Archive for April 2008

Visited Liberty University yesterday!

Many of you who read this blog know that one of my biggest dreams in life is to start a university.  Every time that I visit Liberty University, I see proof that this dream can become reality.  This university started with virtually nothing about thirty years ago and today has about 11,000 students on campus and another 25,000 distance learning students.

I have been to Liberty several times over the past few years and the growth being experienced there is amazing!  I have seen the addition of the ice rink, the law school, Thomas Road Baptist Church, and several new student facilities.  It has been awesome to watch!

Here are some reasons I believe that Liberty is really growing:

  • Visionary Leadership  Stuff like this does not happen without someone casting vision over and over and over and over.  Dr. Jerry Falwell cast HUGE vision.  His son is now doing the same.
  • Bought-In Alumni  Just like I rant and rave about how great Purdue University is, the folks who graduated from Liberty are the same way.  I have met Liberty graduates all over America, and they are spreading the word.
  • Financial Strength  Liberty University is DEBT FREE!  When Dr. Jerry Falwell died in 2007, his estate paid off the debt held by Liberty University!
  • Excellent Education  There are tons of different degree opportunities at Liberty.  Schools include Business, Communication, Religion, Engineering, Education, Art, Science, Government, Law, Aviation, Nursing, and many others.
  • Energy  When a university experiences this much growth and has thousands of energetic students, you can not help but feel the energy when you walk on campus.
  • Athletics  The school has been competitive in several sports – especially women's basketball.

It was fun visiting the Liberty campus again!

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Money Won’t Solve All Of Life’s Problems

Money is incredibly important.  It has the ability to impact many areas of my life.  Yet, I clearly understand that money will not solve all of life's problems.  Friends will still get sick.  Loved ones will still pass on.  Friendships can get complicated.  Misunderstandings will happen.

Sound money management will not solve all of life's problems, BUT it can really reduce them.

I have found that the lack of money has caused simple problems to become HUGE interruptions to my life.  When I was broke, a car repair had the ability to completely derail the family finances.  When I was mismanaging all of our money, a sickness would crush the family economy and introduce a pile of stress into my life.

On the other hand, I have found that having money has enabled me to help others in times of need.  I have found that having money has reduced a transmission failure into a mere nuisance.  I have found that it has removed a lot of fierce discussions between Jenn and me.  We now just fiercely debate really cool topics like house projects!

Sound money management has not solved all of my life's problems, but it has really made me aware of just how blessed I am!  I am NEVER going back to my old way of mismanaging money and running with an average bank balance of $4.13! 

NEVER.

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My book, I Was Broke. Now I'm Not, is available via AMAZON.COM, BORDERS.COM, and PAYPAL.  You can read the Introduction HERE.

529 Plan Series: South Carolina Future Scholar

Welcome to another series on JoeSangl.com – 529 Plans.

In this series, I will be reviewing 529 college saving plans offered by different states.

It might be helpful to first review what a 529 plan is.  A 529 plan is a tax-advantaged college savings plan that is named for the section of tax code that outlines how they may operate – Section 529.

Today's 529 Plan is South Carolina's plan – Future Scholar

 
The South Carolina Future Scholar 529 College Savings Plan is managed by Columbia Management (a division of Bank of America).

What I Like About The Future Scholar Plan

  • Columbia Management.  I like some of the funds that are offered by Columbia Management.
  • Tax Deduction.  Although there are some restrictions, most South Carolina residents can deduct their Future Scholar contributions from their SC state tax return!
  • Self-Directed Option.  Through the "Direct Program" SC residents can manage their own investments, and if one chooses to do so the "load" (sales charge) is $0!  If one chooses to invest in the Future Scholar plan with the help of an advisor, there will be a sales charge of around 5%.  The sales charge should not deter someone from investing for college however!  If you are really intimidated by investing and mutual funds, it would be worth the sales charge to ensure you are getting good advice!
  • Learning Center.  The Future Scholar plan offers a great site to help one understand and plan for education costs.  It is located HERE.
  • Investment Options.  The Future Scholar plan offers three investment options. 
  1. Automatic Allocation Choice – This option allows one to "set it and forget it" in regard to adjusting the portfolio.  It is really aggressive when the beneficiary is very young and moves steadily to become more stable as the child approaches college time.
  2. Asset Allocation Choice – This option allows one to make a more specific decision on how one's investments are allocated.  This requires a more hands-on approach if one wants to adjust the portfolio.
  3. Single Fund Portfolio – This option allows one to invest in specific mutual funds offered via Columbia Funds.

What I Would Like To See Improved

  • Expense Ratios.  I would love to see the expense ratio of the funds reduced.  The average expense ratio is around 1.40% to 1.50%.  This is an every year fee and erodes the growth of the investment.

My daughter's college savings is in the SC 529 Future Scholar plan.  The tax benefit was the final straw for me to move the investment from another state's plan to the SC plan.

Are you saving for your child's college education?
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The Mutual Fund Series: American Funds

The is the latest installment in the weekly series featured at JoeSangl.com – The Mutual Fund Series.

During each part of this weekly series, I will be looking at a specific mutual fund company.

Today's company is American Funds.

 

American Funds has been around since 1931 and is one of the largest mutual fund companies in the world with over $900 Billion in investments and over 40,000,000 shareholder accounts.  American Funds is owned by a larger company – The Capital Group Companies.

What I Like About American Funds

  • Great performance long-term.  The track record of American Funds has been terrific!
  • Long-Term Approach.  They use a team-approach to manage their mutual funds.  They manage money extremely well in down markets.  They have absorbed hits like the 1987 crash and the bear market of the early 70s and have performed well.
  • Experience.  Their advisors have an average of 22 years of experience with American Funds.  That is unheard of in today's world!
  • Low Initial Investment Requirement.  Most American Fund mutual fund investments can be started with just $250 and a commitment to invest at least $25/month.  That is great!  It allows anyone to start investing!
  • Low Expense Ratios.  They have low expense ratios when compared to most mutual funds.  They are higher than Vanguard, but are about half of comparable mutual funds.
  • Tools.  They have a nice retirement planning website HERE.  I really like their "quick analysis" retirement planning calculator HERE.  It told me good news – that they believe I can retire someday!  What does it tell you?  You can also check out my "retirement nest-egg required" calculator (located on the "TOOLS" page or click HERE).

What I Would Like To See Improved At American Funds

  • Sales Charges.  To purchase American Funds directly, one has to be savvy with on-line trading websites or else one will have to work through an advisor.  This means that there will be a "load" when one purchases American Fund mutual funds through a broker.  If one is just starting out, it could mean that one will have to pay up to 5.75% for all new money invested.  This load drops as more money is held in one's account, but the lower charges start after one achieves six figures in their account.

American Fund Mutual Funds I Own

I currently own six American Fund mutual funds.

  • AMCAP Fund A [Ticker: AMCPX]
  • Capital World Growth and Income Fund [Ticker: CWGIX]
  • Fundamental Investors A [Ticker: ANCFX]
  • New World Fund [Ticker: NEWFX]
  • The Growth Fund of America [Ticker: AGTHX]
  • The Investment Company of America [Ticker: AIVSX]

American Fund Mutual Funds That I Am Considering Purchasing

  • The New Economy Fund [Ticker: ANEFX]  I like the growth potential of the markets this fund will be investing in.
  • EuroPacific Growth Fund [Ticker: AEPGX]  Same as The New Economy Fund – I really like the potential of the markets this fund will be investing in.

What American Fund mutual funds do you own?  Do you have any American Fund mutual funds that you really like?  Any you really dislike?

Love learning about mutual funds?  Love a little competition?  Maybe the "You Pick 'Em Mutual Fund Game" is for you!  Contestants have until the end of April to enter their mutual fund selection.

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This Is About Right!

Someone sent this picture to me, and I thought it was very appropriate! 

I am ready for gas prices to go DOWN for once!

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My book, I Was Broke. Now I'm Not, is available via AMAZON.COM, BORDERS.COM, and PAYPAL.  You can read the Introduction HERE.