Welcome to another installment of iontuition’s Q&A series with personal finance bloggers. Today we have Your Millennial Money’s Shannah Compton sharing her strategic personal finance advice with us today.
Shannah Compton Game is one of the only 74,000 Certified Financial Planner Professionals in the US, which means she’s had to become a ninja in all things financial. Her love is teaching 20 and 30-year-olds about personal finance and the tips and tricks that she’s picked up along the way to help others overcome debt, master their budget, save some cash and empower themselves to achieve whatever financial goals they want to achieve. Shannah is also the host of a popular iTunes podcast show, Millennial Money, where her goal is to make learning about money fun and painless. When she’s not babbling on about money, she also loves to cook and make a mean risotto to rival any restaurant version.
What’s the best piece of financial advice you ever received?
The best piece of financial advice I’ve ever received was to not let money be a limiting factor in chasing after your dreams. I started my first business, a non-profit called Hometown Cinema, when I was 19 in college at Indiana University, and I didn’t know a thing about managing a budget or putting on large scale events. Every year I had to be creative with how we were going to come up with the money we needed to cover our expenses and then be very resourceful with the money we did raise. I never let money be a factor in pushing forward and creating the vision I had in my head. It was a really important lesson to learn at that young age and has been the driving force behind me continuing in various entrepreneurial ventures – even when the cash flow was slim.
If you could go back in time and give your 18-year-old self a piece of financial advice, what would it be?
If I could go back in time and talk to my 18-year-old self, I would have told myself to save as much money as I possibly could, and walk away from any “luxuries.” I think what you don’t understand at 18 is that if you work really hard when you’re young and save a ton of money (meaning you forgo buying the luxury car, buying a house before you can really afford it, etc.) you can be so far ahead of the game in 10-15 years. Think of a snowball. It starts out really small, but the more it rolls down the hill the bigger it gets. That’s the same way saving money works, and when you start when you’re really young, that snowball gets really big really fast. I was once asked why saving money is important. While money is not everything, it does give you options in life. If you want to stop working, move abroad, take a year off or start a business, having a big savings piggybank is very helpful.
What’s your advice for those who already have student loans?
I was really lucky to not have student loan debt for my undergraduate degree, however I had to take out loans to fund my MBA. If I had a choice, I would have chosen the other way around because a master’s degree was not cheap. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would’ve chosen a less expensive school for my graduate degree than I did. The one I chose was beautiful and had a stellar reputation, but honestly, I can’t say that I’ve made any more connections from that degree than I would’ve had from a less expensive college. You don’t realize this when you’re young, but honestly, no one really cares where you went to school anymore (unless maybe the elite Ivy League schools). All they really care about is that you have a degree and whether you can perform or not once you hit the job market.
Any other financial tips for our readers?
There is so much advice to offer for those that have student loans, I almost don’t know where to begin. First thing, you’ve got to know what loan options are available to you. The best way to do so is to contact your student loan servicer and make sure you are on the best plan for you.
(Tip from iontuition: If you have an iontuition account, you can use the repayment calculator to determine what plan you are eligible for before talking to a servicer.)
Next comes your interest rate. I’m a big fan of fixed rate loans because you always know how much you will have to budget for that expense. While variable rate loans start out lower than fixed, if the interest rates rise (which they are likely to do), your payment will also rise. It’s an easy way for your budget to breakdown. Before you start putting extra money towards your student loans, make sure you have a healthy emergency fund saved of three to six months’ worth of expenses, and that your credit card debt is in check. Once you shore up those two items, drive any extra funds above your current savings into your student loans. You’d be surprised at the power of even one extra payment a year. With that alone, you can save a significant amount in interest fees over the course of your loan. Lastly, I know it’s really attractive to consolidate your loans and spread out your payment over 30 years. The downside of doing so is that you will pay so much more in interest fees that it will blow your mind. The point is, before you make any decision about your student loans, really think about all your options and how this fits in with your budget now and your budget in the future.