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The Lounge
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I am 19, international student (F1 VISA), havent worked (I am trying to find an internship though), but I am freaking out, I want to start my real financial plan from now. Are there any of you that're expert about this? Or should I go to a certain planner? Start from what my parents gave me for living (I'm planning to settle in the future).. How actually to start this? I'm tired of doing things halfway, so yea.. Any suggestion?
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Although they are pretty knowledgeable, I am not too much of a fan of financial planners. They offer advice and opinion, but can't tell you or commit themselves.

More often than not you can find the information on-line, but do tie in with the bank when starting out.

What is it you are looking for? spend plan or spend and save plan for simplicity.
Just for savings in general, Ing Direct offers very high interest rate. It's gone up 5 or so times just this year. It's now @ 4.5% - that is one of the best around. Unless someone else knows of someone offering more. I have both my kids saving through ING along with me.

ingdirect.com
PrincessStephanie, good for you for doing this, especially while so young! I have a few suggestions for you. I think financial planners can be all well and good, but no one is going to care more about your money and your future than you are. (Well, your parents care about your money and your future, but both are in your hands!)

First, this: I have not ever nor do I now have any financial or other interest (except as a consumer) in any of the following products.

I will suggest starting off with a few books. One of my favorites is "The Millionaire Next Door." It's probably available at your local library. This is an excellent book to get one in the mindset of what it takes to accrue real wealth, and IMHO, it should be required reading in every high school!

Another book I really like is this Motley Fools workbook. I have not looked at this Motley Fools workbook, but it might be an even better one for you to start with.

I like Motley Fools books in general, but found the first workbook better than their basic guide, which is why I recommend the workbook over the basic guide. Their Web site is good, too. (www.motleyfools.com) A warning: they hawk their products unceasingly, so be prepared to ignore advertisements!

That's where I'd suggest starting. Once you have a handle on cash flow (if you don't already, but somehow... I'd bet you do! :-) ) and expenses and such, and are saving regularly (even small amounts), then I'd suggest reading some books on investing, particularly investing in stocks. Nothing beats the stock market over the long haul, and if anyone can sit for the long haul, a 19-year-old can!

Something else I will recommend is starting or joining an investment club. Investment clubs are a great way to learn about investing. www.better-investing.org is the web site of the National Association of Investors Corporation, a non-profit group.

Books I have particularly liked and can recommend include just about anything by Peter Lynch, including "Beating the Street" and "One Up on Wall Street." I also like Andrew Tobias's "The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need" for a basic overall book. These are probably also available in your local library. If you want more information about investing, I can recommend some additional books, but starting with the materials I've already listed will get you well on your way.
Stephanie, I just made an appointment myself.  But....because I am very suspect of companies that get paid to tell you what to do with your money.  I found a provincially funded program (yes, I am in Canada) that, for a minimal amount of money, will assess what you have, what you make, what you want in the future and help you to achieve those goals.  They are a non-profit organization, so they don't receive any commissions from your investments, etc.

Check it out....I bet there is something similar where you are.  Good luck.
actually both Emerant (sp?) Direct and HSBC have savings accounts similar to ING with over 5% interest rates

im just too lazy to change over :D...

What you should do to help yourself is first find out where every penny you earn goes in a month...write down everything! on paper, in a spreadsheet...whereever

then go from there.

it also helps to have goals.

MSN money has an excellent financial message board you can post questions on...

(i dont believe in paying for a financial planner when you can do everything yourself with the help of the internet and some will)...

youd be surprised how "dieting" and trying to save money go hand in hand in more ways than one..
Thanks alott everyone!! :)) I am a totally newbie and i was freakin out yesterday, but its so relieving to read all the suggestions from you all :))
I will start checking the ingdirect, emerant, and hsbc.. I will also read the books that you suggested athena :) After I'm sure about all those i will try the financial planner (i'll try to look for what laurie had in canada) And i'm so excited!! Thanks again folks, I feel like I have a bigg family here :))

*Hughs*
I use both a financial planner and ING Direct.

My financial planner has been great. He managed to convince my spouse to get life insurance (I tried for YEARS!) and then opened a Money Market account for us. The nice thing about Money market is that it is very safe, but not easy to access. (We have to go to the financial planner, sign papers, and then the cheque takes a week to arrive, so impulse shopping is not possible.)

The reason I have an ING Direct account is because it actually has higher interest than Money Market. Once you have your account, you can play with Mutual Funds, GICs and other fun things to basically create a portfolio you like.

If you call ING Direct, you can speak with various people in various departments who can all help you learn your options. Obviously the higher the risk, the higher the potential revenue (but also the higher potential loss). My portfolio is largely low- & medium-risk, but I chose every component myself, which was important to me.

Kudos for starting this now. If I have ANY advice I could give, it would be this:

Save at least $100 per month - even if it seems like that's going to leave you really tight for the rest of the month. You'd be amazed how $100 can slip through your fingers without you seeing a thing.
I work on Wall St., and have been on-off this site for a while--my job has been a bit crazy lately, so I've been mostly off.

Free tips:

1)  Start saving and investing young.  The time value of money is the biggest benefit you have right now.  I started saving in my 401K when I was 20, and that is now my largest financial asset.

2)  Save at least 10% of your income.  No matter what. 10% is the minimum.  If you can get away with saving more, more power to you, DO IT!  This will require that you will: 1) live below your means; 2) pay yourself first; and 3) develop a mix of assets.

3)  If you're going to stay in the US, buy real estate.  Despite the bubble that everyone has been talking about (and there is one, no doubt!), you will have to live somewhere.  There is no point in paying a landlord rent when you get a tax deduction for paying interest on your mortgage.  You don't need to buy the most expensive house on the block to get some exposure to this asset class.

4)  Read, read, read.  Get an on-line subscription to the Wall St. Journal (cheaper than the paper version, same/more articles), or even check out their free articles to start.  I recommend Jonathan Clemens' Getting Going weekly column as a great place to begin your journey.  Another book, The Richest Man in Babylon, was written in 1926 and is one of the best books I've read on personal finance.

5)  Stay balanced.  Start by putting together an emergency fund--at least 3 to 6 months of living expenses in a savings account with HSBC, INGDirect, whatever bank you choose.  These are great on-line options that will pay you a higher yield than a traditional branch based bank.  Once you're done with the emergency fund, start investing fixed income and equity options.  Do your homework before getting involved in these.  Don't pay excess commissions or fees.  Some good low-cost funds are offered by the Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments.  Index investing is a cheap way to do it.

6)  Watch your cash flow.  Don't use credit cards for everyday expenses or long-term items, like tuition or a car.  Pay cash for everything, and if you have to incur debt, make it for something that will add value to you at some point in the future, like an education or a house.  Buy the cheapest car you can--the value depreciates, and there's no reason to spend mega-bucks on a depreciating asset.

Whew, that was fun.  Good luck to you and send a message if you have questions--

Cheers,

Denise
Cmillington and Denise, Thank You so much for the advise!! :))
I have decided to start an account in Ingdirect this february..and i definitely will print out and save all these suggestions from you all!!  

My parents never really tell me anything about financial, in fact.. i am the first generation that goes to college. I kind of envy some friends that have alot of "seniors" that could tell them how to do things in their live, so yea lol I tried to figure it out!

But yea, I am not lost now :) I started to feel relieve that things arent as complicated as i thought it would be. i cant believe i got a financial advise in a diet forum!! Lol I love u all :)

p.s. Denise, do u mind giving me ur email address or contact info if only i have questions about wall street? I am in junior college but I will transferring soon, and I always dream about working in a place like wall street. I dont know whether i would be able to make it to nyu, but if i did, it definitely would open a big chance for me ! :))
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