Topics We’re Talking About: Money and Happiness

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I’ll start out with the usual call for a happy, happy Friday, but this week it’s even more pertinent. That’s because the topic on the agenda for this week’s topic is… happiness! Of course, we threw in a little money talk and rounded up articles specifically addressing the connection (or lack thereof) between money and happiness.

There’s the old adage that money doesn’t buy happiness. But then, of course, there’s the research that says that maybe it does – up to a certain point. Ultimately, happiness is a compilation of all sorts of stuff, combined to result in overall contentment with your current position in life (along with plenty of smiles). Yes, money sometimes plays into it – but it doesn’t have to. Here are some great reads that take a look at just where money falls into the combo:

Where is Your Tax Return Going This Year?

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Tax time is a funny time of year. I often spend the weeks leading up to April 15th dreading the task ahead. The day I have my taxes done, the dread turns into fear – will I owe anything? Am I about to go broke in five minutes? Then, if I find out I’m actually getting a return, trepidation turns into excitement: what am I going to do with my newfound chunk of change??

This emotional tug of war I play every year is admittedly an unhealthy approach to both taxes and personal finance in general. Being in control of your money means being prepared for the unexpected and even having ideas in mind if you come into a windfall. However, I don’t think I’m alone in this approach. In fact, recent articles in NPR and USA Today highlight the problem with our relationship with our tax returns specifically.

4 Student Loan Mistakes that Make Interest Rates Soar

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This guest post comes from our friends over at SoFi, an innovative marketplace that connects alumni borrowers and investors for refinancing private and federal student loans.[1]

If you’ve borrowed student loans to invest in your education, you know that paying interest on those loans is simply part of the deal. But while “interest” can seem like an abstract notion when you first take out loans, over time it becomes a force to be reckoned with – particularly for the many MBA, law, and med school grads with six figures worth of education debt to repay.

For example, a borrower with $100,000 in student loan principal at a 6.8% weighted average interest rate and a 10-year term will pay about $38,000 in interest over the life of the loan. And that’s if they make every payment on time.

Paying interest on student loans may be unavoidable, but there are a few common mistakes that cause some borrowers to pay more interest than they need to. Read on to find out how to prevent these blunders from affecting your bottom line.

7 Money Skills Your Kids Have But You Don’t

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The author of this post is Charles Tran

Parents are teachers without lesson plans and chalkboards. We school our children in the way of the world from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment we kiss them goodnight. Our days are filled with showing them lessons in responsibility – tie your shoes, don’t forget your homework, eat healthy.

What To Do When Your Financial Ideas Burn Out

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Every so often we face a mental impasse that seems impossible to overcome. You’re chugging along just fine and all of a sudden your brain decides, “Optimism, thou shall not pass.” It’s a quick, hard brake on momentum and it can be incredibly frustrating.

So what happens when you run out of steam for your financial goals? It’s rough, to say the least. With burnout comes exhaustion and frustration and (more than) a little guilt. But it’s also an expected part of the cycle of any long-term goal or routine and you should be confident in knowing that you’ll overcome the challenge.

Here’s how to re-energize when you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope:

Invitation For Debt: How Financial Aid Letters Are Tricking Prospective Students

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There are two things in life that can send me into an instant tailspin of anxiety: taxes and filling out the FAFSA. Although I’m not a numbers person, I’ve always been able to write a budget and even calculate retirement savings. But something about the unfamiliar terminology and complex structure of tax and FAFSA forms shuts my brain down.

Luckily, I got through the FAFSA unscathed, but that’s not the case for everyone. And recent reports show that it might be harder than ever thanks to one more confusing element: the college aid letter.

The Heartbleed Bug and How to Protect Your Financial Data

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Last week, on Monday, April 7th, a major vulnerability in internet security was made public: the Heartbleed bug. Due to a programming error in a widely used encryption software, a vulnerability opened up that could have been exploited by hackers. While there is no concrete evidence for data theft yet, it is possible that credit card and social security numbers, confidential business documents and private emails have been compromised.

Using Optimism and Forward-Thinking to Get Past Financial Hurdles

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Financial setbacks can feel devastating. They impact our lives in so many ways, and it doesn’t feel good. However, no matter what happened, you can move on to take control over your financial life. You can do this with both psychological and practical ways. Here’s how:

Be Kind to Yourself

No matter what may have happened in your previous financial life, forgive yourself. Maybe you blew your budget, had multiple medical emergencies, became unemployed, or underwent a bankruptcy or foreclosure. These are all hard problems, but if you keep beating yourself over it, then it’ll be harder for you to move on as well.

It’s not to say that you shouldn’t let yourself mourn. Financial emergencies often come about through loss. No matter what, you are not a failure.

You are not your financial life.

You are much, much more.

Forgive yourself no matter what happened. Do it over and over again. It’s not an easy process, but it’ll help you in the long run to put your demons at rest.

Checking In With The Debt Destroyers!

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It’s that time again! We’re checking in with our Debt Destroyers to see what challenges they faced and what inspiring steps they’ve made towards their financial goals.

It’s hard to believe that we’re already 4 months into 2014! And as usually becomes obvious with any progression of time, it’s either full speed ahead with our financial goals or running out of speed. But as the Debt Destroyers’ progress updates always show, acknowledging awesome wins is a great way to keep on movin’ steady towards any goal!

Let’s check-in:

Topics We’re Talking About: Housing Is Expensive. Like, Really Expensive.

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I live in Oakland, which is just outside of one of the most expensive cities in the US (and the world): San Francisco. A notoriously pricey place, the rent in San Francisco has continued to skyrocket over the past decade. I don’t even live in the city center and I still feel the heat of rising rental costs. And while the Bay Area is smack in the middle of record high housing costs, it’s not an uncommon trend!

Since rental costs and mortgages are something that we have to live (ha) with, they inevitably become an essential piece of the budget. So how to balance your housing costs with the rest of your needs? As with most things, through planning and compromise.

Here are a few of our favorite posts from the week to get you started!