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4 Crucial Financial Lessons College Isn’t Teaching Millennials

4 Crucial Financial Lessons College Isn’t Teaching Millennials

Out of all the reasons that people go to college it seems that two tend to top the list: the love and pursuit of knowledge and a means of upward financial mobility. For institutions so concerned with knowledge and money, you’d think that most graduating students would know all there is to know about their own personal finances, venturing into the world well-equipped to become productive members of society, and get a solid grasp on this “adulting” business. Unfortunately, the numbers don’t seem to reflect as much.

As it sits only 17 states currently require students to take a course in personal finance sometime in K-12 and according to one study, 43 percent of students couldn’t name one difference between a credit and a debit card. With how important tax returns, credit scores, and all other sorts of financial data are to the average adult’s fiscal life, it seems absurd that so many come out of college knowing so little about them. Whether you’re intent on amassing a small fortune or content with living simply and frugally, there are certain financial lessons you shouldn’t leave college without knowing.

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1. No Matter What, You Have to Pay Your Taxes

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    For some people, the fact that you have to pay taxes is a no-brainer–personally, I’ve had to fill out tax returns since I was about 16 years old. However, many of the people I went to college with–particularly athletes and high-performing academics who’d never had the time to hold a job throughout either high school or university–hadn’t the slightest clue about 1040s or 1099s or any of the other tax forms that income-generating Americans should.

    The good news is this: taxes usually aren’t as complicated as people make them out to be. They can be, but at the end of the year, the average citizen will be filling out a 1040EZ which has line-by-line instructions (in fact most tax forms come with a set of instructions). Difficult or not, taxes are time consuming. The Motley Fool estimates that it takes 5 hours for the average 1040EZ filer, so make sure you set that time aside and get it done. Owing the government money is never a good thing. Another reason that tax awareness is as important today as it ever was is that more graduates are going into business for themselves, either as business owners or as part of the gig economy. Without knowledge of the tax code, how do you avoid running afoul of it and owing the government money? Unfortunately, not knowing the rules doesn’t make you exempt from them, so brush up on your tax knowledge. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be.

    2. Your Credit Score is Probably More Important than You Realize

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      From car loans to home loans, finances are a huge part of everybody’s lives

      Credit scores were invented shortly after the Civil War to indicate how trustworthy a person is in terms of paying back debt, and everybody–unless they’ve never opened a bank account, applied for a loan, or owned a credit card–has one. Your credit score is going to range anywhere from 300 to 850, and the lower the number is, the less likely that somebody will trust you with their money. The higher your credit score, the better chance you’ll get a good deal on your mortgage, car loan, and basically any other major life purchase you might be thinking about. On the other hand, if your credit score is too low, you may be flat-out denied a loan.

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      A better credit score means you have more buying power, but more importantly that you’ll have to pay less interest on those big life-purchases (more on that in a moment). The weird thing here is that you have to use credit to build credit–a slippery slope if I ever saw one myself–and it’s easy to get carried away with all of that unchecked power. It’s good to keep in mind that you’ll build credit quicker by managing your debt more strictly; keeping your credit balance below 30 percent of your credit limit is recommended for building credit. It’s all about balance!

      3. Debt Compounds Quickly–So Pay It Off Just as Quickly

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        You wouldn’t just hand over money would? Only paying the your minimum amount on your installments can cost you big in the long run.

        This is one of those things that I wish I would have realized sooner. Due to rising costs of tuition ($19,548 per year on average for in-state tuition including room and board), many students are taking on massive amounts of debt with the hope that they’ll land a good enough job to pay it all off later. Unfortunately, many of these students take on that debt without fully realizing how debt and interest actually work. Whether it’s credit cards, student loans, or your car payments, it’s almost always worth it to pay off your principle sooner rather than later. Here’s a quick example to illustrate what I mean:

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        Let’s say your loan balance is $40,000 at last year’s current average interest rate of 4.29%. You’d have to pay at least $410.52 a month consistently to pay your loan off in 10 years, and you’d still be paying $9,261 extra in interest–meaning your $40,000 worth of debt is closer to $50,000 when it’s all said and done. If you commit to paying off an extra $100 a month, you’ll save approximately $2,200 overall and pay off the loan in 7.8 years. Bump that up to an extra $200 a month and you’re looking at being debt-free in 6.3 years and saving approximately $3,600 on interest charges. It’s worth noting that certain loans, specifically mortgages, may have penalties associated with paying them off early–however, the overarching lesson is this: if you can pay it off early, do it! You’ll thank yourself later on. Seriously.

        4. It’s Never Too Early to Save for Later

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          Sometimes money is too easy to spend–keep that wallet shut and save!

          Of course, the reason that we take so long to pay off our student loans and other debts is that we’re a culture focused on living in the now. We’re not great at recognizing our future needs over our current needs, and add to that economic strains and pressures and you see why young folks like Millennials put off saving for retirement, let alone drawing up a will or living trust. Beyond taxes and debt, this is probably going to be the least of most students’ concerns–but if there’s anything I’ve learned personally from paying off debt, it’s that it’s easy to underestimate how appreciative your future self will be for the actions of your past self. Any amount put away is better than nothing and will make your later years that much more comfortable.

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          Of course, there are more obscure things that college students might want to know about finances, and this list is by no means definitive–but the lack of rhetoric in high school and university concerning the financial aspects of everyday life is somewhat concerning. At least here you’ve learned the basics, and can take fiscal agency over your own life.

          Featured photo credit: Pixabay via pixabay.com

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          More by this author

          Andrew Heikkila

          Owner-Operator of Earthlings Entertainmnet

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          Last Updated on April 19, 2021

          40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

          40 Healthy And Really Delicious Meals You Can Make Under $5

          Ever had those moments where you really wanted to eat something delicious and healthy but didn’t have the financials means to do so? Whether you’re a student or parent, this compilation of 40 great, healthy, and inexpensive recipes will make every night special and help you get fit! No more meals where you have to force the food down! It’s time to make that budget your best friend and turn it into great recipes. Enjoy!

          1. Fish Tacos in Crunchy Shells ($3.56 per serving)

          Is there a better way to end the day than a Fish Taco dinner filled with protein and nutrients and is easy on the wallet? This recipe calls for a boys’ or girls’ night in front of a good movie or game.

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            2. Mini-Meatball Noodle Soup ($3.43 per serving)

            We’ve heard of the delicious spaghetti and meatballs recipes, but imagine having that same meatball goodness in a soup? It’s like Christmas in a bowl. Healthy, warm, and only $3.43 per serving.

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              3. Spaghetti and (Vegan) Meatballs ($2.13 per serving)

              Now it’s time to look at the traditional spaghetti and meatballs recipe, but with a little twist: vegan meatballs. This way, you can enjoy the Italian tradition without adding on the extra calories. I’m sold!

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                4. Kabocha Squash and Lentils ($3.12 per serving)

                Absolutely delicious way to end the day with a Kabocha Squash and lentils dinner. The beauty of this recipe is that you can actually make many other things from the mixture, from dips to full-on meals. All under $5 per serving.

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                  5. Baked Coconut Lentils ($0.91 per serving)

                  Coconuts are always a good idea, but it doesn’t have to be eaten only for dessert or breakfast. With this great recipe, you can now eat a lunch or dinner filled proteins and a coconut twist. Yum!

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                    6. Easy Marinated Roasted Chicken ($3.40 per serving)

                    We love chicken and at less than $5 per serving, we are in heaven with this recipe. Add some vegetables and rice on the side and you’ve got yourself a full meal!

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                      7. Organic Greens and Goat Cheese Gratin ($2.36 per serving)

                      This is absolutely divine. You get in your healthy greens and your fat macros with this great recipe. Takes only a few minutes to make and it’s easy on the wallet. Bon Appetite!

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                        8. Beef Pot Roast ($3.22 per serving)

                        One word: perfect. This meal will warm your insides and fill you up with the high protein content.

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                          9. Fajita-Style Quesadillas ($0.43 per serving)

                          If you want to eat Mexican tonight but want to stay in your budget, this Quesadilla recipe is your best friend. It’s tasty and filled with healthy ingredients for less than a dollar per serving.

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                            10. Fish Tostadas with Chili Lime Cream ($2.82 per serving)

                            Another great lunch idea for the busy days ahead. Prep this in the morning or the night before and you’ve got yourself a healthy and cheap lunch meal!

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                              11. Beef and Black Bean Chili ($1.36 per serving)

                              Might not look like much, but this amazing chili is actually extremely healthy for you. The protein from the beef and the carbs from the black beans will fill you up in no time, and keep you full for a long period of time. Delicious and warm, just right for the winter!

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                                12. Crispy Fish and Peppers ($2.18 per serving)

                                Amazing recipe for anyone looking to change up their meals while keeping their macros in check and not going overboard on spending. Satisfies your crunch tooth (see what I did there?) and gives you all the protein you need to stay full and lean.

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                                  13. Vegetarian Gumbo ($1.50 per serving)

                                  You have the perfect macro mix here with the carbs, fats, and proteins. At less than $5 per serving, you’ve got yourself a meal that will last for the whole week!

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                                    14. Mexican White Bean Soup ($0.99 per serving)

                                    With the cold weather creeping in, it’s not a surprise that soups are coming back in style. This great Mexican White Bean Soup dish will keep you warm for winter without making a hole in your pocket.

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                                      15. Black Beans with Mango & Cilantro ($0.38 per serving)

                                      Mangoes make every dish a little bit sweeter, which is why we absolutely love this recipe. A normal rice and bean dish might be a little meh, but add the sugary taste of mangoes and you’ve got yourself a party!

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                                      Black-Bean-Cilantro-Mango

                                        16. Bean Burritos ($0.71 per serving)

                                        If you’re having people over tonight and don’t want to spend too much time or money on food, this dish is a great option! You can even cut up the burritos into pieces and make finger foods while everyone’s watching the game or gossiping.

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                                          17. Five-Spice Beef Kabobs ($2.43 per serving)

                                          The spices in this recipes add a delicious twist to the beef kabobs, which is definitely worth trying!

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                                            18. Cornmeal Crusted Pork ($1.92 per serving)

                                            If you like the fried crunch but want to opt for a healthier alternative, cornmeal is your man. This healthy recipe will satisfy all your fried desires without making you pop open your pant’s button.

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                                              19. Chicken, Tomato & Cucumber Dinner Salad ($2.57 per serving)

                                              Easy to do, extremely healthy, and super delicious. A must-try!

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                                                20. Lentil Soup with Beef and Red Pepper ($1.90 per serving)

                                                I can’t believe how cheap this meal is, especially for all the nutrients it contains. You can make a big pot on Sunday night and divide it into small portions to last you a whole week.

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                                                  21. Smoky Mushroom Stroganoff ($1.90 per serving)

                                                  Craving pasta but not sure what to top it off with? How about smoky mushrooms with a twist?

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                                                    22. White Bean Tuna Salad ($1.36 per serving)

                                                    You can add this White Bean Tuna Salad in your sandwich or just eat it as-is for a quick lunch on a busy day.

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                                                      23. Sausage Eggwiches ($0.80 per serving)

                                                      Who says you have to eat fast food to get an eggwich? This delicious recipe will give you an amazingly healthy eggwich for less than a dollar per portion. Can you say Breakfast?

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                                                      Sausage-Eggwiches

                                                        24. Baja-Cali Black Bean Salad ($1.17 per serving)

                                                        Great snack to add to a movie-night with friends. You don’t have to use chemically-processed salsas anymore, you can now use this homemade salad for your chip dips.

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                                                          25. Gnocchi, Sweet Corn & Arugula in Cream Sauce ($2.24 per serving)

                                                          Italians always knew how to make carbs look good! This delicious Gnocchi recipe will give your lunch a whole new meaning. Easy to make and only $2.24 per serving.

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                                                            26. Vegetable Lasagna ($1.73 per serving)

                                                            If you were looking for a healthy lasagna, you’ve just found it. At under $5 per serving, you can fill yourself up right away without putting on the extra calories.

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                                                              27. Fajita-Ranch Chicken Wraps ($2.05 per serving)

                                                              Don’t know what to make for lunch this week? How about delicious chicken wraps with a healthy ranch? This recipe will make all your lunches, even the quick ones, healthy and colorful.

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                                                                28. Quinoa with Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($1.24 per serving)

                                                                A dish that has quinoa and brussel sprouts can’t be unhealthy, it just can’t, which is why this dish is one to keep in the books. Easy to make, healthy, and will keep you full for a long period of time.

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                                                                  29. Butternut Squash Chili ($1.04 per serving)

                                                                  You don’t need meat to make chili now that you have this recipe! It’s 100% healthy, filling, and smells absolutely delicious.

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                                                                    30. Fast Shrimp Bisque ($2.03 per serving)

                                                                    Seafood doesn’t have to be expensive if you know how to do it right, and this fast shrimp bisque is a great recipe to try if you’re in the mood for some seafood!

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                                                                      31. Chicken-Noodle Casserole ($0.98 per serving)

                                                                      Looks divine doesn’t it? This super easy to make dish will satisfy all your taste buds without burning a hole in your wallet or adding a few extra numbers on the scale.

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                                                                        32. Burrito Cups ($1.18 per serving)

                                                                        Entertaining someone tonight and don’t know what to make as appetizers? These burrito cups are a great alternative to chips or other greasy finger foods. All you need to enjoy it is a spoon and a cup.

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                                                                          33. Lemon-Dill Shrimp & Pasta ($2.45 per serving)

                                                                          Another impressive shrimp recipe under $5 per serving. The lemon-dill twist adds a great taste to the dish.

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                                                                            34. Potato Frittata ($0.87 per serving)

                                                                            If you want to eat potatoes for breakfast but still want it to be healthy, this is the recipe for you. At under a dollar per serving, this potato frittata will make you see potatoes in a whole new light.

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                                                                              35. Grilled Pork and Pineapple ($2.67 per serving)

                                                                              Meat and fruits? Oh, yes. The juiciness of the pork mixed with the liquid sugar in the pineapple will make you wish you knew about it sooner.

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                                                                                36. Greek Honey-Lemon Pork Chops ($2.15 per serving)

                                                                                Another splendid recipe mixing sweet and salty for a healthy meal. Easy to make and absolutely mouthwatering.

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                                                                                  37. Jamaican Pork Stir-Fry ($2 per serving)

                                                                                  You can add this healthy stir-fry to any dish as a side or amply enjoy it as-is for lunch or dinner. You can even make a wrap sandwich out of it if you’re in a rush to eat.

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                                                                                    38. Herbed Salmon ($2.49 per serving)

                                                                                    Salmon contains a healthy dose of fats that will boost your metabolism, lower inflammation, and make you happier. At under $5 per serving, need I say more?

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                                                                                      39. Five-Spice Pork Kabobs ($1.96 per serving)

                                                                                      Exquisite recipe under $5 per serving that will most definitely awe everyone at your dinner party.

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                                                                                        40. Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Mango-Black Bean Salsa ($1.24 per serving)

                                                                                        You don’t have to eat sweet potatoes alone anymore with this flavorful recipe.

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                                                                                          Featured photo credit: Featured Photo Credit: 5 Dollar Dinners via 5dollardinners.com

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