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Lefkofsky Talks About the Need for More Empathy People who have success in the realm of business innovation, like Eric Lefkofsky, may ...

5 Tips For Back To School Shopping On A Budget

5 Tips For Back To School Shopping On A Budget

back to school
It's almost that time of the year again: back to school! Parents can't wait for it, while kids frown at the thought of it. Whether you're sending your children back to school or going back yourself, one of biggest tasks on your to-do list is back to school shopping. While back-to-school shopping can be fun, it can also be quite stressful, as there's a lot you or your child is going to need to have a successful year ahead. The cost of supplies can add up quickly too. Here are 5 budget friendly tips for back to school shopping:

Ask for a shopping list

Have a game plan before you even start shopping. It's easy to waste money on things you don't need. Ask your school or your child's teacher for a shopping list. If they don't already have one prepared (and most will be prepared), they can at least provide you guidance on what to buy. It will make things much easier for you and take the guess work out of shopping. You'll only buy exactly what you need and still be super prepared.

Stock up now

An entire school year can be quite long, but back-to-school deals only last for a few weeks. What about the rest of the year? Stock up now instead of buying supplies for only the next few months. Plan ahead and get what you need now so you can take advantage of the deals. Months from now, the same things will cost more.

Buy used

Kids might like new shiny things but it makes sense to buy used for certain items. For instance, your child is taking calculus this year and needs an expensive calculator. Does it make sense to spend over $100 on something he or she will only use for a few months? Probably not. Look for cheaper, gently used options instead. This is an especially important tip for college students who will need to purchase their own textbooks. Used is the way to go more often than you think.

Use what you already have

Remember to search your home first before you go out and spend. Many supplies, like notebooks and pens, are sitting in closets and desk drawers forgotten about and unused. Make use of what you already have. You can also reuse and repurpose items from the previous school year, like backpacks and binders.

Share with others

It's a great idea to share with your schoolmates. Consider sharing instead of everyone buying multiples of the same item. This will cut down on waste and save you money. If you or your child is heading off to college for the first time, get in touch with their roommate first and decide who's bringing what. You don't want to end up with two microwaves.

Back-to-school is an exciting time of the year, but it's also very expensive. The cost of supplies can add up quickly. Planning ahead will help you save more and stress less so you can spend more time on academics.


Kids and Food: How to Turn Picky Eaters Around, and Save Money in the Process

Kids and Food: How to Turn Picky Eaters Around, and Save Money in the Process

healthy breakfast
I wouldn't call my daughter a picky eater exactly. She has always been great about eating fruits and vegetables, but it was always on her terms. She would rather just play than actually sit and eat. What's worst, she used her hunger as a bedtime stalling tactic many times in the past. Her eating preferences resulted in a lot of wasted food, time, and money over the past few years. Thankfully a few adjustments to our rules helped transform meal time and ultimately saves us money, so let me share those with you.

Limit Snacks

When I first read, Karen Le Billon's "French Kids Eat Everything," I disagreed wholeheartedly with the "no snacking" rule. It seemed impossible since my slim preschooler snacked all day. Slowly, though, I stopped buying certain snacks, which lead to less snack-wanting. I then noticed that the less she snacked, the better she ate at each meal. Obviously, I am still a human, and snacks still find their way into some days. However, when I make the conscious effort to eliminate snacks and enjoy each meal sitting down with her, I am amazed by how much food she eats.

Water Only

I never understood the purpose of giving kids juice. Not only can daily juice eat up your grocery budget, but what benefits does it really have for kids? When I give my daughter even the better quality juices, stuffed with vitamins and vegetables, it still leads to a few issues. First, since she drinks it quicker than she would water, we must be near a bathroom for the next hour. Second, she is prone to having more meltdowns and tantrums from the sugar (even natural sugar should be consumed in moderation). Finally, she will fill up on juice and not eat anything else, resulting in a messed up eating schedule. Let's not forget that regular consumption of juice can increase your child's risk of dental problems too. Thankfully, this problem is easily avoidable for us, since we do not keep juice in the house.

Figure Out Where Discipline Needs to Start

I never want to cause my children any long-lasting issues with food. I am sure we have all heard horror stories or even have our own from parents being too harsh at dinnertime. However, there needs to be a happy balance. Obviously, it is not wise to let your kids to eat whatever they want. Once my daughter reached the age of two, it became a rule that she had to take one bite of something new. She also learned that once dinner is over, the kitchen is closed until morning. Getting to these points was a long and tiring battle. We had to try many different tactics until we found what worked for our family.

But What If I Am Worried About My Child's Weight?

If you are worried about cutting out snacking or disciplining your picky eater because they are skinny, then talk it over with their doctor. Every family needs to find what works for them. My daughter was always in the 5-10 percentile for weight for her age. I use to be anxious about it and let her eat unlimited amounts of goldfish and crackers so she would at least eat something. But then I realized I wasn't helping the problem. How were goldfish and crackers going to help my daughter become healthy and overcome eating issues? Was I going to rely on snacks every time we ate dinner as a family? Honestly, overcoming your child's picky eating and bad eating habits will not happen overnight, and you may need to endure many tantrums and bad attitudes for setting firmer eating rules. But I will encourage you to say that once you start to see improvement, it brings a new level of positivity to the family. It will help you save money because you don't have to buy snacks, waste food, or make multiple meals.


5 Reasons Your Budget Just Isn’t Working

5 Reasons Your Budget Just Isn't Working

I hear people complain about budgeting all the time. Some just have a love/hate relationship with it. When I ask them why, the usual answers are 'I hate math', 'it's a waste of time', or 'it's just too much work'. While all of these are legitimate reasons, there's usually a bigger underlying reason: their budget doesn't work for them.

Maintaining a budget can definitely take up a lot of time and be overwhelming. But it doesn't have to be as long as you set the budget up correctly. A lot of times, your budget isn't working because you haven't tailored it to your needs. A budget can be a very powerful tool, but only if you use it correctly. Let's take a look at 5 common reasons why a budget just doesn't work:

You're Spending Too Much

It might seem obvious to say that you shouldn't spend more than you make, but that's the biggest challenge some face when doing their budget. If your expenses exceeds your income, something's wrong. Learn to live within your means. Otherwise, your financial outlook will be bleak.

You're Budgeting The Wrong Categories

It can be difficult to figure out what you should be spending your money on and how much exactly. Sometimes, we can budget the wrong amounts in the wrong categories. This is especially problematic when you underestimate what you're going to spend and end up not having enough. Review your month-over-month expenses in each category to come up with more accurate numbers.

You're Not Being Realistic

Even though we create budgets with the best intentions, we're just not realistic about it sometimes. We tend think of a budget as the ideal scenario, even though we need to look at it as a reality. Challenge yourself to save more, but be honest with yourself at the same time – is your budget realistic or are you setting yourself up for failure?

You're Not Sticking To The Numbers

While your budget isn't an end-all-be-all when it comes to spending, you should stick to what you decided on as much as you can. Especially for impulsive spenders, it's easy to make an unplanned purchase and say it's no big deal. But think of the bigger picture. How will the purchase affect your budget today and your finances tomorrow?

You're Not Reviewing The Results

Your financial situation can constantly change. You need to adapt to the changes in your life in order for your budget to work. The numbers aren't set in stone once you make a budget either. You should routinely review it and make changes as necessary.

Budgeting isn't always fun but it doesn't have to be painful either. By avoiding these mistakes, you can create a budget that really works for you. A budget can be your best friend but only if you let it.



How to Evaluate Your 401(k)


looking at piggy bank
One of the ways many people invest is through their 401(k) plans. These plans come with tax advantages, and some employers even contribute matching funds. For many people, the 401k plan is a way to save for retirement without too much effort. However, there are some things you should consider when it comes to your 401(k). Retirement startup FeeX offers these considerations when evaluating your 401(k):

Do You Know What You’re Paying?

First of all, do you understand what fees you are paying for your 401(k) plan? Many of us don’t stop to think about investment costs since we don’t physically have to pay from out of pocket. However, check for fees and expenses that might be reducing your real returns over time. There’s a difference between a plan that with 1% in fees and one with more than 2% in fees and expenses. Over decades, those fees can mean tens of thousands of dollars missing from your nest egg. And plan administrators are required to share this information with participants, so look it up and make changes accordingly.

Also, don’t assume that higher costs are translate to higher returns. According to FeeX, over the past 20 years, the percentage of active funds underperforming their benchmarks is right around 75%. There is a good chance your high-cost funds aren’t turning in performances that make the cost worth it.
(Here are a few suggestions on how to pick the right mutual fund in your 401k plan.)
Recent regulations have required more transparency in 401(k) statements. Take advantage of this reality to review your statements and look for the fees charged. You can also look to see if your employer is helping cover some of the fund fees. You might have to cover the expense ratio for the funds in your plan, but your employer might be paying the additional fees for administering the plan. Find out who’s paying what so that you can make an informed decision about your participation.

What Options are Available to You?

Check into the plan options available to you. Look for low-cost index funds if you want to reduce your fees and see decent returns. “A plan should offer at least a few low-cost index funds, plus a set of low-cost target date funds across several asset classes to be considered for what we would define as a good plan,” points out FeeX.
Take a look at the available options in your plan, and ask your plan administrator to look for better options if the selections are sub-par. While you can’t always change what’s being offered, you can evaluate the offerings and make the effort. If you can’t find good, low-cost options with your current plan, it might make sense to move some of the money into an IRA that allows you to choose your own low-cost funds as soon as you get the chance.
If your employer offers a match, consider contributing what you need to in order to obtain the maximum match, and then take the rest of your contributions elsewhere if you are eligible to contribute to an IRA. You don’t want to leave free money from your employer sitting on the table, but at the same time there’s no reason to put more money into a bad 401(k) than you have to.

Are Millennials Ready to Get Over Their Risk Aversion?


In the past couple of years, the financial media has been full of stories about the risk aversion experienced by millennials. According to surveys and studies, millennials are reluctant to invest in the stock market. Many of them came of age in time to watch their parents lose retirement money in the aftermath the financial crisis of 2008 (although hanging in there rather than selling would have resulted in recovery and then some).
That’s too bad.

Savings Accounts Don’t Build Wealth Effectively

While savings accounts can be great places for liquid funds used for emergencies, the reality is that they won’t help you build wealth effectively over time. Try any online calculator that figures compound interest, and you’ll find that the interest returns from a savings account are woefully unable to help you build enough wealth for a comfortable retirement. You probably won’t even beat inflation if you keep your money in a savings account.

On the other hand, investing in the stock market is likely to help you build wealth more effectively over time. The average annualized return for the S&P 500 since its inception is right around 9%. Even figuring a more modest annualized return of 6%, it’s easy to see that the stock market is better equipped to help you build your nest egg than a savings account that offers a 1% APY.

Why the Stock Market Makes Us Nervous

Part of the reason the stock market makes us nervous is due to the fact that we hear about it all the time. We hear about the way it rises or falls every day in the news. When a big crash happens, we hear about it constantly. The story you don’t often hear is that, over time, the stock market as a whole has yet to lose. The stock market hasn’t come out negative in any 25-year period yet. Yes, the stock market can deliver negative returns in any given year, or even during a five-year or ten-year period. But over the long haul — the time frame of three to four decades that you will bebuilding your retirement account — the stock market hasn’t lost.
Index funds can make good choices if you want to quiet some of your fears. You may not see amazing returns, but you are more likely to see steady growth over time, since index funds take advantage of segments of the market, rather than individual stocks. If you invest in an all-market index fund, you have access to the long-term gains of the market as a whole. Even if there are down years, there is a good chance that overtime you’ll still see growth.
Hopefully more millennials will become educated about the tools available to take advantage of the stock market, and invest more in risk assets as they see that cash just doesn’t offer the growth needed for effective wealth building.
How about you? Are you invested in stocks?

3 Financial Moves to Make Before Getting Married


Love can sometimes be blind, especially in the midst of an engagement and wedding planning. While I don’t think that love suddenly disappears after the honeymoon, like many would suggest, I do think the reality of finances can hit couples hard after they settle down. Here are three smart financial moves every couple should consider before tying the knot.

Reduce Debt

You might not think your $3K credit card debt and $10K car loan are that big of a deal. In fact, you can probably afford the $200-300 payment easily each month. But your budget might start looking too tight when you combine your debt repayments with your spouse’s debt repayments, and then add on a bunch of new costs.

It is important to know how much your combined debt will be when you get married. Both you and your loved one should disclose any debt or financial obligations. Once you know your combined total of debt, try to reduce it by 50 percent before the big day. This might mean taking more hours at work, doing side jobs, or getting a second job. It is much easier to do this drastic debt attack before marriage then afterwards.

Discuss Your Financial Goals

Both you and your partner should spend time writing your goals on index cards and talking through them. Goals might look like this:
  • Being debt free
  • Going to school for a higher degree
  • Staying at home with children in three years
  • Take a vacation every year
  • Buy a home in two years
Whatever your goals are for the next 5-10 years, you have to incorporate them into your budget. If you both agree to have children and the wife will stay home with them in three years, then you need to take the right steps in the beginning of your marriage. You should be living off of one income right away, while establishing a strong savings account.

Rethink Your Wedding Costs

You might want to cut costs wherever possible if you are paying for your own wedding. Being saddled with a $30K or more of debt for one day of celebrating is a bit extreme. Pay for cash for your wedding whenever possible, and remember, the day is about you as a couple, not about making the wedding look like it belongs in a magazine. What is the point in impressing your guests with a lavish wedding if you are stuck paying for it for 10 years afterwards?
Getting married is an exciting time for all couples. I strongly suggest taking time to discuss your finances, financial goals, and budget before walking down the aisle. It might not be sexy to talk investing and budgeting, but it will prevent a lot of issues later in your marriage.
Are you getting married? What financial steps are you taking before the big day? Already married? What financial moves did you wish you took before getting married?

4 Morning Habits of Successful People


I dragged myself out of bed at 5:18 a.m. this morning (after I’d hit the snooze button twice), threw on my workout clothes, and went to the gym before the sun was up.
Despite the fact that I once viewed early mornings (not to mention a.m. workouts) to be a unique form of torture, I am trying my best to create a pre-dawn gym habit in order to set each and every day up for success. That’s because your morning habits set up your day for better or worse. Hitting the snooze button until 20 minutes before you have to leave for work is a good way to feel behind all day long, while getting up early and fitting in some exercise will help you feel empowered to handled any problem that crops up.
Did you ever want to improve how you start off each and every day? Here are four morning habits that successful people adopt to stay on top of their days, their careers, and their lives:

Get Up Early

I can recall my parents telling me I was missing the best part of the day back when I used to sleep until noon on weekends. Much as I hate to admit that Mom and Dad were right, it turns out that not only do early risers have healthier sleep cycles, and better mental health, but they are also far more productive than their late-sleeping colleagues.
The most productive people in the world are up before the sun and have several items checked off their to-do list while the rest of the world is still stumbling around looking for the coffee-maker. Feeling like you’re ahead of the game more than makes up for the 5 a.m. alarm.


We all know we should be exercising most days, and yet only a small percentage of people actually get their recommended exercise. The trick, according to many experts, is to plan your exercise for the morning.
Not only does that eliminate the possibility that a work emergency will nix your lunchtime or evening workout, but it also helps to give you a boost of energy prior to tackling your day. I can personally attest that work to-dos seem much more achievable after having run three miles at 5:30 am.


When you are extremely busy, it can often seem like the best way to start your day is to jump right in. But taking a few moments to reflect can make a huge difference in your productivity and your mood.
Many successful individuals — from Oprah Winfrey to Arianna Huffington — take a few moments every morning to sit quietly and clear their minds. This exercise allows them to be more connected with their lives and feel gratitude for what they have.
Successful early risers also take the time to reflect on the day ahead, so that they are well-prepared for the upcoming challenges.

Eat Your Frog

Mark Twain famously advised “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” There is a kernel of truth within the humorous advice — tackling something you dread first thing in the morning will make the rest of your day feel great.
Taking the time to do some focused work on a major obstacle will both help you feel productive, and make the rest of your work day much more pleasant. In addition, early morning is when your willpower reserves are freshest, so working on the dreaded project will be easier in the morning than it will be the rest of the day.

Good Mornings Make for Great Days

Modern life can often make you feel like you are always running to catch up — and never quite make it. Setting your alarm earlier and making mornings the best part of your day will do a lot to help you feel in control again.

How to Get the Best Deals on


We all know what does best. Chances are you’ve even shopped there at least once. The online shopping giant has become a household name by carrying one of the largest product selections online and having low prices. They’re also known for their speedy delivery and just overall dominating the eCommerce industry. But even so, navigating Amazon and finding the best deals can be quite confusing.
I’m a very loyal customer and do a large part of my shopping there (everything except for groceries). Shopping the site can definitely be difficult at first, as there’s just so much to browse, but you can definitely score great deals with a few tips. Here is how to find the best prices on

Sign Up for a Prime membership

For the most part, it doesn’t really make sense to have to PAY to save money (aside from shopping at Costco), but a Prime membership is one exception. For $99 a year, a Prime membership will get you 1-2 days shipping on all orders, access to Prime Instant Video and Music, a Prime Photos account, and membership to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (one free Kindle book per month). If you’re planning to make multiple purchases a month, the cost is easily justified.

Subscribe & Save Monthly

There are thousands of products you can subscribe to on Amazon with their Subscribe & Save program. Amazon will automatically send you these items based on the time period you choose (for instance, monthly or every 6 months). You get 5% off every time you subscribe to an item, and 15% off if you subscribe to 5 or more items each month. That’s easy savings for items you need regularly. You can cancel your subscription at anytime too, so those who are disciplined can get real savings here.

Use Amazon Pantry for Essentials

You can also try Amazon Pantry for everyday essentials. Items that are eligible for Amazon Pantry are generally priced lower but each Pantry box costs $5.99 to ship. You choose which items to add to your box and Amazon will tell you once it’s full and ready to ship out. This is a cost efficient option for items you use on a daily basis, like toilet paper or soap.

Look at the price history

Amazon’s prices fluctuate on a daily basis since they carefully track competitor pricing. How do you know if you’re getting the best price? Websites like will give you price history on any item, from highest price to lowest price to overall average. You can even set up an alert so that they’ll email you if an item is reduced to a specified price. This is great for bigger ticket items.

Ask for a price adjustment

One of the best things about Amazon, other than their low prices, is their customer service. If you purchased something and the price drops later on, you can just ask for a price adjustment. They will most likely honor your request as long as it’s within 30 days.
Shopping on Amazon can be a lot like navigating through a maze, but it’s become one of the biggest online retailers for good reason. You can definitely score some great deals most of the time. You just need to know how to look.
Do you shop at What are your tricks to save more money there?

Money Saving Benefits of Being a Stay-at-Home Mom

stay at home mom
It is no secret I am a huge fan of stay-at-home moms. I know the choice is not the right for everybody, but here are the money-saving benefits that I have experienced from staying at home.

More Home Cooked Meals

A little over a month ago, I allowed my freelance writing to get to 40 hours a week. Working 40 hours on top of taking care of my kids all day was stressful. Dinner was not getting cooked even though I was home all day, so we were constantly running out to get fast food. I was constantly trying to stay awake and alert with Starbucks runs too. When I did go grocery shopping, I was so stressed and sleep deprived I wasted money on food that eventually was thrown away. Why should I bother working so many hours if I was just going to waste all of that money (and my precious time) on food costs? I ended up drastically cutting my work hours and all of these expensive food costs automatically disappeared.

Less Money Spent on Appearances

Of course I care how I look and don’t want to be in pajamas all day. As a freelancing stay-at-home mom, I need a very limited wardrobe – mostly jeans, tunic tops, and a few dresses. My current bosses and co-worker don’t mind that my roots need touching up and that my fingernails haven’t seen a drop of polish in over a year, but employees who go to an office everyday are usually expected to look a certain way all of the time, or there is unspoken competition between co-workers.

Fewer Stressful Purchases

Anyone else shop or eat when they are stressed? When I was doing the 40 hours of freelance work, I was also shopping online a lot more. I was constantly buying to take my mind off my stress. I also kept shoving cookies in my mouth too.

My Husband Is More Motivated to Make More

I am truly grateful my husband is a wonderful provider for our family. He has the type of job that allows employees to grow with the company or stay at their position for the rest of their life. Since my husband knows we rely on his income, he is always motivated to pursue higher positions and do what needs to be done for raises. I know this is not the case with everyone, but I am thankful my husband fights hard for me to stay at home with the kids.

No Childcare Costs

I have looked into the costs for childcare and preschool, and it is just amazing how expensive it is. It would be depressing to see more than $2,000 per month gone to childcare costs even if I did have a full-time, well-paying job. Some moms realize that childcare costs with one kid are still beneficial for them to work. Other moms discover that having more than one kid in childcare can eat away their whole paycheck and that staying at home is a financially smarter move temporarily.
Honestly, being a stay-at-home mom is what I want to do. I encourage all other parents who want the same thing to take a hard look at their budget and to see if it possible. Sometimes it is a question of what you have to sacrifice to have the ability to stay home with your kids. I know for me, I would move to a one-bedroom home,cut cable, and go down to one car if I had to. If staying at home with your kids is that important to you, you will find a way to make it work. Adapting to a new lifestyle won’t be easy, but the benefits will be worth it.
Stay at home parent or working parent – the best choice is the one that works for your unique family. Whichever one you are, share your favorite ways to save money each month.

How Much Can You Save By Buying A Used Cell Phone?


cell phone
The value of a new car drops thousands of dollars the instant it leaves the dealership lot. During the first year of ownership, that shiny new ride will drop 20% off it’s value, and nearly a third by the end of the second year. This exceptional rate of depreciation is exactly why the financially savvy look to buy a used vehicle, as a great vehicle with a lot of life left can be had at a huge discount.
Cell phones follow the exact same model, because consumers pay a premium for the latest and greatest technology. The definition of what is the latest and greatest changes rapidly, though. Today’s technological marvel is merely tomorrow’s middle of the road phone. In fact, everything changes so fast many of us don’t fully utilize the capabilities of the phone that we carry around each day. For example, I had a Galaxy S4 and after a year I shelled out extra cash to upgrade to the S5. I could barely tell the difference to be honest. I suspect there are many people out there that have the same customer experience as I did.
I decided to do a little research to find out just how much I could save buying a used cell phone that is at least one generation behind the latest and greatest. I searched Craigslist for the two leading flagship smart phones: The Apple iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy.

Samsung Galaxy:

Latest Model: Galaxy S6
Retail Price From Mobile Service Carriers: $695
Option 1: Galaxy S5
Average CraigsList Price: $325
Option 2: Galaxy S4
Average CraigsList Price: $220

Apple iPhone:

Latest Model: iPhone 6 (16GB)
Retail Price From Mobile Service Carriers Price: $650
Option 1: iPhone 5S (16GB)
Average Craigslist Price: $212
Option 2: iPhone 4S (16GB)
Average  Craigslist Price: $124
Buying a Galaxy that is one generation behind will cut the cost of your phone in half when compared to the latest model. For the iPhone, you can get the last generation for less than a third of the cost of a new iPhone 6. That’s a savings of $438! There are undoubtedly those reading this who can easily list the options and features we’d be missing out on if we purchased the previous generation phone, but there are many of us who couldn’t care less about them because we are content to just check our email, update our Facebook status, and call our spouses on our way home from work.

So How Much Can You Save Really?

David’s Note:Times have changed. The economy is good, and many people are again asking whether $438 a year is really that big of a deal. Sure, that $36 or so a month on the surface doesn’t seem like much, but the phone is hardly the only culprit for most people. Add in the $60 for a rarely used cable TV subscription, $200 for not spending the time to refinance, another $100 for not periodically getting a better deal on all the insurances and other monthly services you already pay for, and the total can add up.
Look. I’m not saving that you shouldn’t buy a phone. I have a iPhone 6 myself. All I’m saying is to run the numbers, get off your butt and do what you already know will save you money and you won’t need to complain in a few decades why a couple of your friends can afford to fly everywhere after retirement all the time. Because guess what? You get to join them.
Have you ever purchased a used cell phone? How much did it cost you?

Debunking Common Social Security Myths

Social Security will celebrate its 80th birthday on August 14, 2015. In honor of eight decades of the program, let’s look at some of the common urban legends about one of America’s most popular government programs. Which of these “facts” have you fallen for?

1. 65 was chosen as Social Security’s standard retirement age because of a German Chancellor.

At some point in school, you probably learned that the very first social insurance program was created by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1889. You may have also heard that Bismarck himself was 65 years old at the inception of Germany’s program, which is why 65 has been the default retirement age ever since.

As cool as this fact sounds, it’s actually wrong on three counts. First, Bismarck was 74 in 1889, and so his age had no bearing whatsoever on the age chosen for retirement benefits to kick in. Second, Germany originally set the retirement age at 70 rather than 65, and did not lower the age until 1916, at which point Bismarck had been dead for 18 years. Third, the American designers of Social Security based their recommendation for retirement at 65 upon actuarial studies and the standards of domestic private pension programs–not how Germany or any other country set up their system.

2. Identifying information is encoded in your Social Security number.

When I was a child, my father once told me that the middle two digits of your Social Security number represent the year you were born. It was a natural assumption for him to make, since the middle two digits of his SSN matched up with his birth year. But it was incorrect. (And I memorized my Social Security number incorrectly as having 79 as the middle two digits because of his offhand remark.)
Although my father’s assumption about coded information is not a common one, plenty of myths abound about how the nine digits that comprise a Social Security number categorize the cardholders. One of the most repeated myths is that the middle two digits, which are known internally in the SSA as the group number, indicates the race of the individual holding that number. As it happens, the group number is simply a bookkeeping tactic created to help subcategorize numbers in the pre-computer world.
And even though the first three digits are both referred to as the area number and are assigned geographically, they were never intended to be anything more than another method of bookkeeping, and there is no database of geographically coded Social Security numbers.

3. Social Security was designed so that most people would not live long enough to collect benefits.

I have to admit that I have fallen for this particular myth on more than one occasion. That’s because actuarial tables from 1930 show an average lifespan of 58 for men and 62 for women. What I and other laypeople fail to take into account is the fact that actuarial tables show average lifespan, meaning high infant mortality skews the numbers lower. Someone born in 1930 who lived to adulthood had a much better chance of making it to age 65–and receiving benefits–than the tables seem to show.

The Bottom Line

It’s human nature to mythologize something that has been around for longer that we (or our parents) can remember. But when the myths you believe are about a major government program, it’s a good idea to separate the fact from the fiction.


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