Buying a house vs. saving for retirement

Workers in their 30’s and 40’s may be tempted to cash out their retirement saving accounts to buy their first home. But this could be detrimental to their retirement savings. Don’t touch your retirement savings to buy a home. Instead save a portion of your pay in addition to saving for retirement. You might scale back your retirement savings to just the amount that your employer will match. Ask your bank or credit union to regularly transfer a certain amount from your checking account to your savings account.

Balancing savings vs. paying down debt

Should I save money or pay down debt? Valid question because prioritizing multiple goals can be difficult. The good new is that in many cases people can do both.

Young and first-time workers may want to pay down their student debt as fast as possible. And paying down debt is a good thing. But, if these workers are not also saving for retirement, they are missing out on some of the most important years to save. Because of the miracle of compound interest, money saved for retirement in your 20’s grows more than money saved later. Contribute at least enough money to get a company match while you continue to pay at least the minimum payment on student loans.

Adapted from America Saves

3.5 reasons to think twice about getting a pet

Okay, so now I have a grand-cat. Her name is Cleo and this is her selfie.

My son really wanted a dog to keep him company in his new apartment. I get that pets provide companionship and I do like pets. Getting a pet can be training for a young adult on becoming responsible for another being.

It’s just that:

1) They need to be fed. Cats need a litter box–at least until you might train them to use and flush the toilet.

2) They need visits to the vet along with vaccinations. This is just once a year as long as they are well, but….

2.5) What if they get sick, or have fleas? This is an added cost.

3) And heaven forbid you find you are allergic to your beloved.

He’s had the cat three days and the cost so far is $150. Glad he has a job! I hope he isn’t allergic to this one because I’m not wanting to adopt right now.

Seven sources of free movies and TV

On-this-top-10-list-you-will-find-the-best-ways-to-watch-movies-online-read-movie-reviews-and-enjoy-film-streaming-for-free_My son moved to the fourth place to start his fourth year at UTK. He’s excited for this next step in his life adventure. He’s also learning that money doesn’t go as far sans roommates. He quickly decided the cost of cable was not necessary….even though he’s a movie junkie!

Many options are available for movie and television entertainment at no cost. Most folks are familiar with the pranks, cute pet tricks, music videos and educational/information content on YouTube. But it also has older movies. Another non-ad-supported option is Internet Movie Archive, which as the title might suggest, has a library/database search engine appearance. It’s a source for full-length older movies, sporting events, propaganda films and news broadcasts. As I scanned the sections and clicked on various items, I found political speeches, old commercials, and September 11 programming. Vimeo offers a wide variety of content including short form videos from amateur and indie filmmakers. Without joining, you can check out staff picks by scrolling down their main page.

Several free options are supported by advertising. Crackle mixes B-movies and older television content with the occasional hit. You can view some of this content without registering. Hulu has television shows and movies as well as a subscription services for a greater variety of content. SnagFilms categorizes documentaries, classics and film festival favorites. It has an app for major platforms. Viewster also has an app and offers obscure movies and television, but it also offers other content. For example, there is a celebrity news category that referenced Robin Williams’ recent death.

After perusing all these options, I think I will look into cutting out a paid movie service myself. :)



Is College Still a Good Investment?

Student Looking at GlobeRecent media reports might have you thinking that a college education is no longer a good investment. Some of the stories are of student loans topping a trillion dollars. Other stories note that student loan debt surpasses the total amount of credit card debt. But the news isn’t all bad…

Last month the Federal Reserve Bank of New York wrote that attending college is still a good investment because workers with a bachelor’s degree earn over $1 million more than those with only a high school degree.

Students and their parents are also increasingly turning to grants and scholarships to pay for college. On average this type of free money now pays for 30 percent of college costs, up five percent from four years ago, according to Sallie Mae. But parents and students still carry the burden. In the 2013 Sallie Mae study parents covered 36 percent of college costs and students covered 29 percent on average. Since it is still such a great investment to attend college, the trick becomes building your savings and finding as much free money as you can to reduce the amount of your loans.

5 Tips for Saving for College

  • Start Saving as Soon as Possible – Even small amounts of saving will build up over time and will reduce the amount of loans you have to pay back later. Two popular ways to save are through 529 plans and savings bonds. There is a lot to know when choosing a savings option, so visit the links to learn more.
  • Find Free Money – This can be the key to saving you thousands of dollars in interest you would need to pay later. There are billions of dollars available to those who put in the effort to apply. Check out, Sallie Mae scholarships, and College Board financial aid.
  • Work While You’re in School – Remember that any money you can save or earn before and during college will reduce the amount of loans you need to take and save you money you would pay later.
  • Consider Your Options – College costs a lot. You may have dreamt about going to that Ivy League school , but can you afford it? Compare the amount you will need to pay at the colleges you get into. You may find that one school offers you more grants than another.
  • Get Tips and Reminders to Save – America Saves can help students and their parents keep college savings top of mind. Sign up for our free text message tips and reminders by taking the Pledge to Save and choosing “Education” as your savings goal.

Need to find ways to save. Consider taking the Personal Financial Management Made Easy  course to find spending leaks.

Former Biggest Loser contestant to help children form healthier eating habits

Forming healthy eating and lifestyle habits at an early age can save that person money down the road. The sooner families get started, the better. UT/TSU Extension in Madison County is offering two programs to educate and motivate.Eat Right Future Bright Logo2

Frustrated parents and grandparents often ask how to get little Johnny or Suzi to eat better. There’s no silver bullet answer to the question. However, adults can be good role models, recognize their job is to provide wholesome food, and keep the best options in sight. Allowing for “sometimes” foods on occasion helps children to learn that no food has to be off limits. Those are just a few ideas to get started.

While childhood food choices don’t always lead to obesity, the combination of poor choices and inactivity can cause health problems both sooner and later. With childhood obesity in Tennessee the tenth worst in the county, August’s Kids Eat Right Month is a perfect time for young people and their family members to learn how to work together for healthier eating and lifestyle habits. UT Extension in Madison County has two upcoming offerings to help families.

Joe Ostaszewski, former Florida State football player and Biggest Loser season 14 participant, has partnered with National 4-H Council and will be stopping in Jackson at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 16 as part of his bike ride across America. The purpose of Joe’s Riding it Forward tour is to inspire young people and their families to live active, healthy lives. He will share the story of how he overcome his battle with obesity.

UT/TSU Extension’s Healthy Habits Day will run from 9-11 a.m. at the Madison County Ag Complex, 309 N. Parkway. It will include games and sample snacks that can motivate youth to enjoy healthier foods. This event is free to the public and all ages are welcome to attend.

University of Tennessee Extension in Madison County also plans to extend the learning into September with Eat Right! Future Bright! This interactive program is for parents and their school-age children who exceed the recommended weight for their height and age. This program will be Tuesdays, September 9, 16, 23, and 30 / 5:30‐7 p.m. More information will be available at Healthy Habits Day.

For more information about any health and human development programs from UT/TSU Extension in Madison County, send an email to

Plan before you do the back-to-school shopping

The back-to-school shopping season is second only to Christmas for times when parents spend money. Expenses add up for supplies and clothing. The children also seem to have their own ideas about how to start the school year off right. Here are some ideas for parents who want to plan before going shopping:
1) Allow children to be in on planning. Help them to understand that some items are necessary and some are more flexible.
2) Get a list from an office supply or other store. You can estimate what the cost will be before actually making purchases and comparison shop.
3) When making a budget, remember extra fees for workbooks or special supplies, or items that teachers need brought in such as hand wipes or sanitizer.
4) School lunches will have to be purchased until a child knows if he or she will be eligible for free or reduced cost lunch.
5) Extra-curricular and after-school activities have their own costs that hit at this same time.
6) Consider postponing clothing purchase for cooler weather, especially for a child who is growing rapidly.
7) Keep in mind that kids feel intense pressure to fit in. Having the latest character lunch box or designer jeans is important to them. If parents can’t afford or don’t wish to pay for costly items, they can ask older children who have some money to pay for costs above the basic. For younger children, consider compromising for at least one special item.
8) If a child routinely wants more than their parents can afford, or think they should spend, it is past time to consider an allowance that covers such expenses. Shifting decision-making power usually ends arguments.


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