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Practice Profile: Bringing personality to personal finance



It was about five years ago when Tiffany Vaughn, an audit and assurance director from a Big Four firm on maternity leave with her first child, decided to devote more time to another money-related passion of hers, personal finance.

Given her recent life change, Vaughn was evaluating her family’s own finances when she began sharing her strategies online, via her blog and social media. Her expert tips, which became the foundation for Cents Savvy — recently relaunched as a full website and online shop — covered everything from budgeting to student loan management, to building credit and tools to get out of debt.

Vaughn, a CPA who has been with her firm for more than 12 years, also began offering consulting services to individuals and small businesses local to her in Canton, Michigan.

“I started out grassroots, in my community, my networks, and expanded to multiple demographics,” she said. “Mostly, my clientele was from the African American community.”

Since then, her reach has expanded, with her “bite-sized” tips reaching hundreds of readers on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, though she continues to advise small-business owners locally.

“It transformed into assisting specific clientele and individuals, helping them to get on the right path for new and up-and-coming businesses — entrepreneurial thinking of starting a business, from an accounting perspective. Behind every good business is a good accountant,” Vaughn noted, explaining that she provides clients a checklist of all the financial considerations for a small business, including tax planning.

For both individuals and businesses, Vaughn’s focus is getting clients on the right path to achieving their financial goals.

“I believe there is a need for more financial literacy,” she explained. “That was my mission when I started [Cents Savvy]. Thinking about it in the communities that want to be financially independent and build generational wealth, having access to those tools, and where to get that information, sparked me to begin.”

Tiffany Vaughan of Cents Savvy

Building the brand

Vaughn relaunched the Cents Savvy website in 2020 to reflect the range of services and resources she offers, in the categories of personal finance, credit repair, tax preparation, small-business accounting and life insurance. She also conducts virtual training sessions on financial wellness for small businesses as a team-building exercise, where the majority of participants range in age from their late 20s to their early 40s. Overall, Vaughn reports women between the ages of 35 to 54 are the main demographic visiting her website and following her on social channels.

Last summer, Vaughn added an online retail hub to the website, “The Savvy Shop,” which offers guides on getting out of debt and building credit, along with financial planning notebooks, cash boxes and her best-selling cash-saving envelopes.

The envelopes facilitate the budgeting strategy of tracking expenses by sorting cash into different categorized envelopes, and can be customized to their purpose, whether the day-to-day — groceries, entertainment, transportation — or long-term goals like vacation funds, college savings or a house downpayment. They can also be labeled with some of the catchphrases that adorn the online store’s T-shirts and cash boxes, like “Act Your Wage” and “Girls Just Want to Have Funds.”

Vaughn had purchased a Cricut, a computer-controlled cutting machine, to help in her crafting projects, and soon deployed it to generate these customizations. With her full-time accounting job and two children, she primarily creates her products on nights and weekends, which she calls a “nice hobby-getaway.”

Balanced growth

As passionate as Vaughn is about continuing to build Cents Savvy, she plans to stick with her first love of accounting in her 9-to-5 hours.

“I truly love both things I’m doing,” she shared. “Five years from now, I see Cents Savvy continuing to grow, to reach a larger audience with messaging, products and services. It’s a separate lane from what I’m doing at the Big Four firm with assurance and audit, and I see [doing] that as well; it’s what I truly love doing.”

Vaughn also plans to keep Cents Savvy rooted in introductory education: “I tell all clients, I’m by no means a stockbroker. When I get into that, I refer them to someone different, to wealth management companies, to get more resources. For basics, that’s the lane I stay in for subsequent calls ­— budgeting sessions, to get budgets set up, credit education, teaching how to budget, retail products, and tax planning and preparation.”

Operating within this niche, Vaughn hopes to connect with more college students, whom she identified as most in need of better financial education. She has been in contact with her alma mater, Michigan State University, and other local colleges to better reach this underserved population.

Across most demographics, Vaughn said that the people she advises have a “wide range of financial literacy practices,” which motivates her to continue offering customized services, though the goals are universal.

“Ultimately, all people want the same thing,” she observed. “To understand how they are operating, moving money, and how to achieve these goals: to do better, be better, and [where to start].”

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Are Sallie Mae Student Loans Federal or Private?



When you hear the name Sallie Mae, you probably think of student loans. There’s a good reason for that; Sallie Mae has a long history, during which time it has provided both federal and private student loans.

However, as of 2014, all of Sallie Mae’s student loans are private, and its federal loans have been sold to another servicer. Here’s what to know if you have a Sallie Mae loan or are considering taking one out.

What is Sallie Mae?

Sallie Mae is a company that currently offers private student loans. But it has taken a few forms over the years.

In 1972, Congress first created the Student Loan Marketing Association (SLMA) as a private, for-profit corporation. Congress gave SLMA, commonly called “Sallie Mae,” the status of a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) to support the company in its mission to provide stability and liquidity to the student loan market as a warehouse for student loans.

However, in 2004, the structure and purpose of the company began to change. SLMA dissolved in late December of that year, and the SLM Corporation, or “Sallie Mae,” was formed in its place as a fully private-sector company without GSE status.

In 2014, the company underwent another big adjustment when Sallie Mae split to form Navient and Sallie Mae. Navient is a federal student loan servicer that manages existing student loan accounts. Meanwhile, Sallie Mae continues to offer private student loans and other financial products to consumers. If you took out a student loan with Sallie Mae prior to 2014, there’s a chance that it was a federal student loan under the now-defunct Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).

At present, Sallie Mae owns 1.4 percent of student loans in the United States. In addition to private student loans, the bank also offers credit cards, personal loans and savings accounts to its customers, many of whom are college students.

What is the difference between private and federal student loans?

When you’re seeking financing to pay for college, you’ll have a big choice to make: federal versus private student loans. Both types of loans offer some benefits and drawbacks.

Federal student loans are educational loans that come from the U.S. government. Under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, there are four types of federal student loans available to qualified borrowers.

With federal student loans, you typically do not need a co-signer or even a credit check. The loans also come with numerous benefits, such as the ability to adjust your repayment plan based on your income. You may also be able to pause payments with a forbearance or deferment and perhaps even qualify for some level of student loan forgiveness.

On the negative side, most federal student loans feature borrowing limits, so you might need to find supplemental funding or scholarships if your educational costs exceed federal loan maximums.

Private student loans are educational loans you can access from private lenders, such as banks, credit unions and online lenders. On the plus side, private student loans often feature higher loan amounts than you can access through federal funding. And if you or your co-signer has excellent credit, you may be able to secure a competitive interest rate as well.

As for drawbacks, private student loans don’t offer the valuable benefits that federal student borrowers can enjoy. You may also face higher interest rates or have a harder time qualifying for financing if you have bad credit.

Are Sallie Mae loans better than federal student loans?

In general, federal loans are the best first choice for student borrowers. Federal student loans offer numerous benefits that private loans do not. You’ll generally want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and review federal funding options before applying for any type of private student loan — Sallie Mae loans included.

However, private student loans, like those offered by Sallie Mae, do have their place. In some cases, federal student aid, grants, scholarships, work-study programs and savings might not be enough to cover educational expenses. In these situations, private student loans may provide you with another way to pay for college.

If you do need to take out private student loans, Sallie Mae is a lender worth considering. It offers loans for a variety of needs, including undergrad, MBA school, medical school, dental school and law school. Its loans also feature 100 percent coverage, so you can find funding for all of your certified school expenses.

With that said, it’s always best to compare a few lenders before committing. All lenders evaluate income and credit score differently, so it’s possible that another lender could give you lower interest rates or more favorable terms.

The bottom line

Sallie Mae may be a good choice if you’re in the market for private student loans and other financial products. Just be sure to do your research upfront, as you should before you take out any form of financing. Comparing multiple offers always gives you the best chance of saving money.

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Tips to do some fall cleaning on your finances



Wealth manager, Harry Abrahamsen, has five simple ways to stay on top of the big financial picture.

PORTLAND, Maine — Keeping track of our financial stability is something we can all do, whether we have IRAs or 401ks or just a checking account. Harry J. Abrahamsen is the Founder of Abrahamsen Financial Group. He works with clients to create and grow their own wealth. Abrahamsen shares five financial tips, starting with knowing what you have. 

1. Analyze Your Finances Quarterly or Biannually

You want to make sure that your long-term strategy is congruent with your short-term strategy. If the short-term is not working out, you may need to adjust what you are doing to make sure your outcome produces the desired results you are looking to accomplish. It is just like setting sail on a voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. You know where you want to go and plot your course, but there are many factors that need to be considered to actually get you across and across safely. Your finances behave the exact same way. Check your current situation and make sure you are taking into consideration all of the various wealth-eroding factors that can take you completely off course.

With interest rates very low, now might be a good time to consider refinancing student loans or mortgages, or consolidating credit card debt. However, do so only if you need to or if you can create a positive cash flow. To ensure that you are saving the most by doing so, you must look at current payments, excluding taxes and insurance costs. This way you can do an apples-to-apples comparison.

The most important things to look for when reviewing your credit report is accuracy. Make sure the reporting agencies are reporting things actuary. If it doesn’t appear to be reporting correct and accurate information, you should consult with a reputable credit repair company to help you fix the incorrect information.

4. Savings and Retirement Accounts

The most important thing to consider when reviewing your savings and retirement accounts is to make sure the strategies match your short-term and long-term investment objectives. All too often people end up making decisions one at a time, at different times in their lives, with different people, under different circumstances. Having a sound strategy in place will allow you to view your finances with a macro-economic lens vs a micro-economic view. Stay the course and adjust accordingly from a risk and tax standpoint.

RELATED: Financial lessons learned through the pandemic

A great tip for lowering utility bills or car insurance premiums: Simply ask! There may be things you are not aware of that could save you hundreds of dollars every month. You just need to call all of the companies that you do business with to find out about cost-cutting strategies. 

RELATED: Overcome your fear of finances

To learn more about Abrahamsen Financial, click here

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How to Get a Loan Even with Bad Credit



Sana pwedeng mabura ang bad credit history as quickly and easily as paying off your utility bills, ‘no? Unfortunately, it takes time. And bago mo pa maayos ang bad credit mo, more often than not, kailangan mo na namang mag-avail ng panibagong loan. 

Good thing you can still get a loan even with bad credit, kahit na medyo limited ang options. How do you get a loan if you have bad credit? Alamin sa short guide na ito. 

For more finance tips, visit Moneymax.



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