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“Trust me when I say that powdered milk doesn’t taste like the real stuff, which is probably why my mother told us we were in “survival mode.”

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Four Seasons Financial Education is an organization dedicated to financial education in the workplace. We serve organizations across the US both large and small, including Fortune 500 companies. By increasing financial education among the workforce, companies can potentially improve their bottom line through decreased HR costs, increase productivity, increased morale, decreased payroll taxes, decreased health care premiums, and more. The companies that provide this vital education to their employees are often more completive, more profitable, and attract the talent they desire.

MO: Can you share how your childhood experience of watching your family struggle with money inspired your interest in pursuing a career in finance?

Travis: The very first memory I have of money is asking my father for my old savings book register. I was amazed to see that I earned 75 cents here and 90 cents there by doing nothing – it was like magic. Then, my parents went through a horrible three year divorce where they spent down about every cent they had. They spent retirement money, college money, emergency funds and just about everything they had on a very nasty custody battle. I was only about eight years old at the time, but I will never forget the effects of that rough patch for my family. Living with my mother, we often used food stamps and community support to pay for food. Trust me when I say that powdered milk doesn’t taste like the real stuff, which is probably why my mother told us we were in “survival mode.”

Through hard work and a little luck my family recovered from those difficult times and everyone is doing fine. What happened through all of this though was the spark of fascination about how it was that this powerful thing called money could change someone’s life is such a dramatic way. I eventually studied finance and economics in college and then started working for a financial services firm at the age of 19. Right out of college I stepped into the finance industry and began building my own financial services practice. I will always enjoy helping people one-on-one, but what America really needs is real-life education and advice for the masses. This is why I created Four Seasons Financial Education – to help people live the best lives they can with the money they have. Ironically, this education was helping businesses just as much as it was helping employees, so it took off right away.

MO: Can you provide our readers with some of the highlights of your Financial Boot Camp program?

Travis: I wanted to create a 60 minute program that left the audience with a “WOW” factor. The challenge of any educational program is disseminating educational information that is both useful and timely, while also creating a sense of priority and motivation. Oh, and by the way, you have to appease a group of people with different ages, backgrounds, educations, and sexes. The Financial Boot Camp is the name of my entire curriculum of classes, but the first in the series of classes is the self-titled Financial Boot Camp. It even feels like a real boot camp because I crammed 50 different tips and topics all into a 60 minute class. I am a very fast talker. It flows well, keeps people interested, and even entertains. Most importantly, it helps people understand complex topics and awakens them to take action on their goals.

MO: What inspired you to write, “Make Your Money Work” and what do you hope that the average reader walks away with?

Travis: This book is actually targeted for organizations that want to help others by providing financial education programs. It discusses why financial education in America is so important today, why the media is taking advantage of what I call “innocent ignorance,” and how this education changes lives. I hope the average reader will walk away with a sense of how important financial education is in people’s lives. Whether we like it or not, money touches just about everything we do. Want to send someone to college? Need to buy a home? Want to start a charity? It all takes money, so it is important that we force ourselves to understand how to use it, how to grow it, how to protect it, and how to use the laws around money to our advantage.

MO: Can you share some of the tools and resources available that could be useful when it comes to saving for college?

Travis: I will share two of my favorite college planning tips with you. First, as soon as you find out you are having a child and you want to help that child pay for college, start a saving fund. Don’t put it off. I meet so many families that waited until the child was in middle school or high school before they started saving. Guess what happened? They didn’t save the amount they hoped for. The key to this savings is making it automatic. Just have money taken out of your paycheck or bank account each month. Eventually, you won’t miss the money anymore.

Second, consider a 529 college savings plan. Even if your cousin said they were bad because they might hold someone back from getting scholarship money, you need to check them out. I have never heard of anyone regretting they had saved for college in a 529 plan by the time they applied for grants and scholarships. Ironically, they may actually help. Here is how they typically work. A 529 college savings plan is a special type of savings plan used for college. As you put money into the account and it begins to grow, you are not taxed on the money until it is used. It is a tax-deferred account. As long as you then use the money for qualified college expenses, the IRS doesn’t require you to pay taxes on the gains. Depending on the state you live in, you may also receive a state income tax deduction just for putting money into the plan.

MO: Can you explain the concept of a “sandwich generation” and the importance of understanding the implications behind it?

Travis: If you were born in 1950, your life expectancy was about age 68. If you were born in 2012, your life expectancy is about age 78. That is an entire decade of extra life. With every advance of medicine and technology, we are living longer and longer. This is obvious a good thing, but it can be very challenging on the household budget. If you have a child at the age of 28, that child will likely be financially dependent upon you for 22 years. You will be age 50 when they are finally (and hopefully) financially independent. If you are lucky enough to still have your parents at this time, they may be around the age of 78. Even with all of our advanced medicine today, there is no stopping the aging process.

If your aging parents were to need special care, such as long-term care, or expensive medications, they may not be able to afford them for very long. They may have saved enough money to live to age 75, but who could have expected they would live to the age of 78? Guess who is most likely to take care of them physically and financially? Their wonderful children are. If this occurs, you may have dependents below (younger) and dependents above (older) which puts you in a very precarious financial and emotional situation. The sandwich generation will find it very difficult to save for their own long-term goals since they must focus on their dependents for so many years.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

Travis: As long as my wife doesn’t mind me sitting at the computer every night again, I am going to finish a second book. This next book will be about how backwards Americans are when it comes to needs, wants, and goals, and how they can start putting themselves on a track to long-term financial success. We live in one of the richest countries in the world, yet we have the highest amount of personal debt per capita. We have such tremendous opportunities around us, so I hope this book will help people change their lives around. Look for my name on the top of the Amazon list one of these days!

 

 

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