Why Attending Online College is the Best Financial Decision You’ll Ever Make

Online education has many advantages over traditional colleges many people do not consider when they decide to pursue post graduate studies. One of these advantages is the lower cost of online education. But getting an online degree is smart from a financial standpoint for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few of them.

Online College Works Around Your Schedule

One of the major reasons many people choose online college is because of the added flexibility it offers. Online college is very popular amongst medical students, and one of the reasons many medical majors choose online education is to specialize their bachelor’s degree. Getting a master of public health online while you maintain your current position is easy, depending on which type of course you get.

For instance, if you go for an online MPH degree through a college that allows asynchronous attendance, you’ll be able to log in and access your study material whenever you want without having to check in with a live teacher. This is something that is very important to know before you choose a college since many online institutions do not allow asynchronous studying and require that you log on at certain fixed times during the day.

Reduced Associated Costs

Another reason why many people choose to go online is because of the lower costs that are usually associated with getting an online degree. In addition to tuition, students save on study materials which are delivered online, transportation and other student fees that are common at many colleges such as usage of gyms, wellness centers and computer labs for instance.

Lower Tuition, in General

Yes, while tuition is generally lower at online schools, it is not always the case. A really prestigious online university might cost more than community college, for instance, but on average, tuition costs are generally lower. Also, many colleges have started accepting credits from massive open online courses, which are almost completely free of charge for students.

Career Advancement

Another reason why online college makes so much sense from a financial standpoint is that it allows students to pursue higher positions without missing a step. In many cases, jobs within a company might be open to people with a master’s degree or a doctorate, but if you’re stuck with a bachelor’s degree in the same concentration, this might be extremely frustrating. Pursuing an online education will definitely further your chances for advancement in the future.

As you can see, there are far more benefits to going for an online course than meets the eye. In addition to being flexible, online courses allow you to save on transportation, study materials and many other costs associated with post graduate studies. But what’s even better is that it will open a whole new world of possibilities for you in the future. So if you were still on the fence about online education, you should definitely give it a closer look to see if it is the right choice for you.

3 Reasons Companies are Using Cloud Access Security Brokers

Sending files to the cloud is easy as pie. Simply hit the right save button, and the information gets uploaded. But is that file secure? And do you have direct knowledge that it’s secure? If not, you may be transmitting files that anyone can access with the right equipment. And if that’s the case, it’s nothing for a dedicated hacker to cause a security breach. Using a cloud access security broker, or CASB, eliminates the possibility that information gets into the wrong hands. Here are three reasons why more companies are moving to the CASB to transmit files to the cloud.

Encryption of Files Before Transmitting


Image via Flickr by EFF Photos

CASBs come in two forms: on premises or app-based. Files that get sent to the CASB are first encrypted, then transmitted to the cloud storage. This creates two levels of security: one layer is created when the file is encrypted, then more encryption goes on top when the file is transmitted through the HTTPS protocol. An end user will never know that the file was encrypted prior to and during transmission as they have the correct keys to decrypt the file. Someone who doesn’t have the right keys can still download the file, but won’t be able to unlock it as they don’t have the proper keys.

Theft of Sensitive Data Harms a Brand

Data breaches expose a company as being careless and sloppy with customer data. It’s not an image any corporation wants to have, but the fact that it didn’t put the effort into securing data speaks volumes. The CASB makes transmission of sensitive data practically foolproof. There’s no need to perform tedious processes before getting the files ready to send. All a business has to do with a CASB is designate certain people to transmit the files according to a schedule. It’s simple when it comes down to it, and the worry of data theft is all but eliminated when using a CASB. Customers can stop wondering if their data is at risk every time they patronize the business.

Maintain Legal Compliance

HIPAA is a set of federal laws that apply to physicians and how they handle their patient data. The law was enacted to ensure that patient health information was kept out of harm’s way. Since the law was enacted, it’s been updated several times to reflect changes in technology. One change was to create guidelines on how patient information was to be stored electronically. Physicians are now required to use electronic health records, but they can use the cloud to store data instead of keeping a server room on site. A CASB keeps electronic health records locked down tight and reduces the potential for a breach to almost nothing.

Keeping files secure needs to be priority number one for any business that has sensitive customer or proprietary information. Using a CASB makes it easy to lock files down hard, and they’re easy for anyone to use while offering peace of mind for all involved.

Improve Your Credit Score Now

It is so easy to rack up the credit cards during the summer while you’re out on the restaurant patio enjoying a craft beer or gear food.  It can be easy to be careless during the summer when money does not seem as real when using a card, and you feel you can pick up the tab on dinner or shots.  Just because it is summer does not mean you should go on a spending spree.  With a little discipline you can get your credit score on track now.

Review Your Credit Report

You may just assume that your report is fine but you need to check it often, and with the offer of receiving a copy of your credit report free of charge at least once a year from any of the three major credit bureaus, why not take advantage.  The actual score will cost you extra, but with most credit card companies revealing your score online at each statement, you can see the increase/decrease at least once a month.

Report Any Errors

If there are any outstanding errors they will not fix by it so it is important to review your score often and report any errors as you see.  Keep in mind that credit reporting is a month behind so if you know you have updated an account within the past month, you will need to wait until next month to see the progress.  It will not be corrected on its own so it is up to you to review and make any corrections as needed.

Start to Pay Down Balances

Once of the largest factors in your credit score has to do with the total balance compared to the total balance, so start to pay down the highest balances first, so you can increase your credit availability and increase your credit score.  If you have not stopped charging on the accounts then this is the opportune time as you do not want to sink yourself deeper into debt that will take years to climb out of.

Typically, the largest amount of debt on your report is mortgage related. The first question you want to keep in mind, how long does a foreclosure stay on your credit report? The answer, far too long! This can impede your ability to credit for many years to come, so make sure that your mortgage and/or student loans are very first payments you make each month.

No Late Payments!

In order to prove to lenders that you are a responsible borrower you need to ensure that you are making on-time payments to every lender that you are required to.  Although you may receive a grace period for some, for the majority as long as you are thirty days late it will be an impact to credit that will take years to remove.

5 Ways to Build Financial Security

Recent research shows that nearly 47 percent of Americans don’t have access to $400 to pay for emergency situations like car repairs and medical treatments. This concerning statistic should convince everyone to pay more attention to financial security. Of course, people can only become more financially secure when they know how to reach that goal.

If you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, use these five strategies to build financial security.

Find a Budget That Matches Your Income


Image via Flickr by bradipo

Setting a budget used to take a lot of time and energy. Luckily, today’s technology makes doing so relatively easy. Start by downloading the most effective budgeting apps to your mobile device. Apps that get excellent reviews include the following:

  • Mint
  • PocketGuard
  • You Need a Budget

These apps will help you create a budget that lets you pay your bills and set money aside for the future. Even the most powerful app, however, can’t save money for you. You have to take responsibility by following the plan. As long as you do that, you should find that you save more money so that you can build financial security.

Earn Money Selling Amway Products

If you don’t have enough income to cover life’s expenses and set money aside, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever become financially successful. That’s why you should make extra money with a side hustle.

For example, people who sell Amway products work independently. The more you sell, the more money you make. That gives you more control over your income than relying on a regular job that pays by the hour.

If you haven’t looked at Amway’s products in a few years, you might be surprised to learn that the company has built its inventory to include a wide range of product categories and brands, including the following:

  • Cosmetics
  • Hair care products
  • Vitamins
  • Supplements

These are things your friends and relatives already buy. If you convince them to buy them from you, you’ll make extra money to put in your savings account. Plus, you’ll become self-employed, which means you have even more control over your finances.

Reduce Your Expenses

Reducing your expenses will also help you save more money. No matter how frugally you live, there are places where you can cut back on how much you spend and put more money in savings.

  • Carpool to work.
  • Lower your water heater’s temperature.
  • Resist the temptation to eat out too often.
  • Look for cheaper health and auto insurance plans.

The more you can lower your expenses, the more money you’ll have to put in a savings or investment account.

Take Advantage of Tax-Free Retirement Accounts

Taxes can eat up a significant portion of your income. You can lower the amount of money Uncle Sam takes by putting more of your money into tax-free investment accounts. Most people find that a Roth IRA or 401(k) works well for them.

These accounts do a lot more than just help you avoid taxes. They accumulate wealth exponentially over several decades. The sooner you start siphoning more of your money into them, the more money you’ll have when you retire.

Pay Off High-Interest Debt

If you have any high-interest debt, paying it off as soon as possible will help you build financial security. Many credit cards charge 20 percent interest or more. High interest rates can sabotage your ability to eliminate your debts.

Devote as much money as possible to lowering high-interest accounts. Doing so might save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

You can also contact your credit card company to request a lower interest rate. Even a few percentage points will make it easier for you to get out of debt. Once you’ve eliminated the debt, you’ll have more money to put toward savings. You’ll also improve your credit rating, which can help you qualify for low-interest loans when you buy a house or car.

Building financial security requires a sacrifice. You must either earn more money or reduce your outgoing expenses. Ideally, you’ll choose both so that you can boost your income and earn interest from your retirement accounts. No matter how much effort it takes, you’ll thank yourself for finding financial security.

Think Credit Unions are Nice? Do Not Overdraft Your Account


If you are like me and ditched the large financial institutions because of high monthly fees and went to a credit union, but although they are often considered a nicer version of the big bank that you left in the dust, a new study shows that if you get caught up in overdrafts, there is no difference in what each charges.  According to a study by a 2015 study by Moebs Services, which reviewed almost 2,800 banks and credit unions, the median price for an overdraft on a checking account is $30, while credit unions the median charge is $29, hardly a savings.  The last time there was that little of a difference between the two was in 2007, when both were equal charging $25.  This study is taking the median overdraft fee, which means that half of the fees are higher and the other half are lower.  Last year the gap was only $0.50 larger, with banks still having $30 per overdraft fee and credit unions at $28.50.  If you play your cards right you can avoid overdraft fees all together.

Opting out of overdraft coverage may make you feel like a fool when your card gets declined at the register, but at least the transaction will not go through and your account will not get charged an overdraft fee.  Tracking your balance is really the best way to make sure your account is not on the verge of running out.  Mobile apps and online account information is so readily available that you should be checking your account daily, not only to make sure spending is on track, but that you make sure fraudulent charges do not appear.  If you do not feel confident in your skills on watching your daily balance, you could also link your checking account to your savings account which would pull money from that account to make up the difference, although not ideal, since you are pretty much robbing Peter to pay Paul.  If you really do not trust your balancing skills, you could also set up a credit line to you to have available that, for a fee, you could pull from, although any money used you will have to pay interest on.  If anything, do your best to stick to a spending budget each month, curb unnecessary spending, and contribute as much as you can to savings accounts.

7 Need to Know Facts on Social Security

96% all American workers will be eligible at some point in their life to receive Social Security benefits, obviously after they retire from working.  That might be a fact, but another fact is that Social Security benefits, and your eligibility for them, are rather complicated and highly dependent on specific details and situations based on your work history.

Fact 1: A foreign citizen working legally in the United States, and paying Social Security taxes, can accumulate social security credits the same way a regular US citizen does.  However, some visa categories aren’t eligible to earn those credits. Also, if you earn Social Security benefits (or something similar) in another country, it could affect you’re ability to receive them in the United States.

Fact 2: The United States won’t allow you to receive your social security benefits in some countries, including Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam and 11 others, so if you are thinking about retiring abroad be sure to make arrangements to have your social security benefits paid to you.

Fact 3: if you were born after 1929, which is now a vast majority of the population, you need to work for at least 10 years in order to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. Those years don’t have to be consecutive but they have to add up to 120 months.

Fact 4: in order to be able to start receiving your benefits, and you need to reach what is known as the “full retirement age”. That depends on the year you were born and a few other factors. 62 is the youngest age that you can start collecting and 70 is the oldest that you can put off collecting your benefits.

Fact 5: The Social Security Administration (SSA) adjusts your benefits based on the age you are when you retire and start taking benefits. In the end, the amount of money you receive in benefits will be about the same no matter when you start taking them.

Fact 6: As a spouse, even if you’ve never worked, you can receive benefits based on the income that your partner made.

Fact 7: If you’re divorced and never remarried, you maybe eligible for ex-spouse Social Security benefits starting at age 62 as long as you were married for 10 years. These benefits can be as low as 32.5% and as high as 50%, depending on when you start claiming them.

The bottom line is that many factors influence your Social Security benefits and eligibility. How much you receive depends on how much you’ve earned, how many independent or disabled children you have, whether you’re a widow or widower and a number of other things.

In short, ask a financial specialist to help you figure it out and do your due diligence online as well.

How to Decode the 5 Main Factors that Determine your Credit Score

When it comes to getting an excellent interest rate on your mortgage, a car loan, a personal loan or a loan for your new business, your credit score is extremely important. The reason is simple; lenders can instantly tell how “credit-worthy” you are by looking at your credit score and, if it’s low, they know immediately that you have a problem handling your credit and most likely your finances too.  That’s not good.

Simply put, the higher your credit score is, the better rates you’ll get on new credit because lenders won’t be looking at you as a risk.  That being said, knowing how to figure out your credit score is extremely important, and it’s the focus of today’s blog. Enjoy.

Decoding your credit score is as simple as knowing the 5 main factors that lenders use. These include, in order of importance;

  1. Payment History
  2. Debt balance
  3. Length of credit history
  4. New credit applications
  5. Types of credit

Your payment history makes up 35% of your credit score. Simply put, that means you definitely want to pay all of your bills on time, every time. Making late payments even once or twice can put a serious ding in your score and drop it to levels that are unacceptable to lenders.

Debt balance. 30% of your credit score is made up by your debt balance, which is the ratio of the amount of credit that you’re using as opposed to the amount of credit that you have. Lenders like to see a debt balance of 30% or less. To figure out your debt balance, look at your total credit and compare that to your total credit debt. For example, If you have $10,000 in available credit and $2000 in credit debt, your debt balance is 20%.

Length of credit history. The amount of time that you’ve been using credit counts for 15% of your credit score, so getting credit as early as possible and, more importantly, keeping your credit history clean, can definitely help you in the long run.

New credit applications. Lenders can see each and every time you’ve applied for new credit and, if they see too many, they start seeing red flags. New credit applications account for 10% of your credit score pie, so only apply when it’s absolutely necessary. A hard credit inquiry does impact your credit score.

Types of credit. Another 10% of your credit score is made up by the types of credit that you have. Revolving debt like credit cards should be on the low side while non-revolving debt, including car loans, home mortgages and student debt, can be a little bit higher.

The Next Chapter…

As you may have noticed, Money Spruce hasn’t seen many updates lately. After quitting my job in May 2012 and becoming a full-time freelancer, there’s just been less and less time to write on here.

Today, I’m announcing the launch of my new business: Content Strategy for Do-Gooders.

CWAM is a one-stop shop for content strategy and creation for social mission-driven businesses and organizations. CWAM’s focus is to help these businesses amplify their social impact using effective content to tell their story, find more followers, and develop a loyal tribe of supporters.

Why am I making this change? There are a few reasons:

1. Social missions have always been close to my heart. After finishing my master’s degree, I passed up jobs with starting salaries of $60,000+ to work as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. I served at a nonprofit in New Haven, Connecticut for a year, living on a stipend of  $1,100 a month and supplementing my earnings with food stamps. I learned so much that year as I lived closer to poverty than I ever had before.

After, I was hired as a full-time employee at the same nonprofit and continued to work there. I focused on helping my nonprofit update newsletters, refresh content, and simply do more to leverage online content to bring in more donations and stay in touch with past donors.

2. I’ve become much more than just a “freelance writer.” While writing is still a large part about what I do, it’s still just a piece to the much bigger puzzle of developing a strategy that works for the organizations I serve. In addition to writing, I spend hours strategically deciding what kind of content to develop and incorporating that into a larger content strategy. This strategy includes effective call to actions, email capture, lead nurturing through email, social media, blog posts, static content, and more.

3. Socially-minded businesses are perfectly suited to gain the most from an effective content strategy. Effective content is really about telling a great story. While many brands do a good job telling a story, fewer are actually “story-doers,” to use a term from this article published in the Harvard Business Review. Preliminary research from this study shoes that story-doers may be much more effective businesses than story tellers.

Social businesses like TOMS Shoes and many great others have amazing stories to tell. It’s these stories that earn them a large following of supporters. Supporters are really more than customers. They’re brand advocates who want to make a difference in the world, too.

My BIG goal: help more businesses and organizations harness their own powerful stories to gain more followers and increase the impact of their mission.

Thank you

Thanks so much for following along on Money Spruce. My life would be incredibly different right now if I didn’t start this blog and hear from all you loyal readers.

If you’re still hungry for more personal finance and other money-related articles, my friends Carrie, Mr. Money Mustache, Paula (and many more) are among my favorites to read for a steady stream of interesting and informative posts.

Wishing you all the best and brightest future,


P.s. – If you or anyone you know may be interested in my services,  I’d be really grateful if you’d send them over to this page. Here they’ll be able to get my free report “10 Steps to Maximizing Your Cause’s Impact with Content.” Thanks again for all your support!