smart spending

Avoid financial mistakes of 30-somethings

The emergency medical policy covered the MRIs, surgery and his rehabilitation. In rehab, he quickly learned how to deal with his physical limitations and become independent. That gave him the courage to go to an out-of-state college.

"Having a financial cloud over my head would have really taken away the enthusiasm to go and do that," Raymond says. That's why he advises young people to get health insurance before they get sick or seriously injured.

Don't count on being lucky

One bad accident or injury could ruin you financially for the rest of your life if you're uninsured, says Webster.

The uninsured also must pay a penalty if they didn't get health insurance by the March 31 deadline. Obamacare mandates that the uninsured pay a fine of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child under age 18, or 1 percent of their yearly household income, whichever is higher.

If you already have minimum essential coverage, you don't have to worry about the penalty.

The next open enrollment period through starts Nov. 15, 2014, and ends Feb. 15, 2015. Between now and then, you won't be able to apply unless you have a qualifying life event, such as moving to a new state, losing a job, having a baby, getting married or getting divorced.

You can still get health insurance on the private market, but you won't be eligible for government subsidies to lessen the costs of your premiums.

Damion, web/graphic designer, age 34

After completing junior college, Damion decided to transfer to an out-of-state institution to finish his bachelor's degree. He thought that listing this university on his resume would mean more to future employers than an institution from his home state. He was also intrigued by the idea of going off on his own to new surroundings.

Two years later, Damion transferred to an institution in his home state because a family member became ill. At that point, he realized his education hadn't truly prepared him for his career. His skills were substandard at best when compared with the other students in his field. Damion's instructor advised him to stay in college for two more years, thereby negating the two years he spent out of state.

"Talk about money wasted," Damion says. He had to take on student loans to pay for the out-of-state institution, but he got a free ride at the in-state school.

Hindsight is 20/20

If he could go back in time, Damion would tell himself to take a more practical look at his field and choose a college that would better prepare him for success. That's great advice if you're in your 20s and considering transferring, or if you haven't even started college yet.

Be careful not to get so enamored with a college's ranking or its prestige that you think you must go there. Recruiters and employers don't pay attention to college rankings, says Zac Bissonnette, author of "Debt-Free U: How I Paid for an Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, or Mooching off My Parents."

However, employers might care where you attend graduate school. For example, an MBA from a prestigious business school might matter a lot more than an MBA from any old state school, says Bissonnette. That's why you don't want to take on so much student loan debt for your undergraduate degree that you can't afford to attend an elite graduate school.

The other problem with too much student debt is that it can cause you to delay marriage, kids, saving for a house and saving for retirement, says Bissonnette. Also, it might cause you to make career decisions based on salary instead of job satisfaction.


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