Investing & Saving


In this post, I outline why even graduate students should open, and contribute regularly to, an individual retirement account, or IRA. Specifically, a Roth IRA. I also describe what an IRA is and what tax advantages if has to offer.

Making ends meet isn’t easy for many graduate students. Whether you’re balancing school and a full-time job, or are living on a stipend from a research or teaching position, chances are that money is tight. Most graduate students live on a lean budget out of necessity. But many also view that time as a temporary phase, and therefore neglect financial good practices like saving for emergencies and retirement. That’s for later, when you have a real  job. Right?

That attitude was exactly how I thought about things for the first few years I was in grad school. Money management would be for later. When I would have that so-called real job, and, you know, actual sums of money to work with. I saw grad school as a phase that I just had to make it through before getting serious about my finances. And honestly, I thought I was in pretty good shape. I was lucky enough to have a research assistantship that had notable perks like tuition remission and health insurance. I was so excited to have those health benefits, it didn’t occur to me that there was one type of benefit that I didn’t have access to: an employee sponsored retirement plan. And I was not alone here. Retirement savings, it turns out, are not a huge priority for most students. One of the most compelling reasons to go to grad school is for that better job, and (hopefully) better paycheck on the horizon. Retirement is something to worry about when you hit that horizon.

The problem with horizons is you don’t reach them. Those who are constantly saying they’ll save/invest/get smart about money at a later phase in their life, usually find a seemingly perfectly reasonable excuse to keep pushing that later date further and further back. Even if you are living on a lean grad student budget, when you graduate isn’t actually a better time to start investing for your retirement.

So when is the best time?

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This post is about conquering your financial FOSO, or Fear of Starting Out. Many of us struggle to start out or make progress on our financial goals because we feel like we’re already behind, or do not trust that we will be able to make the progress we need to accomplish our goals. Here, I discuss ideas for setting a realistic financial goal. Then I offer six ideas for freeing up the money you need to succeed. Stop letting fear drive your financial behavior and let’s get started!

If you’re like most Americans, you know you should have more money in savings to cover emergencies. You should also increase the amount of money you’re putting away for retirement. And you will. Next month. Probably. Or next year. But yeah, you totally will. Either after you get that raise or when your partner starts their new job. Sometime anyway, you’ll definitely get to it.

Does this sound like you? I promise, I’m not judging. Saving is hard! I’ve been there. In some ways I’m still there. But I’m working on it and I’m starting to see results from my efforts. And you can too. Let’s start by admitting though that even starting to work on your finances is actually really hard for many of us. Building smart habits around saving and investing is not easy. If it were, most of us would already be doing it.

One of the issues is that a lot of us experience what I call Financial FOSO, or Fear of Starting Out. When you read online about people with a whole year of expenses saved up, it’s hard to feel good about the itty bitty amount you have in your own emergency fund. Additionally, when you hear a co-worker (who might be even younger than you) talk about how they have a million dollars in their retirement account and will soon be able to retire early, it’s natural to react by feeling bad about what’s in your own 401(k) or IRA. When other people are just so far ahead, it’s easy to conclude, what’s the point? It’s impossible for me to get to where that person is anyway. So why even try?

Here’s why.

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In this post I’ll explain how you can get companies to contribute to your investment portfolio using a feature called Found Money on Acorns. It’s so easy. I promise. And it’s kind of cool too.

A few weeks ago I told you about one of my favorite (free) financial tools, Acorns. While Acorns isn’t where most of their investments make their home, I love the small passive investment boosts that I get from making everyday purchases. It’s great to know that I invest a few pennies in future me every time I get gas, groceries, or make other purchases. If you want to learn more about Acorns, check out my post Easy Investing With Acorns and if you decide to sign up, be sure to use my referral link to get an extra $5 in your starting balance. It gives me a few extra dollars too, which I appreciate since I don’t get paid for any the work I do here at Frugal PhD.

Today I want to tell you about a way you can earn more than just a few pennies at a time with Acorns.

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If you’ve been reading along with the Break Up With Your Bank series, you’ve learned Why You Need To Break Up With Your Bank, and know about better options for checking and savings accounts. In this post I’ll walk you through the actual steps of breaking up with your bank and getting set up with one that treats you better.

Chances are, you’ll approach a breakup in your financial life a little differently than you do for your love life. The order of the steps for breaking up with a bank aren’t quite the same as they are for a human partner. In this case, it’s okay to start seeing a new institution before you let your old one know you’re through. In fact, that’s the best way to do it.

You’re ready. But how the heck do you go about closing your old accounts? I know it’s scary, but here, I’ll walk you through the steps for opening new bank accounts and closing your old ones. So let’s do this…

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In the last post in the Break Up With Your Bank series, I discussed the benefits of opening a no fees, no frills checking account with an online bank or credit union. In this post, we’ll cover why you should open a high interest savings account too.

Are you still using the savings account you opened with you were a teenager, or during your first year in college? Many young people open accounts at popular banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America, often because there’s a branch close to home or because it’s the bank their parents use. As a teen, I opened a US Bank account where my parents do their banking and then changed over to Wells Fargo when I moved to San Francisco after college. The savings accounts I had in those years had a few things in common: 1) Too little savings, and 2) A near zero interest rate.

Interest rates are pretty low across the board right now, ranging from 0.01% on the low end and reaching upwards of 1% if you’re able to get a great deal on a new account with an online bank or credit union*. The difference between 0.01% and 1.00% might seem pretty insignificant–especially if you’re a student or are working an entry-level position and don’t have much—or anything—in savings.

It might not seem worth the hassle it will take to close your existing account and do the research on opening a new account for a few dollars in interest this year. I get it. You’re busy and it feels like almost everything else is more important than opening a savings account when you aren’t really able to save right now anyway. I know you don’t want to take the time to do it. Do it anyway. I did, and here’s why it was a good decision…

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In this post I’ll walk you through the process for opening a high-yield, no fee checking account with great benefits like no ATM fees.

In my last post, Why You Need to Break Up With Your Bank, I described the abysmal interest rates and exploitative fees you might be tethered to with your current checking and savings accounts. By now you might be convinced that the accounts you opened when you started college, or perhaps even before that, aren’t doing you any favors. And you’re ready to make a change. But what comes next?

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This post explains how your big bank may be taking advantage of you through abysmal interest rates and exploitative fees and why you need to consider a breakup.

You guys, it’s time to have one of those oft dreaded breakup talks. No, not with your boyfriend, girlfriend, partner, or spouse. Well, maybe, but I can’t help you there. This break up talk is about you and your bank. If you’re banking with one of the biggest, most popular banks in America, you might be in an exploitative, almost abusive, relationship without even realizing it. This post will will talk you through some of the pitfalls of banking with large banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America, and will help you identify whether you should explore alternative options.

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In this post I explain why you should set yourself up an easy and painless tool that will help you start investing. It’s called Acorns.

Investing Isn’t Just for Wall Street Suits. Really.

Investing?! No thank you not for me. Is that what you’re thinking? I know, I know. You might not see student and entry-level life as going hand-in-hand with investing. Many people see investing as thing for Wall Street bureaucrats in overpriced showy suits. Or you might have some vague sense that someday you’ll have a 401(k) that you invest retirement savings into, but that’s a far off “when I’m a real adult professional” thing, not your current reality. Future life you will be a very savvy investor, but right now you’re worried about paying your rent, buying groceries, and hopefully having enough left to splurge on a few nights out with friends. Investing is for people who have money and you perpetually have basically none. For most of us, young adult life isn’t always synonymous with the high-life.

What is Acorns?

So what if I told you that could could start investing a little bit every day starting today, and I mean right now today, without even missing the money? Enter Acorns.

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