Money Matters

Piggy Bank Illustration

Nationwide Americans carry more than $11 trillion in consumer debt. At that rate, going debt free like Emily ’08 and Colin Kambak ’06 may not be in the immediate future for everyone. But these three finance experts — all Pacific alumni — have some tips to help everyone be a little wiser with their money.

These tips, of course, are their own. Be sure to consult with your own financial advisor before making any decisions.

What advice would you give a current Pacific student for managing their finances?

Aleckson: Don’t borrow more than you can reasonably handle when you leave college.Second, build your credit score now! Get a credit card and learn how to use it responsibly. Keep your limit low. Then, use the card a couple times per year, paying off the balance in full each time.

Ray: Paying the interest expense on credit card debt is like lighting money on fire. … Regardless of your major, take a stock market or investing class. It’s an equally useful and necessary skill for business, creative writing, history or science students. No matter what job you end up having, you’ll likely be earning some form of monetary compensation. You should know what to do with it.

Cortez: Start by building good habits. Even if it’s $20 a month, you should start with something. Most college students think, “I don’t have money to save,” but you probably have $20 a month. That’s one latte a week.

What advice would you have for an alumnus who just graduated?

Aleckson: Get in the practice of putting money into savings, even when you think you can’t afford to do so. And then forget you have that savings account.

Cortez: If you don’t know exactly what job you want, that’s OK. It’s better to take a job with earning potential than live off credit cards. After earning a college degree, I spent two years as a waitress. It was perfect; I was able to earn income and learn budgeting while still enjoying being young.

Ray: Make sure you do everything you can to maximize your retirement savings as soon as possible. At the bare minimum, contribute the necessary amount to a company-sponsored 401K plan to fully take advantage of your company’s matching program. Even a few thousand dollars per year, matched by your company, will compound into huge amounts over your lifetime.

… who graduated 10 years ago?

Aleckson: Participate in your company’s retirement plan, at least to the employer match. It’s “free” money! If you have a family, be sure to put life insurance in place as soon as possible. It is much more affordable when you are young.

Cortez: The best thing for people to do at this age is to find a financial advisor to work with and start a financial plan. It’s the road map you’ll need to navigate you through your financial ups and downs.

Ray: It’s time to take a very hard look at your retirement planning. Sit down with a financial advisor to see how you’re doing and whether you’re on track to meet your goals. Playing catch-up gets harder and harder the later you start; don’t put it off any longer.

… who graduated 25 years ago?

Aleckson: Take the time to really assess your money priorities at this point in life. When do you want to retire? Are you really planning to pay for your children’s college education? What legacy do you want to leave when you are gone? Once you have your priorities set, it is easier to make financial decisions.


Cortez: Consider looking into long-term care insurance. We are living longer. There are many options to fund your long-term care needs, and this is the age to start doing the research.

Ray: Teach your children the importance of budgeting, saving and investing. My mother helped me invest my savings into a mutual fund when I was 14, and she always involved me in the household budgeting process. At a young age, I learned the importance of balancing the household budget and the importance of saving for the future.

… who graduated 50 years ago?

Aleckson: Meet with an estate planning attorney and your financial advisor to be sure your assets are named properly for how you want to leave them to your beneficiaries. Also, make sure that you have figured into your budget healthcare costs —  I have found that many people underestimate these numbers.

Cortez: Estate planning is key. Work with an advisor to find the most efficient way to transfer your wealth.

Ray: Write a book about your life history. Your own children may not appreciate it, but your grandchildren most certainly will. And spend as much time with them as possible!

Top Tips

  1. Know what matters to you. 
  2. Money is time. When you are buying something, you are exchanging the time you worked for the money for that item. Is the item worth the hours you worked?
  3. Money also is a tool. Use it well, and don’t get caught up in emotion. We don’t have emotion around using a hammer.
  4. Know how much comes in and how much goes out, at every stage of life. What do you really pay for your car? Add up your car payment, auto insurance payment, maintenance expenses and gas bill.  
  5. If you buy a house, buy it because you want to live in it, not because you think it’s a great investment. It’s most likely not. Most people break even on their house.
  6. Pay off your credit card debt each month. If you can’t pay the total balance each month, you are spending too much money.
  7. Insurance can be your friend. There are ways to keep insurance premiums affordable, and there are times when having insurance will really help.
  8. Pay yourself first: When you earn money, get a gift, inheritance, raise, etc., set some aside for yourself in a savings, investment or retirement account.
  9. Contribute to your company’s retirement plan if they match. It’s an instant return on investment!
  10. Seek out professional help, even if you don’t have much to invest. Financial advisors can help you create and follow a budget or show you how to get out of debt.

Contact the Office of Development to learn how to include Pacific in your estate planning. 

EJ Cortez is a Registered Wealth Services Associate of McGee Wealth Management, Inc., an independent registered investment advisor. The Advisors at McGee Wealth Management offer securities through, Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. (Member FINRA/SIPC) in Portland. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision. Any opinions are those of EJ Cortez and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.
Securities offered through Securities America, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, and Advisory Services offered through Securities America Advisors, Inc., Christy Aleckson, Representative. Single Point Financial Advisors and Securities America are separate entities.

This story first appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Pacific magazine. For more stories, visit

Friday, Feb. 27, 2015