This week we’re joined by Leslie H. Tayne, Esq. Leslie is an attorney, debt therapist, and author of Life and Debt: A Fresh Approach to Achieving Financial Wellness. She originally joined us for our most popular episode introduction ever and to talk about how to Learn to Love Your Debt – PB100. This week she returns to help Paychecks and Balances tackle America Saves Week and to help you all gain a better understanding of the potential student loan crisis as the outstanding student loan debt tips past $1.5 trillion.

America Saves Week and Houston Money Week

The goal of America Saves Week, February 25 – March 3, 2019 is to bring together a diverse mix of nonprofit, government, academic, and business groups to support American looking to save money and master their personal finances. This includes useful savings tools and resources for teachers and individuals looking to learn more about money. Learn more at americasavesweek.org.

For those in the Great State of Texas, there is the similarly themed Houston Money Week (HMW), March 30 – April 6, 2019, at houstonmoneyweek.org. With a more geographic focus, HMW is a community wide initiative to empower families and individuals with financial education. This includes the collaborative efforts of businesses, financial institutions, schools, libraries, non-profits, and many more. As we often say on P&B, be a part of the change you want to see. These two initiatives are a great place to start, or hopefully, provide the motivation for you to implement change in your own household.

Related:

Millennials Face a Scary Financial Future But Are Still in Control of Their Personal Finances

One of our most popular episode of 2018 was Why Millennials Face the Scariest Financial Future Since the Great Depression ft. Michael Hobbes. Knowing the difficult financial realities we face is only half the battle. As Michael acknowledged, we also need personal and policy accountability. On the personal front, we asked Leslie for the personal finance, budgeting and money management insights she offers all individuals embrace.

Leslie: My personal finance tips for Millennials:

  • Bolster your emergency fund
  • Pay down debt
  • Start contributing to your retirement savings as early as possible
  • Live within your means/don’t try to keep up with the Joneses
  • Set goals that makes sense for you
  • Seek help from others

Make a Plan to Tackle Your Budget and Expenses Before They Overrun You

Leslie: When you’re looking to cut back in your monthly budget, look for areas where you’re paying for things you don’t need. For example, if you frequently buy coffee or lunch, consider making it at home instead. Cable is also one of the major culprits of costing more than it’s likely worth from your monthly budget. Consider swapping out for a streaming service or two instead to save money. Additionally, you might be paying for more cell phone data than you’re actually using. Take a look at the breakdown of your usage each month to determine whether you can drop down in your plan.

Related:  Marcus Garrett Got His Expenses Down to 50% of His Income, Here’s How

Leslie: You can also negotiate your bills. Cable, phone, utilities, credit card rates can all be negotiated, or call your provider to ask for cost-cutting suggestions.

Marcus: A lot of us struggle with impulse shopping. The Gram isn’t gonna stunt on itself! Any tips for avoiding impulse buys?

Leslie:

  • Always bring a list with you.
  • Send someone else to make the purchases.
  • Purchase online and simply buy the item you need and avoid going to the store where impulse purchasing is greater risk.
  • Impulse buys are often the result of emotional spending. Whenever you’re making a purchase, try to take a step back and examine why you’re making the purchase. Is the purchase emotion-driven or is it something that will actual be useful for you? You may want to sleep on it before making the purchase. If you do decide the purchase is something useful, take the time to comparison shop first to find the best possible price.
  • If you’re trying to limit your impulse spending, only go shopping with cash. This will allow you to feel the physical effects of cash, which will deter you from spending as much.

Related: AskPB: I Have a Budget But How Do I Stop Impulse Shopping?

How to Pay Off Student Loan Debt (and everything else you owe)

Marcus: To me, the Federal Government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program looks like a complete failure. What in the hell happened?

Leslie: Here are the main requirements for forgiveness:

  • Must be a public service employee
  • Must have direct student loans
  • Must be on a qualifying repayment plan
  • Must have made 10 years of payments

Leslie: 99 percent of applicants were denied.

Most loans issued before 2007 were not direct loans. The federal student loan forgiveness program began in 2007, meaning that October 2017 was the first time loans were eligible for forgiveness. While most new federal loans today are direct loans, only about 20% of loans in 2007 were direct loans, significantly limiting the number of borrowers who were actually able for forgiveness in the first wave.

When the law went into effect, the only qualifying repayment plan was the income-contingent repayment plan, which was unpopular at the time. Many applications missing information or have incorrect information.

Marcus: Any tips for those still in the “forgiveness window”? Should they ‘give up’? What other avenues should they seek (i.e. repayment, consolidation, other)?

Leslie: Make sure you call and check to see if your loans qualify. Don’t assume. If they do, make sure you are following the requirements and keep track of all calls and conversations with the lenders. Don’t give up, but do note it is time consuming and can be frustrating to inquire into your loan status.

If you do not qualify for forgiveness, you have other options to help pay back your loans. You may want to consider adjusting your repayment method or your monthly budget to be better suited to making your payment. Consolidation and refinancing are other options, but you should only go these routes if it truly makes sense for your situation and won’t end up costing you more than traditional repayment. You could also consult a debt attorney, who would be able to provide assistance with your student loan debt.

Take Back Control of Your Life & Debt With a Change in Money Mindset

Marcus: Is there a such thing as ‘good’ debt versus ‘bad’ debt?

Leslie: Many people scoff at the idea of “good debt.” However, debt is a part of life. Debt is only “bad debt” when it becomes unmanageable and begins to take over your life. However, by getting your debt under control, you can turn bad debt back into good debt.

Leslie: Debt is a reality and part of life-everyone has it, even those that tell me they don’t. It’s either managed well or not.

Many of us think of debt in a negative way. Without a doubt, debt can be incredibly stressful, overwhelming and feel like there is no way out. Change the thought. “I have this debt and I have it because I needed it and it helped me. I will work through it the best I can, and one day I will see the light at the end of the tunnel.” If it’s too much, seek help. We can help you!

The negative thoughts on debt can lead to distractions, other mental health and relationship issues, feelings of despair and denial, and procrastination and avoidance. None of that is good when dealing with debt. These reactions typically only serve to make the situation worse. Instead, I encourage everyone to change their mindset about debt. Debt is a part of life. And in many cases, debt has helped provide good things to our lives, such as housing or an education. In these cases, instead of thinking negatively, I encourage being thankful for the opportunities debt has provided.

Read More Insights From Leslie Tayne:

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