Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Dear College Freshman

They always say hindsight is 20/20, and I'd say that sentiment is certainly true about handling your finances in college. Approaching a one size fits all for college finances doesn't quite work because all colleges aren't built the same, and all students and their respective families aren't built the same. However, I think there are still a few key principals that I wish I could go back and tell my Freshman self. Do you have any? 

Dear Freshman,

Congratulations! You have graduated high school, moved away from home, and are enjoying your first semester in college! I know, I know, the freedom is amazing. Social freedom is great, but you are now responsible for your financial freedom too.  Before you get too far ahead of your self, here are a few things that you should keep in mind. 

Learn How to [roughly] Budget

This is a tough thing for grown adults, so don't be scared away too soon. It is not something that comes easy, but once you figure out what is going on, it does. get. easier. The simple way to think about it is this - how much money do you have to spend? Do you have a job, savings, money from your parents, or a scholarship? If you have any or all of that, add it up and try to determine how much you have each month. 
The next step to this is focusing on how many "fixed" expenses you have. These are things like car insurance, cell phone bills, rent, etc. A lot of college students are fortunate to still be on mom and dad's payroll, but a lot are not and are already paying these things on their own. If you fall in the latter of the two categories, add up those expenses. This is money that you will spend every month no matter what. 
Now comes the tricky part. You need to see what the difference is in your "income," be it from work, parents, scholarship, etc., and your fixed expenses. The difference in those two amounts is what you have left for the month to spend on other things like coffee, dinners out, long weekend trips, and other fun activities. 


You know that "extra" money that {hopefully} you have at the end after you pay all of your fixed amounts that we just talked about? Do your very best to save some of that. Even if it's just $20 a week or $50 a month. Every little bit counts, and in the end it all adds up. If you have to pay for your books this is especially important because that is a big expense that usually comes all at once. The good news for books is, you can check out this post, where I talk about a few days you can save on text books. Unfortunately for other big expenses, like car repairs, there aren't always less expensive options. (For Example - Earnest offers a service to help you refinance your student loans and make them more affordable.) So save. that. money. You'll be happy you did, I promise. 

Eat for Free Every Chance you Get

Here's the thing about college, and grad school for that matter - people want you to be a part of their club and join their organizations. People also recognize that free food is a great way to draw a crowd. I cannot count the number of free lunches I had in Law School just for sitting through another lecture that was being held by the career center or another law school group. Go. to. those. lunches. The good thing about college is that you are almost always required to have a meal plan, especially your freshman year. Make sure you take advantage of that because those meals are already paid for. I know, I know, it gets old after a while, but try to be creative. I always knew that if I was disappointed with the dinner selection I could just have a bowl of lucky charms or a chocolate chip waffle. Have that back up plan, but make sure you are using those meals. The more meals you eat on campus the more money you are saving and it will be easier on your wallet when your friends want to go grab some ice cream on Saturday night. 

Re-Evaluate Each Semester 

Keeping the above ideas in mind, it is also important to re-evaluate your expenses every few months. College has that natural split of semesters, or trimesters, and that is the perfect time to look back on your income and spending and see what you did wrong, and what you did right. Are you really reading those magazines that seemed like too good of a deal to pass up? If not, cancel. Have you enjoyed your weekly coffee dates with one of your friends? Great, keep making room for that in your budget. It is easy to make things happen when you plan for them. By looking back each semester you can really see how you're doing, what you need to budget for, what you want to budget for, and what costs you can cut because they just don't matter.

Here's a final tip - keep up with the news, especially the business news. The more you understand not only about your finances, but the country's economy as a whole, the easier it is to keep yourself in check. My favorite way to start the day is by reading the Morning Brew. It is a quick snap shot of how the markets finished, why some shares took a dive, or a jump, and what we can expect in the future. Plus they have an interview question of the day - my favorite part - and it is never too early to prepare for the dozens of interviews you're likely to encounter as you continue on in your college career. I strongly encourage you to check it out!

Enjoy college and have fun! It will be the best four years of your young life!

Legally Southern

ps - if you are having an oh Sh*t, I'm already an adult moment - check out this post about staying financially fit!  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

I Didn't Vote for Hillary Clinton and I'm Not Sorry

I am white, I am female, I am educated, and I did not vote for Hillary Clinton. Please stop blaming me for the fact that Donald Trump is President Elect of the United States of America. Or please, go right ahead. Because as an American I am to blame, but so are you, and so are the 120,000,000+ Americans who voted, and if you're really looking to blame someone, take a quick look at the many, many, many millions of Americans who did not vote at all. But here's the thing - this is how elections work. Millions of Americans did exercise their right to vote, and are now being ridiculed for doing so. I am not here to change your opinion of Mr. Trump, I am only hoping to provide a small, sliver of explanation that those who voted for Trump are not actually Trump, those who voted for Trump don't believe everything he said, and those who voted for Trump still love and care about their friends who did not vote the same way. We all disagree from time to time, but that doesn't mean we have to disown each other. We are all still Americans. 

While it may not be ideal to some, especially those who did vote for Hillary, the Presidency is won when a candidate reaches 270 votes of the electoral college, and Trump is there (and then some). There are many who disagree with this, and to those of you who feel that way, I say spend the next four years lobbying to change that. I can't promise you will have a great deal of luck, but at this point in the game, the results are in and Donald Trump is the President Elect. If you believe that the popular vote should have more weight, spend the next four years protesting the system, not protesting the man who won because of the system. Don't hate the player, hate the game. That being said, there are a few more things I need to say and I want to share, not in aggressive defense, but in a way perhaps to make someone understand even to a small degree what the heck happened on Tuesday and why so many people voted the way they did. 

But the Media Said She Was Going to be Number 45

Yes, you're right. And to say the media played a large role in this election would be an understatement. But here's a secret, the media is occasionally wrong. Elections can be tough to predict, even with statistically sound polling. Without making a broad generalization, since that is what I'm hoping this whole post can put to rest, I will say it is pretty apparent the view that most (vocal) non-Trump voters have of those who are or were Trump voters isn't great. It does not surprise me in the least that during the random polls and crowd sourcing that so many people who intended to vote for Trump stayed silent or weren't counted. After all, what did they have to gain? My parents taught me young that you never asked anyone who they voted for, it was a personal question. If you want to share it, that's fine. But no one is requiring you to announce your intentions and I think because of that the statistics were skewed and there was a false sense of security among Hillary's supporters. If we're being honest, I was one of those people. I was not the biggest fan of Mr. Trump, but once he was chosen as the Republican nominee, I decided to give him a chance and pay more attention to what was really going on, my husband was the only one who knew this. I never really considered voting third party, but more often than not, especially somewhere like a debate watch party, I pretended to be a fan of Hillary, or at the least not a fan of Trump. I wasn't interested in the ridicule, I was just interested in having a good time. So yes, the media said Hillary was more or less a sure thing. But what the media didn't realize, is that the negative coverage of Trump that started the day he submitted his name to the hat had a tremendous silencing effect on the voters and those who were considering voting for him. 

Hillary is a Female, Don't You Care About Women's rights?

Yes. I do. As a young female in a profession dominated by (old) men I care a lot about women's rights. I have had more than my fair share of "sweethearts," "darlings," and "young ladies." I get it. But what would it say about me that I voted for Hillary just because she was a female? Isn't that just as bad as voting for someone because they're not? I can still recognize what a great, wonderful, and empowering thing it is to have had her as a major party candidate for president without having to vote for her to prove it. Just because there was a female on the ballot doesn't meant I had to vote for her to appreciate the progress. 

You Voted for Trump so you Must Hate Women and Minorities, and You are Definitely Racist. 

Hold up. This sentiment is the one that has bothered me the most because it is making hateful and hurtful assumptions of the entire character of millions of people based on one choice they made. I am not making light of voting, it is a big decision, and it is an important decision. However, I refuse to believe that because of the choice I made on Tuesday, I deserve these kind of assumed generalizations. It really irks me when people throw around the word "offended" when something happens they don't like or don't agree with. But I am honestly offended that such hateful comments have been made in regards to everyone who voted for Trump, or just didn't vote for Hillary. I am sorry that you think because I don't think just like you that I must think just like him, because that is simply not true. As my husband said to me this morning, as long as we are in a two party system, no one will ever truly believe in everything "their" candidate says or does. I am not trying to fight fire with fire, but just for a minute, think about if this were true, if you agreed with and approved of everything "your" candidate did. Does that mean every one who voted for Hillary Clinton agrees with and would look the other way in the case of marital affairs? I didn't think so. 

What About all of the Hate Being Spewed to Minorities Now? 

I hate to break it to you, but the people who are acting on that kind of hate were bad apples to begin with. Here's the thing about America, the amount of freedom we experience is far beyond what many other countries can comprehend. Neither the president, nor you or I can "make" anyone do or say anything they don't want to do. Sure, there are laws and statutes and regulations that people are required to abide by, and millions of Americans have a role in enforcing those. But this is not a dictatorship, no one truly has the power to make another individual act a certain way or do a certain thing. The unfortunate fact is that these actions existed long before Donald Trump was elected, there is just more light being shed now as a way for the media to win back some of its dignity and keep up with the 24-hour news cycle. 

But Donald Trump Doesn't Have any Experience as a Politician 

You're right. But maybe Hillary has too much. In his accounting practice, my Dad always warned me about "SALY": same as last year. If one person made a mistake in a prior year, and you follow their lead, that same mistake is going to keep repeating itself. Obama ran his first campaign on "change." Now, it's time for another change, a fresh face to politics. Hillary is a strong and independent woman, and maybe having had a husband already as president would have been a good thing, but maybe not. Don't get me wrong, I liked Bill Clinton, I mean he was almost featured in a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie, who wouldn't like the guy? But sometimes we don't want history to repeat itself, sometimes we need someone who is coming in with fresh eyes, who will take every day as a learning experience, and who will have a new outlook on policies and procedures. Trump may not be a career politician, but he has built his career making deals and negotiating with countless individuals, a quality that is immeasurably important as President. We all need to realize change isn't always a bad thing. 

I am not hoping to change your mind about Donald Trump, I am hoping to change your mind and give you a look at one of many young, educated, white females who didn't vote for Hillary Clinton. I am hoping to let you see that just because I'm not "with her," I'm not a bad person. I still care about women, I still care about minorities, and most of all I still care about this country and I made my decision on Tuesday based on all of those things. The decision has been made, and in a few months Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. Can we please just agree to be open minded, if not in regards to our President Elect, at least in regards to each other? 

With all of the love and peace I have to offer, thank you for getting this far.

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