Moving to ATL Won’t Solve All Life’s Problems

A good friend of mine, Robert, tipped me to a great tweet from this weekend that really spoke to me. From @akidnamedspiffy it reads “Why do black people think moving to Atlanta will solve all their problems?”

Can we get an “amen” up in the house tonight?! I’ve never understood the obsession with Atlanta.  The only reason Atlanta is of any worth is because millennials and X-geners, like myself, have obsessed about the city and the overgrown suburbs for nearly 20 years.  Life imitated hype.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate Atlanta.  I just think we should be realistic with ourselves and understand that cities like Birmingham, Augusta, Memphis, etc could be world-class if all of our best talented young people didn’t lustfully flock towards Atlanta.

What do you think?  Am I being too cruel?

Stay Away from ATL

 

4 Types of Spouses That Will Ruin Your Finances

It is probably no secret that selecting a spouse is a serious decision.  The wrong spouse can be a nightmare for years to come.  Our personal finances are not immune to the negative effects of a poor spousal decision.  Below are just a few personality types that we might want to avoid if we ever want to get outside the habit of living paycheck-to-paycheck.

Guy Who Drives HER Car Around While She’s at Work

He is every parent’s worst nightmare; however, he seems like a dream to his unlucky lover.  He almost never has a job, but he supposedly makes up for that by dropping his lady off at work and picking her back up at the end of her shift.

He gets extra points for triflingness if he sits in her employer’s parking lot all day until she gets off work.

Guy Who Lacks Awareness of His Economic Potential

He’s actually a half-decent guy, but he never quite realizes that he could make double or triple his income by simply applying himself more often.  He always settles for “good enough” even if he is barely making ends meet.  And if he has a big income already, he has no savings to show for it.  He might make a great friend, but he makes a horrible husband.

Girl Whose Favorite Phrase is “But It’s on Sale!”

Watch out for her.   She makes every purchase seem like an innocent ordeal, but in reality she has a hyper-consumerism problem.  She couldn’t hold water if she were a kettle.  Again, stay away from her.

She may one day learn from her errors, but it will be after she files bankruptcy for the 2nd time.

Girl Who Always Chats About What Her Friends Just Bought

While she will make it sound like idle chatter, it’s not.  Her words are really a warning sign that she will forever be jealous of her family and friends.  No amount of shopping trips and car purchases will ever quench her thirst.  She will never be happy because someone will always have something better than she has.

Follow Ben on Twitter at @Ben_Baxter.

Sits in Car

How to Get 157 FREE Chick-Fil-A Sandwiches per Year

The average American throws away between $28 and $43 in the form of food waste each month.  While that may not seem like much, it adds up over a yearly timeframe.  Using 40 dollars as a reference point, we end up unnecessarily chunking $480 into the trash every year.  Surely, we can find other ways to use that money more effectively.   Please see the following:

An Extra $480 per Year Could Buy…

What some other things could you buy with an extra $480 per year?

Chick-Fil-A

Is Mortgaging Really Better Than Renting?

On the long-term, yes, getting a mortgage is better than renting. However, most people who say “renting is just like throwing away money” are never thinking long-term. They are thinking short-term, and renting is the far better option short-term. There are several reasons, but here are the main few:

(1) Rent Cost is Cheaper than House Cost

For a temporary amount of time, it is significantly cheaper to rent and save up for a down payment than to jump into a mortgage. Don’t just look at the monthly mortgage payment compared to the monthly rent payment. Dig a little deeper.

From personal experience, it would take about 3 years and 6 months in our previous apartment to equal the amount of money we have spent in the 2 years that we have been in our current home.

Those numbers may seem anecdotal, but they are a reality. See chart below.  Then continue reading.

Rent vs House

(2) Renting Increases Ability Rid Consumer Debt

This should seem obvious. Since we have more disposable income, we are able to dump our consumer debt a lot more quickly. If you can imagine, it is liking doing yard work with a 150 pound mortgage fanny pack around your waist.

(3) Rentals are Easier to Clean

Most people who rent live in an apartment. Apartments are typically smaller than houses. Apartments also tend to have appliances, counter tops, flooring, and walls that make dirt and trash easier to see. Sure, we may have more admiration for our homes, but apartments are just slap-out easier to clean. So if cleanliness is an issue for you, hold off on buying a house until you work that issue out.

(4) There is Less Stress with Rentals

What happens when a water heater breaks at your apartment? You call a maintenance guy to replace or fix it for free. What happens when a water heater breaks at your home? You panic because you don’t have an emergency fund in place to cover repair or replacement.

Word to the wise, if you don’t have an emergency fund or aren’t working diligently to save one up, then a house is not for you. Just keep renting until you learn not to take so many risks.

Agree or Disagree?

The ABLE Act: Please Write Your Legislator

Normally I wouldn’t do this, but I urge you to write your state senator and state representative and ask them to support the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.  It is legislation that directly supports parents and relatives of children with special needs.  It has already been passed at the national level but needs to pass at the state level to be fully implemented.

If you are not aware, in December 2014, the US Congress created subsection (f) of  Section 529 of  the Internal Revenue Code to allow the ABLE Act to follow all the requirements and regulations of a traditional 529 qualified tuition program.  This simply means that parents or relatives can contribute $13,000 yearly toward a child with special needs and that money can grow tax-free and be withdrawn tax-free for assistive technology, health expenses, transportation expenses, education expenses, and many other needs.

In addition, funds from tradition 529 plans can rollover to ABLE plans and vice versa.  For instance, if your gifted child gets into a car accident at 16 years and suffers severe brain damage, you will not be penalized for the money you saved for the college expenses.  If the ABLE Act passes, you will be able to use those funds to help make your child’s disabled life a little more comfortable.  Or you may have a child that is mentally capable but physically challenged.  Now you can pay for college as well as for mobility assistance.  And it’s all tax-free.

Please write your senator or represenative or even the President of the United States at the link that follows: http://capwiz.com/state-al/home/

01 Write Your Senator

1st Annual B&F Rising Star Awards

Rising StarsEvery February while growing up, we all learned about inspirational African-Americans who made a mark in history.  But what about inspirational African-Americans who are making or will be making a mark in history?

Luckily, we don’t have to wonder any longer.  Below are seven fascinating individuals—each with unique stories and backgrounds.  They are Marc Childs Moore, Brandon Chalmers, Candice Hale, Marquis Heath, Trey Moe, Kevin Peterson, and Latrisa Pugh.  Each have been asked the following two questions:

(1) What do you currently do? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

(2) How does your heritage help or hurt you in the path toward reaching your goals?

Marc Childs Moore

“I work in Copyright for BMG Chrysalis, the music arm of Bertelsmann Media Conglomerate.  Specifically, I work in music publishing www.bmgchrysalis.com.  I also play violin with the Grammy-nominated blues legend, Phil Wiggins. We perform throughout the country.  In 5 years, I see myself running my own arts company and developing as an expert in artist rights.

Being from Marion, Alabama prepares you for hardwork.  You work hard not because you expect some magnificent reward, but because your work is your reputation.  The quality of your work is a reflection of your seriousness of purpose.  I was taught ‘to whom much is given, much is expected’ and I carry that philosophy with me in all of my work.  There is a serious lack of resources and opportunities in the Alabama Blackbelt.  As a result, when one receives a blessing, we try to make the most of it and hopefully share that blessing with others.”

Brandon Chalmers

“I work in Higher Education at The University of Alabama.  More specifically, I help coordinate one of the university’s graduate programs.  You can find me at http://brandonchalmers.net/.

In 5 years, I hope to still be working in higher education.  It’s a labor of love; I really enjoy working with college students of all levels.  I previously worked with incoming freshman and transfer students, and I now work with graduate students.  Ideally, I would like to work with undergraduates again as I feel like there is something a bit more unique when you capture college students the first time around.

I think that being an African American male certainly created barriers that I had to overcome to get where I am today.  But as for my future trajectory, I don’t feel like I could encounter any obstacle that I couldn’t overcome.  A person I consider a mentor and a role model at the university once told me that he had been passed over for promotions before when he had performed the brunt of the work that got someone else recognized.  He told me to me to keep working hard and add credentials to my body of work and the opportunities would present themselves. He said ‘get your credentials and no one can deny that.’ Good sound advice for anybody to live off of.”

Candice Hale

“I’m currently working on my PhD in English at LSU.  I am concurrently teaching English composition classes, literature classes, and WGS classes for freshman to senior students.  In five years, I see myself professionally in an academic setting at a community college or a small liberal arts college teaching English comp and literature courses.  I would hope to remain in the South and enjoy my family.  I would hope at this point, I would, too, be married and enjoying family and my career as a professor in its fullest capacity.

I sometimes believe that my identity as a biracial black woman has its advantages and disadvantages in the college setting.  At times, it affords me advantages as one of the only “token” students or instructors of color because there are no others to fill a quota.  Then, at times, to be the student/instructor of color in these academic settings can make me appear hyper-invisible as if I do not exist to anyone.  To be overlooked and to experience these covert experiences of institutionalized racism can be very damaging to a workspace and a community.  And while I’ve experienced these types of racist situations and micro-aggressions from colleagues (but not my students), I’ve still managed to succeed academically and professionally.  With my own determination and perseverance to help others in my communities, I know that my experiences are important to the literary world and my social world. I enjoy teaching and spreading the word to all lovers of literature and critical thinkers.”

Marquis Heath

“I am a General Dentist at Rural Health Medical Program, Inc, a non-profit medical clinic under the Health Resources and Services Administration umbrella. I am also an associate dentist at West Princeton Dental Clinic and Clinical Professor at Fortis Institute.

In five years, I plan on being in a very similar position, as I am on the early end of my career.  I do not foresee any major changes in that short period.  A major goal is to incorporate and obtain 501(3)(c) status for my non-profit, which will serve to increase the affordability of dental care and dental education for those who need it.

My heritage has helped me by instilling in me the humility that allows me to be more compassionate in my field.  An often overlooked component of our heritage is the affinity for looking out for others—sticking together.  Being a beneficiary of that mindset, I will always have the goal of helping others.”

Trey Moe

“I’m a comedian and an entrepreneur of a few online businesses.  In five years, I will be working on my third stand up special, owning a few apartment complexes, and more than likely living in LA, but I will also have a place in ATL.

I come from a tough neighborhood and growing up we didn’t have much financially.  But regardless of what was going on outside, there was a plethora of love inside of our house at all times.  Not having much as a kid made it easy for me to make the move to LA.  My up-bringing taught me how to survive in any city—no matter the situation or financial struggles.  Being successful in something that goes against the norm and takes perseverance. It is all about weathering the storm and how much punishment can you take before quitting.  But I’ve been taking punishment my whole life so this LA struggle feels painless.”

Facebook.com/TreyMoeShow

Kevin Peterson

“I make YouTube videos and maintain an active social media presence. I’ve establish a decently audience of “fans” and engage with them any way I can using the internet. Since the internet changes and evolves rapidly, I have no idea where I’ll be in 5 years.  Hopefully my success will increase to the point that I will be more financially independent and be able to do more ambitious projects.

I don’t consciously think about my ‘heritage’ that much, but I grew up poor and I am black and I think the perspective I have gained from those experiences informs what I create and my viewpoints which obviously come across in my videos.  There aren’t very many “mega successful” black YouTubers, but it’s not a thing I think about as being a hindrance.  I feel that I have as much of a chance to make it as anyone else.”

Famous People That Are My Age (YOUTUBE)

Latrisa Pugh

“I am an accountant and instructor at The University of Alabama for the Division of Student Affairs.  As an accountant, I act as a liaison for the various departments under this umbrella which is anything that has to do with student life (housing, recreations center, career center, student media, etc).  As an instructor through the UA Honors College, I teach a financial freedom seminar class each semester. I am also the founder of Educational Cash Flow Youth Program where we teach financial education to youth and adults.  Currently, I am partnered with the LIFT program through the UA School of Accountancy to teach adults and students in the community.

Five years from now, I should have passed exams to be licensed in financial planning and public accounting. I do plan on continuing to work in higher education and move up in my career track. I also hope that the nonprofit be working throughout the state of Alabama and many families lives have changed for the better financially.

My heritage is very important to my career path. It has really been a driving force.  It has helped me with my goals because I do understand the many sacrifices that have been made.  The career path I have chosen is to improve the current and next generations.  I have a responsibility to make sacrifices of my own.”

Cheers to the first annual Baxter & Friends’ Rising Stars!

Top 5 Cars Under $3000 | Baxter

Recently, I wrote a blog entry (Click Here) that said the biggest money mistake in my early adult years was wasting a perfectly good $3000 savings on a down payment and loan for a $13,000 nearly new NISSAN Versa Hatchback.  If you re-read a bit further, you will see that I ended up paying $20,000 for that car, which I plan to drive until it dies a slow death.  But writing that blog made me wonder: what if I was smart enough to just buy a car with straight cash for $3000?  What could I have gotten?

For this exercise, I assume that all cars are being bought from a private party via Craigslist, newspaper classifieds, or some other method that is not a dealership.  As of February 2015, in no particular order, my top 5 list of used cars under $3000 is as follows:

1) Mercedes-Benz C-Class (2001 Model)

According to Kelley Blue Book, I can get this entry level luxury sedan in good condition for $2748.  That’s quite a steal if you ask me.  Plus, it still looks pretty slick for a car that’s almost 15 years old.

01 MB C-Class

2) BMW X5 (2000 Model)

This shnazy sports activity vehicle was the very first vehicle every produced in the United States by BMW.  If it were not for the success of this vehicle and others like it, the economy of the South would not be as strong and diversified as it is today.  This SUV is available currently for between $2700 and $3200.  But if you play your cards right, I’m sure you can get someone to sell you one for $2500 or lower.

02 BMW X5

3) Ford Mustang (2003 Model)

If you can find this car in excellent condition (which likely), you can buy it for under $3000.  In fact, KBB says that we should be able to buy one for $2964. That’s a real deal.  Pump up the engine package and the price will rise, but it is still very affordable.  The price is main reason why this is usually everyone’s first sports car.

03 Ford Mustang

4) Honda Civic (2002 Model)

This right here is ol’ reliable.  If you need a car and do not have a lot of money, then the Honda Civic is your car.  Not to mention, several independent body shops specialize in Honda vehicles so this makes maintenance very affordable as well.  Did I mentioned that it has whopping 28 MPG in the city and 36 MPG on the highway?

04 Honda Civic

5) Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Regular Cab (2002 Model)

I honestly do not have a preference for the F-150, Silverado, or Ram—all of them are good sturdy trucks for every day normal use.  Not only that, they tend to be cheaper than other vehicles but are still very easy to sell once you decide to upgrade in car.

05 Chevy Silverado

What’s your Top 5? 

Why I Traded My $300 Hoopty for a $13,000 Car and a $20,000 Loan

MirageA few weeks before I got married in late summer 2011, I suddenly wanted to buy a new car.  In fact, I felt I deseeeerved a new car.  Up until that point, I was perfectly fine with my loyal yet atrocious 1998 Mitsubishi Mirage that was gifted to me during my junior year of college.  However, at this point in time, the pressure of an approaching wedding and the excitement of an out-of-town bachelor party made me yearn to become what I thought to be a real adult—a person with a car loan and a credit score.

In my naivety, I searched online for a car and found a “good deal” on a 2010 NISSAN Versa during the 2012 car season.  To be fair, it actually was a good deal if I didn’t also have $25,000+ in student loans around my neck.  Despite this previous debt, I pressed forward towards purchasing my car.

With $3000 as a down payment, I marched down to the dealership to test drive my future auto.  It felt so good to hold the grip of a new steering wheel beneath my fingers, to have air conditioning and automatic locks for the first time ever, to utilize a functioning horn once more, and to hear the music from a working car radio again.  It was a thrill. It was an intoxication.  It was a gateway drug.

As it happens, all gateway drugs eventually lead to death or debt—my experience was no exception.

While my journey to a new car was smiles and rainbows on the dealership lot, it quickly became frowns and thunderstorms once I entered the financing office.  What was once a $13,000 car inflated into total payments of $20,000—and that’s only because I paid the loan off three years early.  These payments included a meager down-payment, bloated interest charges, high tax fees, an unnecessary maintenance pre-payment plan, and a ludicrous invention called gap insurance.

Never has Proverbs 22:3 been so true: “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.”

Simple I was. So simple that I thought I pulled one over on the dealership.  Trust me folks, you will never pull one over on a dealership.  Salespeople are professionals, they study you, and they know how to push your buttons.  Please use my experience as words of caution: if you don’t have the money to pay something in full, then you can’t afford it!

—–

As a bit of fun, I know it will take some digging, but what are some good cars that I can purchase now for $3000 that would be better than buying a new car for thousands more?

The TRUE Effects of Free Community College

ObamaThursday President Barack Obama announced his plan to provide two free years of community college coursework “for anyone who’s willing to work for it.” In a video that he posted on the White House’s official Facebook page , the President spoke about education being the key to success not only for traditional aged students but for work force development as well. As he sat aboard Air Force One the President spoke, “It’s something that we can accomplish and it’s something that will train our work force so that we can compete with anybody in the world.” The hope is that all 50 states will buy into the President’s initiative, supporting 25% of the program while the U.S. Government foots the bill for the other 75% (Parsons,2015) . Now the President’s plan is groundbreaking on the Federal level, but it can trace its roots to a plan implemented by Republican Governor Bill Haslam of Tennessee, called the Tennessee Promise .

On the surface this looks to be a feel-good win for the President and an initiative that could do a lot of good in this country. When it comes to certain work force sectors in this country we are operating with serious gaps and deficiencies. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has cited studies that show by 2025 due to an aging population the shortage of Registered Nurses in the workplace could exceed 500,000 . A 2012 survey of employers conducted by the Manpower Group showed that skilled trades positions have been amongst the hardest positions to fill due to lack of job-seekers with qualifications and the prerequisite training . Allied health programs and technical training programs are two of the niche areas in post-secondary education that community colleges tend to do well in, so this initiative could go a long way towards fulfilling those needs; however there are still many questions and potential drawbacks that need to be addressed.

For starters, will this program actually meet its aim and actually help the people most in need of an opportunity? Many times initiatives aimed at getting more people an opportunity to enroll in school, ends up being taken advantage of by those who probably would have gone to college anyway without help. Can we really afford to pay for this at the moment? The White House hasn’t put an estimated figure on how much this program will cost yet, but I imagine it will be significant and will come out of the U.S. tax payer’s pocket. There is also the theory of ratcheting and the revenue theory of costs (Bowen’s Law). Howard Bowen believed that when it comes to higher Education that costs are determined by sources of revenue relative to student enrollment. This program would essentially be providing another stream of revenue to colleges, perhaps as an unintentional consequence raising the tuition costs of those who fall outside of the qualifications for the program. With the potential influx of new students what about increases in faculty, staff, infrastructure? You just can’t add more students without people to teach them, people to assist in all areas of instruction, and areas to house and educate them. In addition to these issues what, if any effect, will this initiative have on the ever looming Higher Education Bubble that some predict will burst under the burgeoning student loan debt and costs associated with it (Wasik, 2013)?

In reality the president’s announcement was merely a teaser and more concrete information about how this program will be managed and operated will need to be known before anyone can say objectively whether this program will be a major success or waste of tax payer’s dollars. For those crafting the program, they will need to pay close attention to how Tennessee’s program fares as it rolls out this year. This isn’t something that we all should rush into lightly. If studied, thoughtfully planned and executed, I could see this initiative doing wonders to help with the issues of access, equity, and workforce gaps we have in this nation. If enacted haphazardly without proper forethought this could become another Albatross around the American taxpayer’s necks saddling us all with more debt and doing nothing to actually improve the real issues at hand. At events today in Tennessee, the President plans to deliver more details of his initiative. Hopefully we can learn more about his plans in enacting this landmark move.

  1. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=10153120229619238&set=vb.63811549237
  2. Parsons, C. (2015, January 8). Obama plan for free community college: U.S. would pay 75%, states 25%. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-obama-community-college-20150108-story.html
  3. http://tennesseepromise.gov/
  4. Nursing Shortage. (2014, April 24). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/nursing-shortage-resources/about
  5. 2012 Talent Shortage Survey. (2012, January 1). Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.manpowergroup.us/campaigns/talent-shortage-2012/
  6. Wasik, J. (2013, September 4). Three Reasons Why College Bubble Will Burst. Retrieved January 9, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnwasik/2013/09/04/three-reasons-why-college-bubble-will-burst/

Can You Live on $7.25 in Tuscaloosa? | YES or NO

Cashier CareerThere has been a lot of buzz about how no one can make it on minimum wage.  Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s a load of hot garbage.  Yes, it is tough, but it is nowhere near impossible.  And here are the facts to back that claim up.  Below are the financials (CHART) for an 18 year old Ben Baxter to survive in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the year 2014.  For the example, let’s assume his parents or guardians are no longer involved.

Ben is a hard working young man.  He worked while in high school to help put food on the table, and while do so, he gained the opportunity to work 40 hours per week as a cashier at a local pharmacy when he graduated.  He’s still making the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, but working a full 40 hours per week really helps.  He has some other odd jobs that he does to earn money, but for now let’s focus on his base pay.

If we assume Ben works 40 hours per week (or 2080 hours per year), he will earn $15,080 before taxes.  That equates to $11,254.13 take-home pay after federal taxes, state taxes, Social Security, and Medicare are taken out.  He also lives with two roommates, Ruiz Chalmers and Harris Carr, in a median rental home for $720 per month.  Rent is split three ways with each person paying $240 per month.  Utilities are also split three ways.  He pays for his own food at $150 per month and his own health insurance at $25 per month.

Ben does not have a car, and nor does he need one.  Almost every route within the quadrant of McFarland Blvd, Lurleen Wallace Blvd, Interstate 20/59, and the Black Warrior River can be measured at around 3 miles or less.  At Ben’s current stride, he can easily commute by foot in approximately 45 minutes to almost anywhere.  This is great for his health as well since he will burn over 600 kilocalories during that routine 45 minute commute.

Ben assumes he will need to travel longer distances sometimes so he rents a BAMA Bike from a local university for $10 per month.  This university provides all maintenance on this bicycle.  Ben also budgets for education because he would like to make more than minimum wage by the time he is 25 years old.  He is attending Shelton State Community College.  And he is majoring in Air Conditioning and Refrigeration for his Associate in Applied Science Degree.

His yearly budget is listed below.  After one year, he stills has $500 leftover to go into savings for a rainy day.  You never know when that may come in handy.

Could you live on what Ben is living on? (SEE BELOW)

Ben's Budget