The Financial Empowerment Blog

Our most popular Modern Money Education Articles

First Time Home Buyer's Guide

Buying a house is an inherently stressful process, but for first time home buyers the process can be especially complex. Many first time buyers purchase condos to take advantage of lower prices and reduce their responsibility to maintain the property.

This may appear to reduce mortgage default risk because the monthly payment is lower, but in reality making the homeowner’s association a party to the transaction adds far more default risk than the lower payment removes.

In addition, given the nature of the current economy, many millennial buyers have student loan debt, or work as 1099 contractors instead of W2 employees, which further compounds the risk and makes it harder to qualify for a home loan.

Despite the obstacles, it is possible for a millennial to purchase a home – Millennials were actually the largest segment of buyers for the past five years according to this study by the National Association of Realtors – however, millennials are likely to face greater...

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Going Green to Save Green


While financial planning and environmentalism may not appear to have much in common, both focus on making the most of limited resources by reducing excess consumption, efficiently utilizing available assets, and recycling waste. These guidelines are not only good for the planet, they are also good for your wallet. Check out these 6 ideas to help you save green by going green:

1. Eliminate Food Waste

Food waste has a huge impact on the environment and on your budget. To reduce waste, plan and prep meals ahead of time and buy only what you need for that week, and bring your reusable produce bags.

If you have leftovers, store them in Beeswrap and bring them for lunch the next day. Compost any remaining leftovers and scraps.

The Mealime application (iOS and Google Play Store) is a great companion. The app creates a shopping list, making it super easy to shop. Just try to plan around what’s currently in season.

2. Combine Trips

Plan your errands for the upcoming week...

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Honor Your Family With A Simple Estate Plan

By Angela Moore, CFP® of Modern Money Advisor

Estate planning is for the unselfish. Yeah, I said it!

The first time I ever experienced it, I was a finance director at a car dealership, and I was sitting across the desk from a woman in her mid-50s to early 60s. We were in a cold grey office and I could tell she was tired, exhausted and frail. She seemed to be so uncomfortable being at the dealership. It’s an uncomfortable place to be. It’s like walking through a flood of predatory salesmen waiting to devour you. I get it! I was happy that she had landed in my office because, out of everyone there, I knew I had the patience and gentleness to help her and make her feel more comfortable. I was probably about 25 years old then. Her husband had passed away and she was trying to find out who their car was financed through. She cried to me and told me of her husband’s sudden passing. I tried to console her and it was a super uncomfortable situation to be in. I...

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Student Loan Series: What You Need to Know About Student Loans

The student loan crisis is nothing new. But that doesn’t mean its effects aren’t profound.

For years headlines and news stories have reported the uptick in student debt and the impact it has on people for the rest of their lives. Student loan debt is a big issue in our country and with the cost of education on the rise, it becomes an even more important topic to discuss. 

Today, our team wanted to bring you up to speed on what you need to know about student debt: what it is, how to prepare for it, and ways to keep the costs at bay. 

Startling statistics

Student debt is on the rise. According to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve, the country is in over $1.64 trillion dollars of student debt alone across about 45 million borrowers and this number is projected to increase.

To put those numbers in perspective, student loan debt has become the second-highest consumer debt category behind mortgage debt and surpassing credit card debt by almost $600...

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Student Loan Series: How can I pay off my student loans with low income?

This post is part of our “Ask An Advisor” series where we address your most urgent money questions. Names have been changed to protect the identity of the requester.

How can I possibly get out of student loan debt? (It’s over 50,000. I was not able to complete my last year of college due to finances. I can't find work willing to pay more than $12 where I'm located.)

Dear Ashley,

First, let me sympathize with your situation. Both Angela and I worked while in college and had to maintain our GPAs to keep our scholarships. Completing your schooling while balancing other responsibilities is hard and not always feasible. You should be proud of yourself that you made it through most of your schooling even if you weren't able to graduate yet.

That leads me to my next point, which is the emphasis on the "yet." It sounds like you are looking for work right now, or maybe you are already working in a job that's paying lower wages than you'd need to pay the bills. As you've...

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Student Loan Series: Student Loan Forgiveness Options

Student loan forgiveness may sound like a fairy godmother swooping in and saving the day, but her magic wand comes with layers of government red tape and rules to wade through before your loan balance hits $0. 

Today, we want to walk you through the basics of a few loan forgiveness programs that provide student debt relief. Let’s get started.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF)

PSLF was designed to help employees in public service repay their loans. Here’s how you can qualify for this program:

  • Full-time employment for U.S federal, state, local, or tribal government or non-profit.
  • Have Federal Direct loans
  • Payments made through a qualified income-driven repayment plan (remember those?). 
  • Make 120 qualifying payments

After 10 years (assuming you make the qualifying payments consecutively), your loan balance will be forgiven. This system can be complex and depending on your provider, the information could get lost in the shuffle. We recommend keeping all...

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Student Loan Series: What Are My Income-Driven Repayment Plan Options?

Not all student loan payments are created equal. While standard repayment terms consist of 120 consecutive payments over 10 years, there are a number of different options for people to repay their debt with a much smaller monthly payment. 

Federal loan borrowers are able to take advantage of income-driven repayment options, which cap monthly payments as percentages of your income and extend the period of repayment to 20 or even 25 years. There are four options to consider:

  • Pay As You Earn (PAYE)
  • Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE)
  • Income-Based Repayment (IBR)
  • Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR)

Let’s see how each of these work and which might be right for you.

Pay As You Earn

PAYE caps your student loan payment to 10% of your discretionary income but it never exceeds the amount you would have paid in a standard 10-year repayment plan. This makes PAYE a good option for those consistently making a lower salary. 

The repayment term is 20 years, after which time the...

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5 Essential Home Buying Tips


The home buying process can be overwhelming, even for the financially savvy or experienced buyer. Stricter lending rules are partially to blame, but the bigger problem is you, dear buyer.

Yes, there are exceptions to every example, but during my years as a loan officer the biggest hurdle in 90% of delayed closings was the buyers’ lack of preparedness. I get it, it’s far more pleasant to parse Trulia or for your dream home than it is to spend hours organizing your financial documents. However, when you apply for the loan, don’t be surprised if it hits a roadblock because of your procrastination.

To illustrate my point, let me tell you a story that I’ve experienced more times than I care to recount:


The Story Of Joe

“Joe” wants to buy a house so, naturally, the first person he calls his real estate agent. The agent tells Joe he needs to get his financing in order, but Joe shows up to...

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