<![CDATA[FI TRAVELGUY - All Finance Posts]]>Wed, 30 Dec 2020 19:09:42 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[What Your New Car Is Really Costing You | Frugal Living]]>Mon, 07 Sep 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/what-your-new-car-is-really-costing-you-frugal-living
One of the first things people enjoy upgrading in their life is their car. People sometimes justify it as 'I need something more reliable" or "I need more space". Sometimes that is really the case but I feel more often than not it's simply that I just want it. there is nothing wrong with that but you should at least know what you are giving up!
Let's start off with some quick numbers for a frame of reference for you.

In 2019, the average new car cost $40,000 and have an average monthly payment of $550. If you wanted to include things like gas, insurance, and maintenance AAA and Kelley Blue Book calculated it as below. 
If you want to try looking into this on your own you can use Edmunds' calculating tool to find the car you want to see how they break it down. 

Okay, so we've established that a new car payment can be expensive but now let's talk about depreciation. The moment you buy a car it immediately begins to lose value. It is estimated a new car loses 9-11% the moment you drive it off the lot. Let that sink in. 

Your brand new $20,000 car is now worth only $18,000. Instantly!

In only three years that vehicle is worth almost half of what you bought it for.  Which might be a great range to buy that car... I bought a 2008 Camry in 2012.
We've established that a brand new car is going to have expensive payments and will instantly lose value. But it'll save on repairs!

Well AAA data shows that a new car costs you 8.94 cents per mile. If you drive 12,00 miles a year it'll cost you $1,073.80 per year. This coincides with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics number that in 2018 people spend $890 a year on car repairs and maintenance for all ages of cars.

If you want to take a peak for yourself you can use this calculator.
Okay, what we've established so far is that new cars have expensive payments and lose their value instantly after you buy them. 

Let's say you saved your money and were able to buy your car in cash. If you started at the age of 21 and just put that $600 "car payment" into an investment account in 38 years when you could pull it out you'd have 1.3 million dollars. If you wanted until you retired at 65 you'd have over 2.3 million. This is assuming you get a market average 8% return. 
Maybe being a multi millionaire doesn't appeal to you. Maybe you'd still want a fancy car or wouldn't be able to save up to pay in cash - I sure didn't when I bought mine. Let's say you cut that $600 payment down to $300. You'd then have almost 800,000 in 38 years or over 1.3 millions in 45 years.
If you don't trust my calculations you can do your own here.


Although you might feel you 'deserve' or 'want' a new car just try and think about the long game. Would you rather have a brand new car or be a millionaire? Because that is the decision you'll be making. 
I can already hear the argument though of what if I can do both? If that is what you want to do with you money, buy something that will lose half it's value in 3 years then do it but your money can be used in a much better way!
<![CDATA[Updated Budget: Living Off Half My Income]]>Mon, 24 Aug 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/updated-budget-living-off-half-my-income
Since I work in a school at the beginning of every school year I excitedly see what my take home pay will be and update my budget. It interests me because I am able to see how my life is changing by what I prioritize. It used to be student loan pay down and now it is mostly saving. 

Here is my real budget and how I save over 54% of my monthly take home pay.
Off the bat you might be thinking that I make a lot of money and it is easy to save half. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I work in a school and although I am paid more than what I think I should it is nothing crazy! I supplement some of my travel through travel hacks which helps get me free flights. I also have side hustles to help get extra spending money which also comes in handy - last year I almost made $7,000 doing my favorite one. 
Any who, here is the official breakdown. 

Fixed Income - 27.75%
    Mortgage - 19.85% - I'm currently living in deal 3 and have help with my mortgage from my girlfriend who I live with.
    Electricity/Internet - 4.5% - This isn't every month but more of an average. Summers are expensive and winter is less so. 
    Car Insurance - 1.8% - I have a '09 Camry that is completely paid off.
    Phone - $0 -  My mom pays for my phone but I take care of all the streaming services so it's the same price. 
    Gym Membership - 0.8%
    Netflix - 0.4%
    Hulu 0.4%
Variable Income - 10.3% 
    Food - 7.7% - I usually don't spent this much but like to have extra just in case. 
    Gas - 2.6% - I live like 5 - 10 minutes for work so it's usually less than this. 
Savings - 54.4%
    Travel - 10.24% - My summer trips are a priority that I like to save for.
    Car - 2.5% - I like to save for a future car that I don't know when I'll get it but I'll want to pay cash. 
    House - 30.73% - Always trying to save for my next rental or personal property.
    Savings - 10.88% - I am not paid in the summer so I need to save extra but also to max out my roth ira.
 Fun Money - 7.7% - As I mentioned early this isn't a lot but I make an extra $580 a month through this one side hustle. 


To some people this may seem really strict but for me I have all my needs met and am still trying to delay gratification as long as I can. If there is something I truly want I try and do more tests to save up and get it. At this point my priority is to save to set myself up for later on and that is reflected in my budget!
<![CDATA[How I Got Almost 25% Returns During COVID - 19]]>Mon, 10 Aug 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/how-i-got-almost-25-returns-during-covid-19
While some people might have gotten nervous through the COVID-19 experience I used that time to invest and got more than 20% return on my money.

Updated- September 1st, 2020 and that is now above 30%!
Because I have multiple rental units and a retirement petition, if I stay long enough in my current employer,  my "investing" is typically just maxing out my personal Roth IRA which is $6,000 a year.  But, because I was so optimistic on where the market was I choose to almost double that in 2020. 

Listed below are my actually purchases through 2020 into my Roth.
You may notice that I purchased only index funds and that came from my own trial and error which I talk about here. This strategy of buying mutual funds is often talked about in the Financial Independence community because of its passive management and low fees.

​Okay, let's take a deep dive into each of those purchases in my Roth IRA.
I bought the entire way down and actually lucked out by making my largest purchase at the very bottom which was 34.97% cheaper than the price 5 weeks earlier. My average purchase was 24.19% lower than what the peak was back in February and it still isn't back to that peak although it is getting close. 
VTSAX high 2/18/20 at $83.79
VTSAX low 3/23/20 at $54.49
VTSAX after 8/7/20 at $82.67
Okay, now let's take a look at how I did with Vanguard S&P 500 Index (VOO) in my Roth.
VOO high on 2/18/20 at $310.92
VOO low on 2/18/20 at 204.27
VOO closed 8/7/20 at 307.36
I wasn't able to get this at quite the discount I was for VTSAX but I'll still take an average of 15.95% off.

These kinds of discounts made me want to buy more in my Robinhood account that I had stopped using
If you added all my purchases together here is how it looks!


Know your investment strategy! If you don't have one you need to think about it and create something that you want to stick with in the good times and bad. I know mine and that's helped me get almost 30% returns in 2019 and now over 20% through the Corona Virus. 

For me it is pretty simple, and is basically the Warren Buffet quote, "Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” My investment strategy is buy and hold. So at any point there is a downturn in the market I want to dump as much cash in as I feel comfortable because my hope is that in 25 years America will still be going strong and those mutual funds will have increased in value.

It is THAT simple.

I don't get super nervous when the market drops because I don't know how far it's going to drop and I can't time when it'll drop or bounce back. My only hope is to purchase them at a discount and watch them increase in value over the next 20-30 years.
If you are interested in books on investing here are some I recommended!

​**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you and allows me to keep the lights on around here. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ​​​
<![CDATA[The 1% Rule - Fastest Rental Property Analysis]]>Mon, 27 Jul 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/the-1-rule-fastest-rental-property-analysis
If you don't have the time to deep dive into every real estate deal that it is out there you need to know how to use the 1% rule!

​Here is how it works..
When you are just starting out it is extremely helpful to look into and analyze a lot of deals. You quickly know which ones are the best so you can act quickly when they pop up! Understanding how to use the 1% rule allows you to filter out the potential bad ones almost instantly.

The 1% rule is the idea that you'll get 1% of the purchase price in monthly rental income. 

For example, if you buy a house for 100,000 you'll want the rent to be at least 1,000 a month. That is it. That's the rule.

This will cover your Principal Mortgage, Interest, Taxes, Insurance (PITI) but also cover your not as obvious costs like repairs, vacancy, capital expenditures (big ticket items like roof, HVAC, water heater, etc.), property managers, water, utilities, landscaping, etc. The 1% rule is thought of as a defensive measure and not necessarily added income to live off - unless you have reserves. 

If you want a real life example let's look at my second deal which falls into the 1% rule.
Purchase Price: $83,524
Monthly Rental Income: $900
Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance: $520 a month

That doesn't look like life changing money but seems like a decent return until you factor in saving for those other costs. In theory you’ll want to save at least 10% for vacancy, 10% repairs, 8-10% for management fees, and 5-7% for Cap Ex.

When you add in those added costs let's look at those numbers again. 

Purchase Price: $83,524
Monthly Rental Income: $900

Principal, Interest, Taxes, Insurance: $520 a month
Vacancy: $90
Repairs: $90
Property Management: $75 (that is the actual cost of mine)
Cap Ex: $60

Total Expenses: $835
Cashflow: $65

However, even with saving 25% if an AC unit goes out $250 a month isn’t going to do a whole lot.


The 1% rule is making sure your rental property will get 1% of the purchase price in monthly rent. This helps to quickly analyze whether a deal will be "good" or not. This will help to ensure that you have enough cash coming in to not lose the property if things start to go wrong. 

This rule isn't the end all be all of investing as buying homes in California, New York City, or the Bay Area may not make sense and people are still doing that. It should be used as a quick filtering tool to help decide whether you want to analysis a property further and I'll be working on a post to determine when is the right and wrong time to use it. 
If you are looking for more material on ways to begin real estate investing or analyzing a deal here are some books I recommend. 

​**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you and allows me to keep the lights on around here. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ​​ ​​
<![CDATA[22 Companies That Help Pay For Tuition | Student Loans]]>Mon, 13 Jul 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/22-companies-that-help-pay-for-tuition-student-loans
While going through college I always held at least one job but I was never smart enough to look if there was a way to make money while my employers helped with my tuition.

I ended up racking up a lot of student loan debt that I got some loan forgiveness for and managed with a strict budget

Here is a list of some of the best opportunities I found to have your job help pay for your college!
If you aren't having luck getting any of these jobs or don't like them here is where to look for scholarships and the best websites to start!

If you want to make extra money I have an ultimate list of side hustles here and my favorite side hustle here.

​1. UPS 

UPS will provide full and part time workers up to $5,250 per year. This total will max out at $25,000 over your lifetime and can begin as soon as you start work! Yes, this means you can work 12-15 hours a week as a package handler and get tuition assistance.

​2. Home Depot

Home Depot offers part-time hourly employees up to $1,500 per year, full-time hourly employees up to $3,000 per year, and salaried employees up to $5,000 per year. Half of their reimbursement goes toward books and course fees, and the other half covers tuition-related fees.

Approved courses can help employees working toward an Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, or Technical degree. 

​3. Publix

PUBLIX employees with at least six months of continued work and an average of 10 hours per week are eligible for tuition reimbursement. You can use the money for not only traditional degree programs, but also some individual courses and online programs. If you are enrolled in a four-year college or university you can get up to $3,200 annually, with a lifetime limit of $12,800 for the 15 undergraduate degree programs that qualify. Look into what qualifies as "other majors may be approved if related to an associates' current position or established career path."

If you take undergraduate courses at a two-year community college, technical program or individual course program you can get up to $1,700 annually, with a lifetime limit of $3,400.

​4. Wells Fargo

WELLS FARGO offers several scholarships to children of employees, ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 each. In addition, they offer their employees up to $5,000 in tuition reimbursement annually, for eligible tuition expenses.

5. Starbucks

STARBUCKS employees who have worked for the company for at least 3 monthsaveraged 20 hours per week at any company-operated store and don't have a bachelor’s degree yet are eligible for The Starbucks College Achievement Plan (SCAP). The plan offers all eligible U.S. employees the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University’s top-ranked online degree program. Employees with get full tuition coverage through graduation and have 80 online degree programs to choose from. Shout out to my undergraduate alma mater, ASU!

Bonus: If the employee happens to be a military member or veteran, Starbucks will offer the same SCAP benefit to a qualifying family member of their choice — aka send your child to college for free!

​6. Verizon

VERIZON offers full-time employees $13,250 a year towards a degree or certificate to help further their career with the company. If you work part-time you can get up to $8,000 a yearYour immediate family members also qualify for up to $2,500 a year, which is awesome!

7. Bank of America

BANK OF AMERICA offers employees who have been employed for six months and work a minimum of 20 hours a week up to $5,250 per calendar year for both undergraduate and graduate programs. They do have stipulations to how relevant the course is to your field. 

​8. Amazon

After a year of work Amazon’s Career Choice program will pre-pay up to 95% of your tuition and fees if you earn a degree or certificate in an in-demand occupation. This would be things like nursing, aircraft mechanics, and computer-aided design - It doesn’t even have to be Amazon related!

The classes are offered on site at Amazon to make your transition into your next job easier. 
They’ll also reimburse you for up to $12,000 of all your tuition, textbooks, and fees for up to four years. 

9. Target

Target’s tuition reimbursement program will pay up to $3,000 for undergraduate coursework$4,000 for graduate coursework, and $5,250 for MBA coursework. To be eligible you need to be employed when your course begins and when the reimbursement is processed and paid.

10. AT&T

After one year with the company, non-management employees are eligible for numerous degree programs including management, human resources, marketing, business, communications, economics and more.

AT&T will pay up to $3,500 per year for approved courses and other related expenses. Undergraduate students can receive up to $20,000 in tuition assistance in a lifetime, and those obtaining a graduate degree can receive up to $25,000 during their time with the company.

11. Smuckers

While the J.M. Smuckers career & benefits page doesn't provide exact details and requirements to how their tuition assistance program works, I read somewhere else they'll reimburse up to $5,700 a year towards tuition for company-approved courses.
The do require you to maintain a “B” or higher to get the reimbursement.

12. FedEx

Glassdoor says FedEx offers part-time employees up to $2,500 annually and full-time employees up to $5,000. FedEx’s tuition assistance program must be job related and in preparation for career advancement opportunities at FedEx. 

​13. Lowes

The tuition reimbursement program at Lowe’s is available to full-time employees who’ve worked with the company for at least one year. It'll cover a maximum of $2,500 a year towards tuition, lab fees, and books. You need to get a “C” or better to get reimbursed for coursework.

​14. CVS

According to employees on Glassdoor, CVS’s tuition reimbursement program will pay $1,500 a year for full-time employees as long as the degree is job related.

15. Chick-fil-A

As part of their Remarkable Futures scholarship program, Chick-fil-A rewards over 6,000 team members every year with their $2,500 Leadership Scholarship.  The scholarship can be applied to any area of study at any accredited university, including two- and four-year colleges, online programs, and technical or vocational schools.

​16. Best Buy

Best Buy’s tuition assistance program is for full time employees who have been working 32 hours a week for 6 months. You can be reimbursed up to $3,500 per year for approved expenses and $5,250 for graduate-level coursework.

17. Chipotle

Full-time and part-time employees at Chipotle are eligible for the educational assistance program offered through Guild Education. The program provides up to $5,250 in tuition assistance per year, or they might cover 100% depending on the degree.

​Eligible employees can work toward an Associate's and Bachelor's degree through The University of Arizona, Bellevue University, Brandman University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Wilmington University.

​18. Papa John's

In partnership with Purdue University, Papa John’s Dough for Degrees tuition reimbursement program now reimburses 100% of any corporate employee’s tuition after working 90 days at 20+ hours a week. They will cover undergraduate and graduate courses in business, business administration, and information technology.

19. Fiat Chrysler

Glassdoor says any salesperson who works at a Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram Truck, or Fiat dealership will be eligible for up to $7,000 per year for tuition and fees and up to $200 in textbooks. Children of employees are also eligible to apply for a company-sponsored scholarship.

20. Apple

Apple pays up to $5,250 a year of any employees' tuition.

​21.  Google

You can get up to $12,000 in tuition reimbursement per year, as long as you get a B or higher in all your courses from Google.

22. Walmart

After 90 days of employment, employees can enroll in online college classes through Live Better U–Guild Education program. Employees can take courses at any one of the following six participating universities: University of Florida, Brandman University, Bellevue University, Southern New Hampshire University, Purdue University Global, or Wilmington University for $1.00 a day.

Walmart's college program pays the colleges directly meaning you don't need to wait for reimbursement!

Bonus Options

Resident Assistant - These jobs can be competitive and vary depending on the college but may provide free housing or tuition.

Graduate Degrees - Companies like JetBlue, Farmers, and  Fidelity offer aid for those who are trying to get a Master's.


Listed above are some EXCELLENT options that I wish were around, or I knew about, when I was in college. I would have been able to not only earn money but also got some tuition help as well. If you combined this with looking for scholarships you will be in a good situation! 
<![CDATA[Where To Look For College Scholarships | Student Loans]]>Mon, 29 Jun 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/where-to-look-for-college-scholarships-student-loans
When it comes to paying for college my biggest regret is not trying harder to get a free in-state scholarship. My second is not going all out in trying to get other scholarships.  I applied to a couple but didn't have a lot of options and wasn't chosen.

I didn't know where to look or the best strategy to get them so I'm here to help so you don't have the same problem I did. 
1. Search Online
This is probably the most obvious way to go about looking for scholarships and I'm one step ahead of you and here is a whole post about where to look online
2. Talk to Community Organizations
There are community organizations in your area like KiwanisRotary, and Elks Club that you can reach out to see if they offer any scholarships. If you attend church check to see if they have anything. 

Lastly, find out if your community participates in Dollars for Scholars. Dollars for Scholars is a nonprofit charity that organizes local community-based scholarship organizations. Most of these scholarships are awarded by companies to their employees or their employees’ children, but some are open to the general public.
3. Visit Your Guidance Counselor Or Financial Aid Office
If you are still in High School stop by and talk to your guidance counselor or visit your college’s financial aid office. These are professionals who know grants and scholarships inside and out. They might know about local scholarships and grants that might aren't listed on larger online databases and have less competition.

Counselors are typically the first to be notified when new scholarships and grants are available. They might also offer to help guide you through the application process, proofread any essays, and help you submit every piece of required information.

4. Talk To Your Employer
If you’re an adult and want to go back to school there’s a chance your employer offers tuition reimbursement. This is actually how my brother got his Master of Business Administration (MBA). Talk to your company’s Human Resources department to learn if there is a program like this and if you’re eligible.

If there is a program make sure to get the details upfront like what courses are eligible. Some companies only offer tuition reimbursement for classes or programs directly related to your current role, while others have no limitations on eligible courses.

You'll want to figure out how they provide reimbursement also, do they pay up front, or will you have to pay first and then get reimbursed?

You can also ask your HR department if they offer any employer-sponsored scholarships for children of employees.


The most important thing about looking for scholarships is just taking action. Make sure you are looking online, talking to employers, and community organizations. Don't make the mistake I did and not look hard enough.
If you are looking for additional resources here are some books that can help!

​**This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you and allows me to keep the lights on around here. All thoughts and opinions are my own. ​​ ​​​​​​​​
<![CDATA[The 9 Best Websites To Find College Scholarships | Student Loans]]>Mon, 15 Jun 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/the-9-best-websites-to-find-college-scholarships-student-loans
If you are looking for scholarships for college the first place you'll look is the same place as anything else, online. Here are the best places to start!
1. Zinch is a resource provided by Chegg and since it's one of the newest to the scholarship game it has the most appealing platform. The service is free and has provided more than 25,000 different scholarships worth more than $1 billion. Once you create your account you can browse for scholarships that are relevant to you. They allow you to use your zip code or cumulative GPA in high school to find scholarships that are a fit and let you review deadlines and submission requirements. 

2. CollegeScholarships.org allows you to search through over 23,000 scholarships and grants by specific categories that you may qualify for.

3. Scholarships.com has more than 3.7 million scholarships with a total value of more than $19 billion in their database. The site is free and easy to use and once you've become a member you can choose which scholarships you are most interested in. They update things every few months so you can always check back! 
4. FastWeb.com is another free resource and provides access to more than 1.5 million in scholarships and a total of $3.4 billion.  You can browse scholarships based on amount, type, or requirements before submitting an entry. They also boast about not selling or distributing your personal and private information to another third-party without your permission which is nice I guess.. 

Their data bases are updated every 24 hours which means they are the most updated scholarship search engine. With your account you can receive emails whenever a new scholarship that meets your criteria is available.  

5. FinAid.org is one of the most well-known resources for information about scholarships and financial aid. They don't have a live search for scholarships like the other sites but they will provide authenticity of scholarships before submitting your personal information. They also provide insight into potential scholarship scams and tax liabilities you may face with different scholarships. 

6. College Board is one of the first educational-based organizations and today has turned into a massive database of scholarships worth more than $3 billion. New scholarships are added annually but they make updates or changes on a monthly basis. They also offer a book version if you are looking for a paper copy!
7. ScholarshipMonkey.com is a free online database where you can compare more than 4,000 scholarships and see how they've given $3 billion worth of scholarships since its launch. You'll want to opt-out of sharing your information and personal data by requesting your information be stored privately by sending a handwritten or typed letter. 

8. SallieMae is not just for loans anymore as they have become a resource for people looking to find scholarships through Scholarship Search by SallieMae. They have shared more than $18 billion worth in scholarships since they started providing resources and opportunities. The site allows you to find ideal scholarships based on your field of study, areas of interest, or the type of college or university you have in mind.

Once you become a member you'll get access to the scholarship searching tool, college-planning calculator tool, and a letter analyzer to look over what you'll be sending to colleges and universities you might go to. 

9. The U.S. Department of Labor has a free scholarship search tool that has more than 7,500 scholarships, grants, and other financial awards.

This isn't really a website but MyScholly is an app that is helpful also!


Luckily all these services are free which means if you are having to pay to search for scholarships it may be a scam or better options are out there. Applying for scholarships can be daunting and time consuming but coming from someone who thought I didn't want to spend the time I wish I had! 
<![CDATA[10 Best Ways to Avoid Student Loans | Student Loans]]>Mon, 01 Jun 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/10-best-ways-to-avoid-student-loans
The average student loan debt in America is currently $31,172 per person and takes 10-30 years to pay it off. I'm not sure how an average on years is that wide but it sounds miserable regardless.

​I was one of those people but with about triple the loans.  I ended up having over $80,000 that took me 5 years to pay off through loan forgiveness and a strict budget.

If this doesn't sound like something you want to be apart of you are in the right place because here are the best ways to avoid having student loan debt!
 1. Do Well In High School
This is pretty obvious and may not be all that helpful if you are already in college or graduated. But, many schools will give scholarships based on your grades and extracurricular activities while in high school. Do the best you can in school and you may end up getting a scholarship for academics,  music, art, theater, or sports. 

This means you'll also want to prepare for the SAT or ACT to you get the highest score possible. Heck maybe even take it a few times if that helps. Don't be like me, thinking I was too good to study and only taking it once.

This may be my biggest regret when it comes to student loans. I could have studied harder in school and easily gotten some scholarship money. I even had the option of getting a full ride to any in-state university if I excelled on a state test. I  was a few point off but didn't study or never retook it. Don't be like me, try hard in school!

2. Earn College Credit In Cheaper Ways
There are three ways to earn college credit without having to pay the hefty credit fees associated with a big university.

  1. Take Advanced Placement (AP) classes in High School
    Depending on the school you can take AP classes in subjects like chemistry, biology, foreign languages, computer science, environmental science, calculus, history, economics, psychology, English literature, art, music and more. If your high school offers AP courses, take as many as you qualify for and be sure to take the AP exam offered at the end of the year. 

    Although the rules and requirements change between colleges, many offer students course credit if you get an AP test score of 4 or higher. This means you may get to skip out on things like introductory math, science, language, or writing courses.

    Before you do all that make sure the credit will count though by checking here. 

  2. Dual Enrollment
    Some high schools allow you to take a dual enrollment class which gives you high school and college credit. I was able to do this and skipped taking an introductory English and Math class while in college. 

  3. Take College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams
    This is basically an AP/IB exam for college students. You are able to take a test for about $85 to prove that you understand and know the course material whether you've taken the class or not. Look into what your college does but in many cases, colleges charge a flat tuition amount for up to 5 or 6 classes. If you take less than that, you’ll still pay the same amount.  Check with your advisor that the credits will transfer before signing up for any tests.
3. Earn Credit At Community College
The appeal of going to a big university, or where your friends are going, is real. But you can spend one or two years at community college, earn credits, save money, and then transfer to the big school.  This will allow you to figure out what you want to do after college at a way cheaper price point. 

About 20% of my total loan debt came from my undergraduate degree and the rest came from a car loan and graduate degree. Honestly, if I could go back I think I would have still gone to the big university and applied for different scholarships or done better in high school. Community college is a good option and should be considered. 

4. Fill Out FAFSA
The  Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is just that – free. Everyone should fill out a FAFSA, even if you think your family’s income is too high for the need-based financial aid because there really is no downside. You can even apply before you make a decision on schools since that might help you choose. 
Form Your Future, which is sponsored by the National College Access Network (NCAN), said more than $24 billion in financial aid goes unclaimed every year with a large chunk being from FAFSA.  Know the deadlines because each state is different. Just fill it out every year and see what happens.

A few days or weeks after you submit your FAFSA, you'll get a student aid report (SAR). Your SAR will tell you whether you qualify for a federal grant, like the Pell Grant, or if you qualify for a work-study or another federal aid program. It doesn’t tell you the actual amount of aid you qualify for since the school determines that. Since the funding each school gets varies the sooner you file your FAFSA the faster the schools can tell you which aid you qualify for. 

Grants found through FAFSA are often based on financial need and do not have to be paid back. 

5. Find Free Money
Getting money that doesn't need to be repaid or accrue interest is the dream for any college student. Scholarships and awards can be awarded for nearly anything, and there are billions of dollars out there waiting for students to apply for it. Some options will have specific requirements while others are open to every student.

Do you like horses? Video games? Volunteering? Yup, there are scholarships for that.

There is a lot of competition out there, so you’ll really need to be resourceful and creative when applying. Focus your search on scholarships to areas you’re skilled in. Or,  you can also see if any social, volunteer, or religious groups you’re associated with have scholarships to give out.

Here are some ideas of how to get that "free" money:

  • You can start with a simple Google search,  visit your financial aid officer or your high school guidance counselor. Organizations like nonprofit volunteer clubs, religious organizations, and civic groups offer scholarships to outstanding students or students who meet their criteria. Check with your bank or credit union, your parents’ employers, and organizations dedicated to the field or industry you’re interested in studying. You don't need to have a perfect GPA, test scores or be low income to qualify for scholarships. 

Military-based funding
  • Tuition assistance: Active military members can use $4,500 per year and is a great way to start or complete a degree that doesn't take away from your GI Bill.
  •  GI Bill: This is given to military members who serve over 90 consecutive days and provides up to 36 months of         education benefits. This benefit can also be passed down to dependents.

  • If you have family members or friends that want to help support your education, you can start a campaign to raise donations. You can do that with GoFundMe and/or IndieGoGo. You'll want to see if the platform takes a percentage out of the total donations raised. Donations are typically considered a “gift” and shouldn't not taxable but check about any tax obligations.
6. Work For An Employer That Covers Tuition
They estimate that 60% of employers offer some sort of tuition reimbursement and Starbucks is a great example of this.  It’s also becoming more and more common for companies to pay back some or all of their employees’ student loans. They may also pay for you to go back and get your Master's. 

Your college might have jobs on campus where your earnings go toward paying for tuition and other fees.  Other schools may have official work-study programs which may or may not be tied to a student’s field of study.  You can also check out the federal work-study program that helps students earn money to pay for school. 

While these are great option look to make sure it is worth your time. If you make minimum wage working for the school through one of these programs but can earn more elsewhere, do that.  You can also start a side hustle and here's a bunch of great ideas

7. 529 College Savings Plan
529 plans are often run by a qualified state or university. They offer tax advantages, such as no federal tax on earnings, and in some instances, state income tax deductions. The contribution limit for a 529 plan depends on the plan you choose, but it’s usually more than the $2,000 yearly limit for a Coverdell ESA.

Money you contribute to a 529 plan is meant to be used to cover the cost of tuition and other school-related expenses, such as supplies and equipment, books, and computer software
8. Look Into Forgiveness Programs
If you have federal student loans you may qualify for a loan forgiveness program. That means you'll no longer have to pay your loans after a certain amount of time if you meet the requirements. Not every loan is eligible for forgiveness and may take years before you qualify.

Some jobs or careers offer student loan repayment or forgiveness so keep your eyes open for that. For more information about this click here

9. Accelerate Your Studies
I saved the worst idea for last. If you are enjoying college the last thing you want to do is graduate early. But, if you can stand the extra workload graduating as soon as possible is smart. You'll not only be taking out less in loans but start earning full time money faster.

You may need approval if you go crazy with the amount of credits you take but you should be able to cram in as many classes as you can handle. 

Disclaimer About Private Loans
This isn't a way to avoid student loans like the title states but is a good way to minimize it's impact.

The federal loan program allows you to 
borrow up to $5,500 from the federal direct subsidized loan program as an undergraduate and up to $20,500 from the unsubsidized direct loan program minus any subsidized amounts you receive for the same period, depending on your grade level and dependency status. For a Direct PLUS Loan, you can receive the maximum amount of the cost of college attendance, minus any other financial aid you receive. This amount is determined by the school.

Although you want to keep your borrowing low when you take out federal loans, their protection programs offers you the ability to defer payments if you lose your job or go back to school. They also have a variety of income-based repayment plans, making them preferable to private loans.

Private student loans don’t have such limits, which makes it easy to take out more than what you need. They also tend to have higher interest rates than federal loans and don’t always offer flexible repayment plans or the ability to defer your loans if you’re out of work or go back to school.

If you need to take them out it isn't the end of the world. I did for a small amount but it was also the first one I paid off since I wasn't able to defer it and had my dad as a co-signer. ​​


The general gist is to try and be smart before going to college by doing the best you can in high school. Get the best grade point average (GPA) and SAT/ACT scores you can. Try and get as many college credits as cheap as you can. While in college look for ways to earn "free" money and graduate as fast as possible. If you have the time start a side hustle. After college look for employers or programs to help with loan forgiveness

The moment I paid off my students loan was very anti-climatic as the lender didn't see it as quite the celebration I did but it was a great moment for me! 
<![CDATA[27 Questions To Ask A Potential Property Manager | Real Estate]]>Mon, 18 May 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/27-questions-to-ask-a-potential-property-manager

​A property manager is one of the most important people on your real estate investing team. The person you empowered to manage your investment. They'll help determine rent, place tenants, handle tenant issues, and make sure repairs and improvements are done. As a resource they will/should have connections to a variety of workers to help maintain your property, know agents, and possibly lenders.  They are the offensive lineman of your football team.  Doing all the grunt work with little praise.

Being a professional property manager takes a unique skill set which is why finding a good one can make or break your experience as a real estate investor.  Not everyone is cut out for it - I sure wasn't.
After 2.5 years of self managing I finally hired a property manager for my quadruplex and here are the questions I used to help find my property manager. ​​

Creating A Property Manager Short List

I started the process, as with most things, by doing a big overview of companies. I started looking at reviews online, both the positive and negative. If the negative reviews were tenants complaining about the property manager being strict on rent collection or enforcing rules that was actually a positive review for me. Because, no one will care about your property as much as you do but you want to make sure your investment is safe. 

There are horror stories of property managers that rip people off, take security deposits, charge extra for repairs so I wanted someone I trusted. I first looked to see if they were licensed with the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). This is an added certificate that made me more comfortable with their education, ethics, and continued desire for improvement. I then looked if they had any association with the real estate investing resource BiggerPockets.com.  This might let me see how they interact with people or information they know and are sharing. Not a requirement but just something I checked. 
Once I had my shortlist I started to call around. As I talked to different companies I was also trying to get a sense of their personality. I was looking for someone, or a company that could provide someone who was
  • Nice, but firm 
  • Communicative, but not aggressive
  • Detailed oriented
  • Organized
  • Calm 
  • Truthful, but doesn't overshare
  • Passionate about real estate investing

There are other things that go into being a successful manager but you get the jist. They need to be friendly enough to deal with a tenant and make them feel cared about but also able to control a situation. Finding a property manager that has all these skills will be a challenge but you want someone pushing themselves professionally towards these traits. Those are the ones that will keep your rental property occupied, meticulously maintained, and your tenants happy.

Interview Questions

Below are the questions I used in my first initial 30 - 45 minute conversation with the prospective property managers. This is something they expect as I often asked one question and got answers to three different questions. They also sent their working agreement which you should read what you are agreeing to but will also answer several questions. 
1 . What got you started in the business/ how long have you been in business? ​Do you currently invest in real estate? 
You want to make sure they’ve been in business long enough to have a track record and they plan to stick around. It doesn't hurt to see if the company owner has ever managed a rental.  If they have never managed a unit what is the chance that he or she runs a company that can help with your investment property?

​I prefer to know the
 company’s leadership is investing in the real estate market themselves. If they don’t invest in your market they may lack the understanding they need to help you excel.

2. What do you find the most challenging/rewarding part and why?
This can give you insight into what areas they may struggle or you might need to give guidance on. If they mention how they find leasing a unit the most challenging part well maybe that isn't someone you want to hire or maybe you'll just help post ads or keep them refreshed. 

3. What are the attributes of their favorite clients?
You have an idea of how involved you want to be or not. If they want someone that they can run everything by but you hired them to distance yourself from the property that may not be a good fit. Or if they want someone who lets them do their thing and you want to know every detail that wont work either. 

4. What are your favorite type of properties to manage?
You will want to get a good idea if they only manage certain areas or properties. Also, if they don't like your type of property do you think it will be a priority? I ran into a company they did not want to manage my property because it is a quadruplex. 

5. How many properties are you managing? Do you manage both short-term and long-term rentals?
Property managers may be involved with managing short-term rentals, like Airbnb and VRBO. Short-term rentals are a totally different business and require a lot of time. Make sure they have the time to focus on your long-term rentals. 

You'll want to understand their size also. Too few rental units and they may be inexperienced or lost clients due to poor service. Too many rental units and you will get lost in the shuffle. A property manager with 200 to 600 rental units is a great number!
6. What are your fees? Do you charge a flat fee or a percent of rent? Do you charge during vacancy?
They will be ready for this question and will be laid out in the agreement to work with them. Some companies will offer a flat rate (price per door) and others will offer a rate based on the rent amount. 7 to 12 percent of rent is typical, but you may be able to negotiate a lower percentage depending on the circumstances. For example, if they will be managing multiple properties for you, they may cut you a deal. Both my property managers do a price per door which can be $50 - $75 depending on the number of doors.

Some people prefer paying for a percentage of rents because they believe it will motivate your property manager to fill vacancies because they don’t get paid if you don’t have a tenant. It should also motivate them to fight for higher rents because this helps their bottom line too.

I personally have two property managers that are flat rate companies. I have not felt a lack of urgency on filling units because 'they will get the same pay no matter what'. I also haven't felt they try to make up for their low prices with other charges. I feel I tried to research the companies to understand their ethics and fundamentals from the beginning and if I ever started to question that I would begin to look elsewhere.

7. How long does it take you to turn a property around in between tenants? Will you advertise and show a property while it is occupied? 
If you are nervous about how motivated they will be to fill you vacancy this will help to see how fast they are. After the property is ready it should take 2-4 weeks. Any longer than this suggests the property manager is struggling to find tenants, any shorter than this suggests that your asking rent amount is too low and you might be leaving money on the table. Either of these scenarios is bad for you and your rental property.

From my experience it is easier to show a vacant unit from tenant coordination to general aesthetics of not seeing someone else stuff. 

8. What is your philosophy on getting properties rented? Do you try to get top dollar and raise rents aggressively or do you prefer more of a value play?
The rent amount is ultimately the owner’s decision, but if your property is outside of your local area, you will most likely rely on your property manager to know the market. It is beneficial if you and your property manager have similar philosophies on tenant selection and where to set the rental amount.

9. How do they determine rent amount? ​​
They should be able to complete a comparable market analysis of all the other available listings near your property. They should use properties that just went off the market and properties that are currently on the market to determine the highest possible rent. They should also factor in the unique aspects of your rental property, like a pool or a new kitchen. 

You can/should look up this information to have an idea and rentometer.com is a great way to do that. 

10. How do you list a property? 
Your property manager should be advertising properties through a variety of channels. If they are still just placing Craigslist ads and hoping for the best then you should steer clear.
11. What are your income and screening requirements for applicants? Do you look at credit and criminal background checks on prospective tenants?
If they don’t set a standard then how can they be sure this tenant will make rent? It should go without saying that a tenant needs to have enough income to pay the rent. Background, criminal, and eviction history are super easy to check these days and is a must. My property managers allow me to see things like credit score, income, criminal before making a decision. 

12. W
hat control do I have over the tenant lease agreement? 
Your property manager should give you some input into the lease agreement if there are one or two issues that are important to you. However, if you are putting in lots of additions, you should have just written it yourself. Make sure your prospective property manager is confident in the leases that they have written for tenants by asking this question. I checked on being able to switch between pet deposit vs. pet rent.

13. Do you have electronic and automated systems set up? How do you collect rent from tenants? 
These days, property managers should have client portals and electronic payment systems set up for convenience and record keeping. For example, is there an online portal where you can go to generate reports and see property accounts in real time (instead of waiting weeks for a monthly report)?

If your property manager isn’t having your tenants pay online that is a red flag for two reasons. One, it slows down the speed at which you can get paid. Two, it makes it easier for tenants to miss paying the rent. If payments are online, tenants can automate their payment and these two problems are avoided.

14. Do you offer direct deposit for your owners?  
Your property manager should be able to deposit your check in your account. This saves you time and effort, which is the whole reason you hired them.

15. Do you take photos of the property before and after move in and out? How often do you check in on tenants and properties? Do you do an annual walk-through?
They should take pictures as it easy to do and is critical should any disputes arise. A good property manager will also check in with the tenants even if they haven’t heard from them. Some tenants won’t report needed repairs, leaks, or damages for fear of being labeled responsible. It is important to have the units looked at so you don't get a surprise when the tenant moves out. ​

Your property is at risk if your property manager doesn’t conduct inspections. This could require a small fee and it will be one of the best investments you can make. It ensures you catch problems before they spiral out of control. They may also say they will ask handymen to report back but they should be doing an annual check up as well.
16. Who keeps the damage deposits?
Most people will tell you not to let the property managers hold on it. Even though most people are honest and trustworthy, there are horror stories of property managers stealing the tenant damage deposits. 

17. What do you charge for evictions? Do you offer eviction warranty? 
Hopefully this never comes up, but it is better to know upfront than to be surprised if an eviction is necessary.

Some companies offer an eviction warranty. It is only a small fee, but it will give you major coverage should you need to evict a tenant. My property manager offered this for $150 a year per unit, so like $12 a month. 

18. Do you offer a tenant placement guarantee?
If the tenant is evicted or moves out before the lease is up, will the property manager find a new tenant for free?

19. Under what conditions can I cancel my management contract?
Never get locked into a contract you can’t get out of. If they are trying to hold you hostage with a contract how good do you think their service is? 

20. Do I have to sell my property with you if I want to list it? 
Some property managers will ask you to sign a contract that forces you to sell the property with them. This just seems like a sketchy move to me and caught it in one of the agreements that was sent to me. They should offer the service but not require it. 

​21. How often will I get updates on my portfolio?
You should be able to come to an agreement that you feel comfortable about your property. This is your business and you should be able to get updates as you want. 

22. Do you have references?
Ask for both current and former clients, and actually call them. You may not have the same experience as them but will still be helpful. ​​
Questions to Ask About Repairs
23. How do you handle tenant calls for repairs? Do you try to solve the problem before sending out a repair person?
I’ve found that often the problem can be handled by asking a few questions and the tenant doing a few easy tasks. This can end up saving a lot on unnecessary repair expenses. Like, if there is no power just push the GFCI outlet or if the dryer is broken clean the lint trap, both real situations I dealt with. 

You should ask your property manager to send over a
 picture of the damage, how they believe it happened, how they discovered it,  and an email for who should pay for pay it  and why and what in lease or landlord case law justifies it?

24. Do you establish a threshold dollar amount on repairs above which you always call the owner? If so, what is that dollar amount?
This is common and typically will be anything from $200 to $400. This why  they can go ahead and get things taken care of without reaching out. They should have a portal where you can log in to see what happened if you have any further questions. 

25. Do you mark-up maintenance and repairs?
You need to make sure that a prospective property management company doesn’t make a profit any time they do maintenance. If they are willing to charge you for maintenance then your profits could greatly diminish.

Who do you use for repairs? Electrical, plumbing, appliances?
Do they have a handyman that they use for most repairs or do they use outside vendors? If they have a skilled handyman you may get quality work for less.

What is your philosophy on repairs and replacement?
Do they try to find the least expensive solution since this is a rental, or do they prefer a value solution so the repair or replacement will last? Different owners and property managers have different approaches. You want to find a property manager that shares your same philosophy. 


This seems like a lot to ask, and it is, but that is the point. This is your business and investment and you want to make sure it is taken care of. These questions should provide you with a clear indication on whether you and your prospective property manager are on the same page and will be a good fit.

Hopefully this helps and happy property manager hunting! If you have any questions you think are also important let me know.
<![CDATA[Why I Finally Hired A Property Manager | My Ramblings]]>Mon, 04 May 2020 07:00:00 GMThttp://fiwiththetravelguy.com/all-finance-posts/why-i-finally-hired-a-property-manager-my-ramblings
In every real estate investors journey there comes a time where you consider transitioning from self managing your units to hiring a property manager.

​After 2.5 years I finally hit that point and here is why..
In the start of any business you'll need to bootstrap things. You'll want to save money whenever possible to reinvest back into the company. This gives you the best chance at long term success and growth. Side note - if you have real estate properties, or want to, it is important to treat it as a business. ​​
Bootstrapping has always been natural for me so when I bought my first deala four unit house hack , that's what I did. I was the property manager, landscaper, and handy man. Of course this was in addition to my real job, contracting out to hospitals for additional moneytraveling and simply living my life.

My plan was to systematically go through each unit and rehab it to force appreciation and minimize future expenses. Once everything was fixed up the "managing" part would be easy. What could they possibly have an issue with?! In 2 years I had replaced 3 floors, 3 AC units, painted 3 units, replace 3 counter tops,  and 1 set of kitchen cabinets. Things were about to get easy!
My first deal.
Wrong! Having 4 units I felt someone was always moving out which meant I needed to rehab a unit, lease a unit, or call someone to repair something. Since I know how important it is to keep my tenants happy this was often my main concern. This took priority over my real job as a speech language pathologist which is how I keep the lights on around here.  The moment of ease never seemed to come and I was tired of waiting for that magical day. 

The longer I self managed the more it weighed on me. It was the little things like being on a date and having to take a 10 minute call about a plumbing issue or driving 20 minutes there and back to flick a breaker switch. It wasn't one thing, just an accumulation of small rocks in my shoe that annoyed me.

When I came back from a month long trip to Asia in late July of 2019 I thought I would hire a property manager. I was closing on deal 3 on August 1st (Yes, I did 90% of my closing procedures out of the country) which meant I'd have another renter and extra income to pay a property manager. I started researching companies but chickened out. 

I was okay with the delayed gratification of hiring a property manager, I'm in the bootstrapping phase. Plus, 
I heard property managers charge 10% of total rent and want one month's rent for each lease they get signed. If they took 10% of rents I'd be paying them $5,000 a year PLUS the leasing fees of one months rent. That could end up being like $9,000 a year. That kind of money was for sure still worth my time!

So what happened? What made me change my mind?

The longer I self managed the heavier it felt to me. I had moved off the property so anytime I went down there it was a 20 minute drive each way. I didn't like dealing with the tenants, doing the yard work, showing a unit, or making phone calls during my work day to repair companies. I also had two tenants leave in the middle of a month to month lease, one in November 2019 and the other February 2020.

Of course they left the units in terrible condition and without paying rent.
I was fine with the tenants leaving but not with how they left it. I would have liked to take them to small claims court but didn't know the process or the first step. If want you information on what to do when a tenant breaks a lease I have some here or how to collect when their deposit doesn't cover the repairs.

When the second unit was left I needed to do a complete rehab. I 
choose the contractor that was half the cost but required I provide the materials. That was fine since I needed to spend money to get my Southwest Airlines Companion Pass but this meant I was leaving work to pick up and haul around toilets, tile, thinset, and more.  If you want to see a before and after video it's here. 

Things were slowly building up and then it happened. A tenant of mine locked herself out and I had to drive 20 minutes to unlock her door and drive back. As I was driving there it finally hit me that my hour of time was worth more to me.

I finally reached out to see what it would cost or if I liked any of the companies I researched last year. I was prepared to negotiate their 10% management fee to 7.5% since I had 4 units. But there was no need!  They offered to manage it at $50 a door which is 5% of my total monthly rental income. The leasing fee, depending on the unit, was either going to be around 50% or 33% of the first months rental income. It was waaayyy cheaper than I thought.  This was something I could get on board with, but, I'm a bootstrapper - I still debated whether to do it. 
The more I thought about it when I was contracting in the hospitals I was lucky enough to be able to make $49 an hour. Someone put an hourly rate on my time and that was it. Hiring a property manager for $50 a door made the math simple.  I knew I spent close to, or more than, 4 hours a month dealing with issues. IT WAS TIME! 

Hidden reason for wanting to hire a property manager -  The past two years were the first time I owed when it was tax time. I'm hoping this will increase my expenses which will reduce my taxable income. Not managing the property while hopefully paying less in taxes and still benefitting from appreciation, depreciation write offs, and loan pay down.  That all sounds good to me! Obviously, consult a tax expert. 


In the end I was glad I started out as a property manager. It allowed me to bootstrap the start of my real estate investing career which I needed. I also thought it was a great experience and when it came time to interview a property manager I knew what to ask or what I wanted out of a company. 

I finally hit the point that my time was worth more to me than the cost per door. Self managing began to bleed into other parts of my life like my full time job, personal life, travel, or even fixing up my primary residenceI also had other things I wanted to focus more time on like this blog.

​It was time to work on my business and not in it!