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Tag: budgeting

Start Saving Now!

Planning for a future 40 years from today may seem impossible, crazy, and downright unnecessary… especially when it’s hard enough to see past that dreadful exam you haven’t started studying for. While retirement is in the far off future, saving for retirement early will help you maintain your standard of living as you enter your 70s and help you avoid turning back to your college ramen noodle diet.

Why Save Now?

Ideally, you should start saving in your 20s, once you graduate and begin earning paychecks. By starting a retirement fund today, your investment will have more time to grow and compound, meaning that each year’s gains will generate their own gains next year. The following graph shows the impact of investing early.

This chart assumes a 7% annual return. Investing $5,000 annually between the ages of 25 and 65 will result in a total of $1,142,811 for retirement. Your retirement fund will have $602,070 more than if you would have waited to make the exact same investment…10 years later. For further comparison, if you only invested between the ages of 25-35 (10 years), you would have earned $61,329 more than investing between the ages of 35-65 (30 years), all else equal.

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That sounds great! So how do I get started?

How you plan for retirement when you’re younger will differ from when you’re older. When you’re younger, you should save at least 7% of your salary for retirement. With the average salary of those between the ages of 20-30, $32,000, your average annual retirement savings will be approximately $2,240. This equates to putting away $43 per week, or giving up a few Starbucks coffees or Uber rides.

Many employers will offer a 401(k) retirement savings plan. If your employer offers to match your 401(k) contribution, take advantage of this benefit by contributing at least the amount that they’ll match. By doing so, you will double your retirement contributions at no additional cost to you.

If your employer does not offer a 401(k) plan, you might consider an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) as a means of investing for retirement due to their tax savings. You can open an IRA through your bank, or other entities such as Wells Fargo or Edward Jones. When choosing what to invest in, you will want to invest more aggressively when you are younger. This means you will want to invest in high-risk/high-yield options, such as stocks. Even if your investments perform poorly in the short run, you will have time to recover financially prior to retirement. Investing is no easy task and many choose to hire a financial planner. To ensure your planner is top-notch, you can utilize http://www.plannersearch.org/ to search for planners who are certified.

I Can Rely on Social Security, Can’t I?

In order to be well prepared for retirement, it is a good rule of thumb to save the equivalent of 85% of your end-of-career salary for each year of retirement. For example, let’s say you make $80,000 per year at the end of your career. You will therefore need approximately $68,000 per year in retirement, or a total of $1,360,000 for all 20 years. The average Social Security monthly retirement payment is only $1,334.21. This comes out to just $16,010.52 per year, leaving you $51,989.48 short each year.

Budgeting Your Life with Your Finances

Saving for retirement shouldn’t mean compromising your dreams and goals in your 20s. By creating and utilizing a budget, you can balance your financial responsibilities (saving for retirement, student loan payments, rent, etc.) with the things that matter to you (buying that engagement ring, backpacking across Europe, finally buying food other than ramen, etc.). To kick start your budget, you can utilize the Spending Plan Worksheet that can be found at www.k-state.edu/pfc/budgeting. For more hands on help with saving for retirement or budgeting, feel free to set up an appointment with a peer financial counselor by going to www.k-state.edu/pfc/services.  By making the choice to start saving for retirement today, you will greatly increase your wealth, opportunities, and lifestyle in the future.





Jillian Taylor
Peer Counselor III
Powercat Financial Counseling

Your New Year’s Money Resolution

The New Year will be here in a few short weeks. With finals and the busy holiday season approaching, the New Year will be here before we know it. Around the end of the year we start to reflect, wondering if it went as planned. Maybe 2015 brought some unexpected financial hardships, maybe you ended up spending more than you earned, and maybe your student loan debt grew and grew this year. All of these situations can seem overwhelming. That is why PFC is here to help. Remember, you can always request an appointment at www.ksu.edu/pfc for personalized help. But below are a couple generalized tips to keeping your financial goals, or New Year’s Money Resolution for 2016 in line.

What if I am happy with my finances?

You may be thinking you don’t really need to change any part of your finances. But it is important to remember that the unexpected could always happen or things may not go exactly according to plan. So if you are one of the lucky students who have little, or no student loans, maybe you could work on building your credit. Or if you have an excess amount of money each month, instead of splurging on a trip to the mall, put it into an emergency savings account fund. The point is that even if your financial situation seems great, there is always something to work on to make it that much better.

What do I do if I need to start up a new and improved budget for the year?

Although it is difficult to change the things of the past, you can always plan for the future. 2016 may bring many obstacles and your financial stress could be at an all time high. If this is the case and you need to vamp up your budget, you can visit our website at www.ksu.edu/pfc/budgeting for some information on budgets. Don’t get discouraged if 2015 didn’t go as planned. Sometimes it can be hard to stick to a budget. Try to get a fresh start for 2016 and push yourself to stick to a realistic budget that allows you to spend money where you want. Remember, sometimes it doesn’t always seem this way, but budgets are your friend. They help you stick to a plan, which can be essential for you to reach your long-term financial goals.

How can I build my credit throughout the year?

Credit can be a scary thing. Just remember, that like a budget, credit is your friend. A good credit history can help you get a lower mortgage rate or a higher credit limit, as well as benefit you in other ways. If your goal for the New Year is to gain some good credit history but you don’t want to change much about your spending habits a credit card might be for you. There are other ways to establish credit like: auto loans, secured credit cards, and student loans. Visit our website, www.ksu.edu/pfc/credit to learn more about the various types of credit and find out which one may work for you. If you are making payments currently on your student loans this is helping to build your credit history. If you want to build existing credit make sure you are always paying your bills on time, and using your credit wisely- we recommend about 30% of your credit limit. Another important tip to remember is to check your credit report for discrepancies, if there is incorrect information on your credit report, clearing this up can dramatically increase your credit score immediately. You can check your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com 3 times a year, one per credit bureau, for free.

Finally, no matter your financial situation, do not get discouraged. A year is a long time and a resolution is in fact that, a resolution, a goal, something you are aspiring towards. So if it doesn’t go as planned immediately, or if you have a couple hiccups throughout the year don’t give up! Just check in on yourself periodically, or have a friend or family member hold you accountable if need be. Good luck! And happy (almost) 2016!

Hillary Williams
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling

New Year, New Financial Attitude

Believe it or not, 2015 will be coming to an end before we know.  With that for many people comes a “New Years Resolution” and financial stress. As December approaches, it is important to spend some time reviewing the past year and making goals for the upcoming year.  Some tips to consider when preparing for the new year are: budgeting, goals, financial literacy, and savings.

If you haven’t made a budget, it is a great first step towards achieving financial success.  Budgeting can be overwhelming for some people, but just keep in mind that it is a process and requires both time and work.  Use December expenses and income as a rough draft for your budget so when the beginning of the year rolls around you are ready to really focus in on your financial situation. Using December as a practice run allows students to have some experience at the beginning of the year, instead of being new to the budgeting process.  This experience gives students a chance to start planning ahead for the upcoming semester, school expenses, or the opportunity to begin saving for spring break.

Speaking of spring break or education expenses, goals are a vital piece of creating a budget.  The end of one year and beginning of the next is a great time to set some new financial goals.  There are short-term and long-term goals.  A short-term goal is something that you want to achieve within the next year and a long-term goal is something you want to achieve in longer than a year.  If you had goals from the previous year, be sure to address the process of them.  It is especially vital to review any previous long-term goals you had set.  It is really important to make sure that any goal you want to achieve is a SMART goal.  SMART goals stand for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.  For example, if you were saving for a new car a smart goal to achieve that could be: “I would like to purchase a new car by December 2018 for $10,000 by saving $188 a month.”

Making financial decisions can be difficult for many college students who are managing their money for the first time in their life.  If you are feeling financially stressed, feel free to reach out and get help. A great resource for students at Kansas State University is a free individual counseling session with our peer counselors and Salt.  Salt is the free online financial tool Powercat Financial Counseling bought for students and alumni that offers numerous financial articles, tools, and many other resources.  A recommendation that is helpful when making good financial decisions is to find out what motivates you to make those decisions.  Do you have a goal in mind when you make positive financial decisions or is it the feeling of achievement you feel?  Either way, use that motivation to continue to find success in your financial situation.  If you are unsure of what motivates you, try to really think about the reason behind the financial decisions you want to make.

Lastly, as the new year begins make saving a priority.  A beneficial habit for students to establish is to pay themselves first.  If you try to make it a priority to save a little bit of money each and every month before spending more the financial goals you set will start to become a reality.  If you aren’t sure where or how to start savings, start small. Instead of spending $2 a week at the vending machine, try saving that and at the end of the year if you saved that $2 every week you would have a total of $104 of just vending machine money each year!

Although this can be a stressful time of the year with a lot of extra expenses, just remember to take a deep breath and plan ahead.  The new year is always a great time to regroup and form positive financial habits.  If you make a financial resolution, try to stick with it and the hard work will pay off.  Powercat Financial Counseling is here to assist you in making these steps as well.

Kristen Payne
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling

Lose Excess Spending:  Financial Fasts and Financial Diets

Ever get to the end of the month and wonder where your money went?  Being in college offers not only the opportunity to become financially independent, but it also brings opportunities to squander your money away.  In our society, many social events are centered around eating and this holds true on campus as well.  However, spending money on eating out can be just as unhealthy as the food you get when eating out.  Two ways to begin exhibiting better money habits are by going on a financial fast or starting a financial diet.  Both require you to differentiate between needs and wants and can help you begin to understand what to spend money on and when it may be better off saving.

Financial Fast

A financial fast is a shorter but more intense way to kick-start better money habits.  The financial fast lasts 21 days and limits your spending to only the bare essentials to living.  Items considered essentials include bills (i.e. rent, utilities, etc…), gas to get to and from school or work, groceries meant to sustain your body (i.e. not chips or soda), and medications.  This list will be different for everyone and requires you be realistic about what is a need.  The financial fast also entails spending only in cash and recording every transaction as it’s made, justifying the need.  You can use a checkbook or debit card register, a notebook, an excel sheet, or apps such as www.Mint.com to record your transactions.  Recording your transactions helps keep you accountable to the fast as well as gets you to think about your needs and wants.  A financial fast can be beneficial to do before beginning a financial diet because it immerses you more into learning what areas are and aren’t flexible.

Financial Diet

A financial diet, on the other hand, is more prolonged and allows you to be creative with your spending.  First, know what is a need and what is a want.  From there, brainstorm ways to reduce or eliminate your spending in certain categories.  Don’t be afraid to get creative.  Use what you already have and look for DIY projects.  Similar to the financial fast, spending in cash and recording your transactions can provide you even more awareness and accountability of your spending.  Below is a non-exhaustive list of examples in which you can cut spending sorted by category.


  • Limit the number of times you eat out (i.e. once a week)
  • Prepare meals at home
  • Bring your lunch (and any snacks you’ll need throughout the day)
  • Split entrées when you go out to eat (make sure to know what extra charge may be assessed for doing so)
  • Ask if the restaurant does half-orders
  • Sign up for coupons at places you frequently eat


  • Check out books or movies from the school or public library
  • Drink with friends at home rather than spending money in Aggieville
  • Utilize services such as RedBox or Netflix instead of going to the movies
  • Invite friends to go to the park or have a game night at home


  • Walk or ride your bike
  • Carpool
  • Stay on campus between classes instead of driving back home and back to campus again
  • Use the ATA Bus

If you don’t succeed at first, that’s okay.  It’s not easy to change your lifestyle right away and like other diets, it takes time as well as requires you to tweak it until it fits for you.  Consider finding a friend to participate with you and hold each other accountable.  Once you find success, think about what to do with your extra money.  You can use it to pay down debt, save up for emergencies or upcoming trips, or even think about investing it.  The first step though is to be healthier and lose the excess spending.  Check out our Twitter in the coming month to read more tips on saving money.


Christyne Stephenson
Peer Counselor III
Powercat Financial Counseling

Creating a Budget

Now that you’ve thought about your financial goals, it’s time to determine how you’ll get there.  Before you can know how much you can save, you’ll need to know how much you have left over each month. Do you ever feel like you work really hard, but never have money? Or, do you wonder how your whole paycheck from two days ago is already gone? Budgeting may be the answer to these questions. For the second article in the four part series for Financial Literacy Month, we at Powercat Financial Counseling (PFC) will be educating you about the importance of budgeting and how to create a budget.

What is Budgeting?

When I think about what budgeting is I think about a famous quote by John Maxwell that says, “A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.”  Budgeting is tracking your cash inflows and cash outflows. It is a process in which you create a plan of how you want to spend your money. After you create this plan, it allows you to determine the amount of money you will have to accomplish goals you want to achieve. Budgeting is a simple yet complex task:  it takes work and discipline. It is a mindset and an attitude.

Why Budgeting Is Important

Now that we know what budgeting is, let’s discuss the importance of it. Budgeting is important for many reasons. One of the first reasons budgeting is important is due to the fact that it allows you to see whether you are spending more than you are making, or if you are coming out on top. We all want to come out with extra money, right? Budgeting is what helps you come out with extra money or break even at the end of every month. Creating a budget can also help relieve stress when unexpected things happen.  And finally, the budget will help you reach your short and long term goals discussed last week.

Creating a Budget:

If you have never created a budget, or even thought about a budget, don’t worry:  we are here to help. PFC offers an awesome tool called the, “Spending Plan Worksheet.” This worksheet is an excel document that allows you to create your own spending plan for each week, month, semester or year. The amount of time you set your budget for is completely up to you and what would be most beneficial for your situation. Budgeting is typically in the form of a three step process:

  1. First, you will estimate your income and expenses for a monthly period. For a lot of people, this is a major guessing game, because most people don’t know off the top of their head how much they are spending on coffee, eating out, gas, groceries and other expenses each month. After you have estimated the income and expenses, you should go through and decide whether your expenses are needs or wants.  A need can be determined based on what would have a consequence should you not pay it (i.e. rent, groceries to an extent, or tuition) whereas a want is one you can cut back in and deal without month to month (i.e. clothes, eating out, and entertainment).
  2. After your estimation is done, you will then begin the “fun” part, writing down the actual income and expenses. When recording your expenses, don’t forget to add in those “every once in a while” expenses such as getting your oil changed, getting your hair cut, and other activities. When you are calculating these expenses, take the amount you spend in a year on that activity and divide it by 12, since you are using a monthly budget. For example if you are doing oil changes, it costs you $20 every three months, which is $80 per year. Now that we have determined the annual amount, we divided it by 12, which equals $6.67 each month; this is what you should put away so that you are prepared for the expense when it occurs.  There are many ways to track your expenses for a given period (a month in this case). You can use the receipt method, which is where you keep all your receipts and record the transactions. You can also use bank statements, but bank statements don’t account for cash transactions, so you don’t want to forget to include those! You can also use the check register method, which is where you keep a running tab of your checking account. In this process, right after you spend money you write it down (in a register or excel sheet) so that you know exactly what you are spending and why.  You can also use wwwMint.com.  For more information on using Mint, check out our other article on the topic.  These are just a few ways of keeping track of what you are actually spending. Feel free to do what is the easiest and most effective for you. After you have tracked and written down your actual amounts from a month’s time, you will want to go through and prioritize your needs and wants again, to see if it has changed based on what is actually happening, not on what you thought was happening. In this step, most people are shocked because they are spending way more than they thought. For college students, we tend to spend way more eating out than we think we do, or we spend way more on coffee than we really should. The reason we estimate first, and record actuals second is so that you get a good feel for how in tune you are with your spending habits. After you become in tune, you can begin to change your spending habits to better fit your financial needs.
  3. The third step is to start determining what you want to changed, and how to attack those changes. This involves deciding if you want to be spending what you currently are or if you would like to spend more or less in each category.  If you have a deficit, it’s important to address it by increasing your income or decreasing your expenses.  If you have a surplus, you can decide where to put that extra money.  Once you determine where you want to start changing spending habits, you can start to create a spending plan/budget for next month.

Although there are only three steps listed, it is important to frequently update and monitor your budget throughout your whole life. By doing this, you are identifying where you may be wasting money, and where you can be putting that money.  This can help you put your money to better use to help you achieve your financial goals.

Be on the lookout in the next few weeks for more helpful tips about personal financial management during Financial Literacy Month.  If you have any questions about creating a budget or general financial management and would like help with any of those questions, please make an appointment and come see us at PFC.  You can make an appointment at our website: www.k-state.edu/pfc.  We provide free and confidential counseling to all K-State students.

Miranda McMahon
Peer Counselor I
Powercat Financial Counseling

Thinking About Studying Abroad?

More and more college students from all over the country are choosing to study abroad. Spending a semester or a couple of weeks in a foreign country is both exciting and beneficial to your personal development. A growing number of employers see this as a plus because it can suggest your global perspective and awareness. One might think picking the ideal country to study in is the hardest part, but in the hype of the excitement, many students overlook the costs of financing the trip. Here are a few tips to help you plan accordingly without having to worry about money.

Create a Budget

The first course of action is to determine whether or not studying abroad is feasible months in advance. You’ll need to obtain an estimate of the total costs of your intended countries you may study in (as well as possible excursions you may take while abroad).  This includes, but is not limited to, passport or visa applications, tuition, books, housing, meals, bottled water, plane and train tickets, transit (i.e. metro or taxi), and souvenirs.  Then, you need to figure out how much you currently have to pay for the trip and how much extra you’ll need to save up. The best solution to this task is creating a budget. Start by listing all your monthly sources of income and deducting all your monthly expenses to establish your discretionary balance (the money you have left over). If you are in the red (negative balance), funding this trip might be a difficult task. Don’t fret, though, as there are alternative funding strategies. If you are in the black (positive balance), then you are more likely able to finance the trip.

The next step is to set up a “Study Abroad Fund” and contribute monthly to build up the balance. This fund will be your go-to source of money when abroad. The amount that you can contribute will depend on how much money you have left over to generate on a monthly basis. Being college students, that amount tends to not be significant. Thankfully, there are alternative sources of funding available to students who plan on study abroad and they come in the form of scholarships. Scholarships are free money and you should try to obtain as many as possible. Check with K-State’s Study Abroad Department for more details at http://www.k-state.edu/studyabroad/current-students/funding/scholarships.html. A new and popular way of raising funds comes in the form of crowdfunding. You can set up a campaign on sites like indiegogo, kickstarter, and gofundme and have access to a community of millions of people that can help raise funds toward your trip. You also are eligible to receive student loans during your time abroad if you are enrolled at least half time, which can help with the costs of tuition, room, and board. For more information, you can visit Student Financial Assistance’s page at http://www.k-state.edu/sfa/policies/studyabroad.html.  If you still need more money for your trip, don’t be afraid to speak to your parents and family for assistance.

All these sources of income are better utilized or obtained if you have a thorough budget drafted that illustrates your financial need and capability. You can use PFC’s free spending plan worksheet to help you with this task by going to http://www.k-state.edu/pfc/budgeting.

Does your Debit/Credit card Work in Foreign Countries?

Once you are in the program, have chosen a country to study in, and raised all the funds you’ll need, then you are almost at the finish line of enjoying a financially stress-free trip. What you need to do next is figure out if your debit and/or credit card(s) work in the country you plan on travelling to and if so, if you will incur any fees every time you swipe your card. You can easily check with your bank on this matter and if need be, obtain a card that allows you to do so without any costly fees.  Most banks will charge a flat cost for using international ATMs (i.e. $5) and some will charge a percentage of the withdrawal (i.e. 3%).   Some credit cards won’t have foreign transaction fees, but this only applies to transactions made using the card.  Be aware that many places abroad only accept cash and you won’t be able to use the card with no foreign transaction fees.

Additionally, it’s very important to put a travel notification on each card you may be using abroad, including ones brought for emergencies only.  This can be done by calling each bank or company and letting them know the dates of travel as well as the countr(ies) you will be in.  Failure to place a notification can result in your card being frozen due to a suspicion of theft.  This can last for days and may only be able to be lifted by a phone call to the bank or company.

Do I Have an Emergency Fund?

Lastly, you need to be prepared for any surprises that can financially impact your study abroad experience. You need to have an emergency fund set up that will only be used if something bad happens. Examples include losing your wallet, pick pockets, travel or lodging mix ups, or a medical emergency. It never hurts to be prepared and you’ll have less things to worry about knowing that you have a back-up plan.

If you need further assistance in planning for your trip, feel free to set up an appointment with PFC by going to www.k-state.edu/pfc/services.



Gerald Mashange
Peer Counselor II
Powercat Financial Counseling