke Millennial)

P.S. I’m not actually broke. It’s just a clever moniker.

 

Tin Can

See, I can prove it!

 

Posted in About Broke Millennial Tagged with:

Being a Woman Busted My Budget

Dear enraged feminist readers – don’t worry. This is not a sexist diatribe.

“$1,412. No. That can’t be right. I can’t possible have $1,412 in credit card charges from this month,” I began muttering to myself.

The portion of my brain housing a financial panic button started buzzing and I ran through four of the five-stages of grief.

  1. Denial: Do I have fraudulent charges, again?
  2. Anger: What did I spend all this money on?! And why did I decide to spend so much on a ticket to see It’s Only a Play?!
  3. Bargaining: I picked up some extra side-hustle income this month, it’s really okay.
  4. Depression: Why didn’t I do my regular, weekly budget crunches this month?

Poring over my statements I started to see these charges were indeed made by my hand (or finger in the case of online purchases).

The financial panic button began blaring as the picture came into focus.

Being a woman ruined my budget and for the first time in a very long time, I would have to dip into my savings account to pay off my credit card bills.

But let’s backtrack to why my ownership of lady bits is directly correlated with my busted budget.

Part I: Letting My Emotions Control My Budget

As a feminist, I generally begin seething when I come across any of the countless stereotypes of women and money. Oh you know, the ones about how we don’t invest. We don’t save as much for retirement as men (with no nod to the pay gap). We can’t negotiate well. We only want to marry rich men. A woman is just out to spend her husband’s money. A woman should be the primary caregiver and take her husband’s last name – oops ranting – let me reign it back in.

It appears there is a woman-centric stereotype I did not receive proper immunization for: the desire to nurture*.

Peach moved to New York City just over two months ago for a three-month stint as a student teacher. His reasons for coming were two-fold.

  1. He’s interested in being a teacher for inner city youths and wanted to experience teaching in a major urban environment.
  2. We wanted to spend a few months testing our relationship in close proximity to each other after nearly three years of long distance.

Unfortunately, student teachers are glorified unpaid interns. He works a full, 40-hour (or more) week and receives no compensation, while still needing to take some other graduate courses, which makes it tough to get a part-time job. Peach also had to quit his full-time job (which he did on top of being a full-time grad student) in order to move to New York.

Peach saved up for a long-time to move here and has a nest egg to live off of for three-months. Regardless, I still feel a twinge of guilt at times that he’s here spending thousands of dollars when he could be living at home, rent-free and getting his student teaching credits accomplished. He also isn’t living with me and paying a subsidized rent (I didn’t think it would be good for us), so he’s spending over $2,000 in living expenses alone for his apartment.

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At least we looked good at the wedding.

This seed of guilt started to grow into a sapling and then a full-blown oak tree, which I tried to chop down by beginning to cover small costs.

If I wanted to go out to dinner instead of having to cook, I’d offer to pay. Or I’d pick up the tab at happy hour. Or I wouldn’t tell him the real amount it cost for us to travel to my cousin’s wedding and cover 70 percent instead of 50 percent.

These small financial gestures – which I tried to space out, so I didn’t emasculate my boyfriend – began to add up until I reached a point of crunching numbers and facing a financial panic attack. [I’d also like to take a moment to appreciate my boyfriend who is confident enough to be okay with me picking up tabs and encourages the notion that I may be the long-term breadwinner in our relationship. Talk about an evolved man.]

After assessing the damage to my bank account, I called a meeting with Peach — or more accurately asked him to pause How To Get Away With Murder so I could rant.

I admitted that I’d been trying to sneakily cover some expense of him living here so we could enjoy living in New York together without putting too much of a burden on his wallet. He told me I didn’t need to cover for him. He’d been diligent with his finances and built some discretionary spending into his savings.

We spoke through my plan to get back on track and ways to have him hold me accountable.

Part II: Getting Back on Track

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Another expensive afternoon, but worth it to watch the Bills crush the Jets.

First, you may be wondering why $1,412 busted my budget. To many of you this probably sounds like a relatively small sum.

I don’t typically disclose income or real financial numbers on this blog (a blogger needs to keep some secrets). But for the sake of explanation, I’ll break it down a bit.

After contributing to my 401(k), putting money in my savings account, paying for rent, utilities, cell phone and metrocard – I have just over $1,000 left to spend in a month. For the sake of clarity and full-disclosure, all my side hustle income goes directly into savings and I don’t count any of it towards discretionary spending.

So, when I ran my budget and saw $1,412 – I realized for the first time in a very long time, I would need to pull some money out of savings to pay off my credit card. I also don’t tend to keep much in checking other than what I’ll need in the month.

While this $412 isn’t a massive amount of money by any means, it’s significant to me and sets me back on some of my financial goals for the remainder of the year.

In a silver linings moment, this experience does reinforce my militant mentality about saving and proves the importance of a fully funded savings (and/or emergency) account.

Part III: Rectifying My Error

This long story brings us to my final confession: swiping with a credit card makes you spend more than handing over cash.

There. I said it. All you Dave Ramsey loyalists can start amen-ing and nodding fiercely towards your computer screens.

I will still 100% continue to use credit cards and in no way blame my credit cards for my overspending last month. Frankly, I’m sure I would’ve still just taken more money out of the ATM if I were a cash-only kind of woman.

However, I will acquiesce to the proven psychology that you think longer and harder about purchases made with cash over the swiping of plastic.

On that point, I woefully admit I’ll be participating in a cash-only diet challenge and tracking each penny I spend for the month of November.

IMG_3117Typically, I budget by saying I have X-amount to spend in a month and then I run my numbers weekly to see how much I have left to spend. As a woman with no dependents and no debts to pay off, it’s been effective until last month.

This month, I plan to give myself an allowance of $200 a week in cash. This money will need to cover groceries and all extracurricular activities. If I don’t spend all $200 in on week, the remainder is allowed to roll over to the next week. If I buy using a credit card, for example a book on Amazon, I’ll either a) put the cash equivalent in a savings envelope or b) subtract it from the $200 I can take out for next week.

Four days into the challenge, I’ve spent $96.98 of my weekly $200. Granted, this included grocery shopping. But the rest of the month will certainly be interesting and I anticipate will encourage me too enter hyper-saver mode.

I will post updates throughout the month to keep myself accountable and allow you to gleefully poke fun at my fall from financial grace. Hmm, I’m suddenly craving an apple.

What have you done to rectify a busted budget?

*A few of my friends reading this just choked on their water laughing at that line. Those who know me well don’t see me as a particularly, well, nurturing, individual. In fact, I get accused of being more akin to those with a Y-chromosome instead of my fellow double-Xers.

 GIF taken from GIPHY

Posted in Budgeting, Millennials, Saving money Tagged with: , ,

How a Pack of Gum Helped Me Graduate College Debt-Free

We all have different reasons behind why we pick the colleges we attend. My reasons came down to a surprise party and roll of Bubble Tape gum.

The weekend before my ninth birthday, my Dad seemed anxious to get me out of the house. “Let’s go to Media Play,” he proposed. The now-defunct retail store used to be my favorite place to peruse cassette tapes, and later CDs.

An hour later we were in the checkout line, and I eyed a roll of grape-flavored Bubble Tape gum (a treat that, like those CDs, is less popular now than it was back then). “Dad, can I have that Bubble Tape?” I asked.

“Sure,” he said and casually threw the gum atop a movie he planned to purchase.

Something Is Wrong Here

IMG_2976To a casual onlooker, this would seem like a typical father-daughter exchange. But that “sure” set a siren off in my head. My parents never just outright bought me anything, except for presents on my birthday and Christmas. My sister and I had to put up a 50 percent stake in any item we wanted. Few things teach a kid how to curb impulse spending like insisting she pays half for the stuffed animal she wants.

The fact my father would just buy the Bubble Tape without asking for that 50 percent meant something was amiss. I wracked my brain on the drive home wondering what could cause his sudden willingness to abandon a core value.

When we arrived at home, a surprise birthday party awaited, which explained my Dad’s distraction. In that pre-cell-phone era, he was trying to finesse getting me back to the house at the right time, but without letting me see 25 kids sneaking in the door.

An Entitled Perspective in High School

Fast-forward nearly a decade later, and the family deal of paying for 50 percent impacted one of the biggest decisions of my young life.

[To find out more, read on at DailyFinance.com]

Also live today, Why Her Emergency Money Backup Plan Is a Credit Union Visa

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

Frugal Find Friday: Pack For Every Occasion

 

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In my younger years (yeah, yeah I’m only 25 so what “younger years”?) I used to be something of a chronic overpacker. Friends used to joke that I was prepared for any event short of prom. Frankly, not much has changed. I’ve just developed black-belt level skills for maximizing space in a suitcase to avoid paying for a checked bag.

Last night, my little sister demonstrated the reason being an overpacker pays off – in a rather literal sense.

MeiMei* came into town this week for a documentary she’s working on. Peach and I took her out for dinner and drinks last night before she needed to go to a jazz club around 10.

At 8:15 she received a text telling the crew everyone needed to “suit up” (she’s the only woman on the crew).

“Uh, I guess I need to go buy a dress,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, the men have to wear a suit and tie. I don’t have anything with me fancy enough to go to a place that requires a suit and tie,” she explained.

A quick look at the club’s website and a Yelp review confirmed she needed to be in a fancy dress and heels.

“I’d let you go through my closet and borrow something,” I told her. “But, we don’t really have enough time to get to my apartment and then back to your hotel before for you need to leave.”

“I guess I’ll have to go buy something,” she said while rolling her eyes.

Fortunately, Nordstrom Rack was around the corner and open until 10:00. In the most efficient shopping trip of my life, we took 20 minutes to pull five dress options, have her try them one and find a matching pair of heels. She’d only packed boots and sneakers.

Unfortunately, she was forIMG_0572ced to spend money on an outfit she didn’t exactly need. While both the shoes and dress will be worn again, she didn’t need to buy them if she’d simply had access to her wardrobe (or packed a nice dress and heels).

And this is why I always overpack.

MeiMei didn’t know she’d be expected to go to an upscale jazz club when she packed for her trip. She packed to be a producer on a documentary aka to stand on her feet all day and maybe go to one nice dinner.

In this way we differ in our packing strategies. I always am ready for an unexpected occasion. There will be a pair of heels and a nice (to fancy) dress in my bag, just in case! Even if I were the camping kind of gal, I still might bring one.

Another option is to get a credit card that offers the option to check a bag for free or just fly an airline that gives you a free checked bag – but those airlines are quite limited these days. Granted, credit cards with perks like free checked bags typically have an annual fee. Personally, I find the annual fee pays for itself if you just check a bag one time (unless you’re a high roller paying crazy $500 annual fees for club perks).

I realize I may be misrepresenting myself (and making my gender look bad) at this point. When I say overpack – I’m not carrying a mountain of luggage for a weekend get away. I just tend to bring about six outfits for a two or three day trip.

I would roll my eyes at the sight of four pieces of luggage for a weekend getaway (or really more than one + a personal item if it isn’t a wedding).

To those packers: come on now. Find a pair of shoes that matches more than one of your outfits.

Unless you’re Lady Gaga, I guess.

*Not her real name. It’s Chinese for little sister.

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

8 Online Banks That Let You Skip the Fees, Enjoy the Interest

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Stop letting banks take your money in fees!

The goal of a checking account should be to find an FDIC-insured bank with few or no fees. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are banking with enormous brick-and-mortar banks that charge monthly maintenance fees, as well as a host of punitive fees such $30 or more for overdrafts. Some of those friendly financial institutions are raking in nearly $1 million per branch in fees alone.

Thankfully, the Internet is good for something other than supplying us with funny cat videos and quizzes to tell you which type of fast food your personality is like. The Web is now a safe haven for consumers looking for low-cost banking options that still offer all the safety the comes from being backed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Internet-only banks are able skip those ugly fees and still offer higher interest rates than their traditional peers because they don’t have to deal with the costs of maintaining neighborhood branches.

“Most customers today don’t go into a retail branch, so we never built them,” says Kyle Kolsky, senior vice president of consumer deposits for Bank of Internet USA. “We operate from one large headquartered office and give those savings back to our customers in superior products.”

Some Internet-only banks are associated with well-known players like Charles Schwab and Capital One. The institutions on the list below are the underdogs looking to revolutionize banking — and help you keep more money in your pockets.

Find out which 8 banks can help your bottom line over on DailyFinance.

Posted in DailyFinance Tagged with: ,

Frugal Find Friday: MoviePass

My favorite movie memory was watching The Titanic with my Dad in the theaters. I had an odd obsession with the Titanic (the actual ship, not the movie) and used to be able to spout off tons of fact about the wreck. I even displayed this nerdy side to Peach when we took a tour of the New York Public Library. The tour guide was telling a tale about an artifact lost in 1912 and asked if anyone knew how it could’ve been lost. Without thinking my hand shot up and I said, “When the Titanic sank.” But I digress.

My Dad took me to see Titanic after a lot of pleading. The movie ran in theaters for 10 months from December of 1997 to October of 1998. I was nine years old when my parents finally agreed to let me see my first PG-13 film (even though I’d technically already seen one when I watched Speed 2 at a friend’s house…).

Perhaps they looked it up on IMDB (which I just discovered was founded in 1990), but I’m assuming my parents they asked around to find out why the movie was PG-13. So, when the iconic drawing of Rose and subsequent steamy car scenes occurred, I had to bury my face into a jumbo size tub of popcorn. Not a half bad place to hide your face during inappropriate movie moments.

While I do love movies (just not as much as TV), my sister is the true movie buff of the family. She even majored in filmIMG_0513

During a recent phone catch up, my sister asked me if she should make a big monthly purchase and buy MoviePass*.

The perks

I’d never heard of MoviePass before, so I asked for some details. Basically, you pay $35 a month and can see any (2D) movie at any major movie theater. You get unlimited use, with unlimited meaning one per day. Theoretically, you could see 30, or 31, movies a month and be paying about $1.17 per movie. If you see three movies a month, it pays for itself in many cities where tickets are close to $15.

MoviePass is accepted at most major theaters, but you can plug in your zipcode on the website to make sure you’re area is included.

Steps 1, 2, and 3

According to the site, MoviePass is a three-step process.

  1. Select a Showtime
  2. Check-in at the theater with your phone
  3. Purchase your ticket using your MoviePass card (it looks like a credit card)

MoviePass card

The first catch

Similar to a gym membership, you have to commit to a year. So when you sign up for MoviePass, you have to be willing to pay $35 a month for a year. After your year, you can either cancel or keep being billed month-to-month without the annual commitment.

[UPDATE from reader Leslie Beslie as noted in comments below: "After your first month as a subscriber, you will have to pay a $20-$75 cancellation fee. The fee depends on how long you’ve been subscribed ($75 for 2-3 mos, $20 for 10-11 mos). So if you decide you don’t use it as much as you thought you did, you have to pay to cancel your subscription. After your first year, you can cancel at no cost."]

The second catch 

You need an iPhone or Android phone with GPS in order to use MoviePass. They need to confirm you’re actually at the movie theater in order to authorize the purchase of your ticket with the physical card.

Might seem like an odd Frugal Find but…

If you’re an avid moviegoer, like my sister, it pays for itself. She’s already seen five movies this month out in Los Angeles and that would’ve cost her about $75. For me, it isn’t a great investment. I don’t go to the movies too often (mostly because of the price point). But perhaps if I opted into MoviePass I could indulge in the joys of the silver screen a little more often. It’s only the cost of seven lattes…

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Would you fork over $35 a month for MoviePass?

 

*There are no affiliate links in this post.

Gif from Giphy

Posted in Frugal Find Friday Tagged with: ,

7 Things You Didn’t Know Before Today

First, I apologize for the lack of original content recently. You can blame a combination of weddings, work trips, paid work taking priority and of course Peach now living in NYC.

Second, I know this is a fluffy way to put some fresh content up. But I was nominated for the Versatile Blogger Award by my P.I.C Lauren of LBee and the Money Tree. Thanks, Lauren! Basically, the challenge is to reveal 7 things your readers and friends may not know about you. While my close friends know quite a few of these, I know my readers likely don’t and I’m not sure how many friends regularly read this blog. (Just kidding, Hi Mary.)

LBee

Cheers to the lovely LBee

1. I can relate anything in life back to a TV show scenario. Seriously. Not only do I love television, but my Mom often accuses me of thinking about TV characters as real people. And she might be right. When a friend recently made a comment about how dating for four years usually leads to an engagement, I retorted that Marshall and Lily (of How I Met Your Mother) dated for nine years before getting married. She replied, “Erin, they aren’t real.”

And Lily keeps her name after marriage – a woman after my own heart.

2. I can’t sleep at night without noise. And not normal noise, like a fan blowing or a white noise machine. It has to be a TV show. Typically either The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation or if I can tolerate a laugh track that night, “Friends” or “How I Met Your Mother”. The need to listen to something to fall asleep is so bad that I always travel with an iPod so I can plug into a show at night.

3. I’ve never met a sports movie I disliked. Even if it’s about a sport I can’t stand including: hockey, baseball, wrestling, car racing (even though I dispute NASCAR being a sport).

I don’t care if it’s cliche. Who doesn’t love Remember the Titans?! And if you don’t, then keep your terrible opinions to yourself.

4. My favorite word is Mochiron. It’s Japanese for “of course.” I can’t explain why. I just like the way it sounds and rolls off the tongue. (If you didn’t know from previous blogs, I spent five years of my childhood living in Japan.)

top of mt fuji

Top of Mt. Fuji with my parents circa 2002.

5. I already have my first dog’s name picked out. I’m not sure when I’ll finally be in a position to get a dog, but I’m ready with the name. The main character in my favorite movie, The 25th Hour, rescues a dog in the opening scene and names him Doyle. I decided at 14 that would be my first dog’s name. Funnily enough, the dorm I lived in for two years in college was Doyle Hall.

Click here for the scene that inspired my future dog’s name. Be warned, the dog is abandoned on the side of the road and not in great shape when Monty finds him. Monty nurses him back to health and is rarely seen without the dog at his side for the rest of the movie. Also, the language isn’t PG.

6. I was apparently born a feminist. From a very young age I always leaned towards consuming content where women characters were portrayed as powerful, independent and self-sufficient. Pocahontas was my favorite Disney movie. I went through a phase of  only reading books about any historical woman in power. I remember flipping through a book of saints with some other girls in my fourth grade class debating the merits of which name we would pick upon confirmation. While most girls went with the prettiest names, I knew I wanted Joan of Arc as my patron saint because of her story.

7. I’m religious. You’re probably not surprised after that last fact, but I am indeed a church-goer.

When I did get confirmed, I took Joan of Arc as my patron saint. But the bishop who confirmed me was from Indonesia, didn’t speak great English and pronounced it Jo-Ann. It was a bit of a bummer at the time.

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Yes, I did wear a kimono.

 

So, that’s it!

I’m kicking this over to….
Kate (formerly Addison) at Cashville Skyline
Shannon at Financially Blonde
Mel at Broke Girl Rich

Sorry, if any of you already did this and I missed it!

HIMYM gif and Remember the Titans gif taken from GIPHY.

Posted in Random Tagged with:

Ally Bank Rejected Me and I’m a Little Confused

For those who read Part I of this saga (What Happened When I Tried to Open an Ally Bank Savings Account), I bring you the next installment. And no, this quest isn’t over!

Rejected - Ally Savings Large copyA few weeks ago, I attempted to ditch my current savings account and switch to an Ally Bank savings account. My current bank offers 0.20 percent on savings accounts with $10,000 or more. While this is still 0.10 percent more than many other banks offer, I wanted my $10,000+ emergency fund to be living up to its full potential.

Ally Bank currently offers 0.90 percent on their savings account. This isn’t the highest in the market right now. GE Capital Bank and Synchrony Bank are both offering 0.95 percent on their savings accounts.

That 0.05 percent could be a $10 difference (or higher) over the course of two years. However, I’ve heard wonderful things about Ally and their customer service, which was enough to compel me to pick them, and lose $5 a year.

Unfortunately, when I tried to open my Ally Bank savings account I got a screen prompting me to call Ally’s 24/7 customer service line.

As I wrote in my last piece, the polite customer service representative informed me that sometimes they need a bit more information to confirm a person’s identity. She couldn’t complete the process on the call and instead I needed to wait two to seven business days for either a phone call or a letter in the mail.

About five days letter the news came in the mail: REJECTED.

Read on to find out why and what’s next over at MagnifyMoney.com.

Posted in MagnifyMoney Tagged with: ,

Why You Should Still Save When in Debt

Tin Can

Don’t actually save your money in a tin can.

The shackles of debt seem to be a bonding force for many millennials around the country, but it isn’t just Gen Y that is attempting to pay off lenders. Debt is a national problem spanning all generations. To many, it may feel nonsensical to save money while in debt, but it’s an important part of everyone’s financial health strategy.

You Still Need an Emergency Fund

Debt doesn’t preclude anyone from experiencing emergencies. Murphy’s law would suggest those already in the hole should expect more pain to pile on.

In fact, $1,000 surprises happen so regularly that Shannon McLay, a financial planner and author of “Train Your Way to Financial Fitness,” doesn’t even think people should consider them a surprise. The only twist is the type of emergency the money goes toward – perhaps your car, health care or education.

Personal finance experts differ on how much those in debt should have saved in an emergency fund, but they almost unanimously agree some disposable cash is a necessity.

Read the rest on US News’ My Money Blog

Posted in US News' My Money Blog Tagged with: ,

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