Newsletter Highlights

:: FIRE: Financial Independence, Retire Early ::

What does financial independence mean to you? If you’re like the majority of people Oklahoma Money Matters serves, your answer revolves around travel and retirement. Traditionally, people aim to retire around age 62, because that’s when the IRS allows people to withdraw retirement funds penalty-free. However, there is a new breed of workers that aim to enjoy retirement in their 30s and 40s. These ambitious folks follow a financial strategy sparked by FIRE (Financial Independence, Retire Early).

When following the FIRE lifestyle, early retirement is the ultimate goal, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. Gaining financial independence involves modifying your lifestyle and expectations so that you can have the freedom and flexibility to follow your passions. If you continue working once you achieve FIRE, it’s because you choose to, not because you have to. If you’re interested in working toward a lifestyle where your bank balance holds less power over you, consider the following:

The biggest key to gaining financial independence and retiring early is saving the money you don’t spend so that it becomes a passive source of income. FIRE advocates encourage people to live frugally and creatively, spend less than they earn and save the difference in low-fee, diversified investment vehicles. As with any other financial strategy, talk to a certified financial planner to determine which investment options can help you reach your goal of financial independence.


:: OCAP Names New Director ::

We're pleased to share with you that Melissa Neal, who has worked for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for more than 12 years, was named executive director for the Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) effective July 2. In this role, Neal provides strategic leadership for the agency and oversees all operational, fiduciary, regulatory and educational functions. Neal’s selection follows the recent retirement of Mary Heid, who served as executive director of OCAP since 2014.

In her prior role as Educational Services Manager, Neal led the State Regents’ and OCAP’s financial literacy initiative, Oklahoma Money Matters, and OCAP’s financial aid training programs, and cultivated an extensive network of campus and community partnerships to strengthen student, parent and service provider access to personal finance, borrower education and student loan management information, tools and expertise. Neal has strong relationships within Oklahoma higher education and the financial education and workforce development communities, serving on the Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, including more than two years as board president; Oklahoma Council for Economic Education; National Council of Higher Education Resources College Access and Success workgroup; Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Economic Education Advisory Committee and a variety of other industry committees and advisory councils.

We look forward to Neal's leadership as executive director and to continued collaboration with our campus, community and industry partners as a provider of college access, aid awareness, financial literacy and student loan management programs and services.

:: On Our Mind ::

$20 adventures

What’s on the mind of OCAP staff? This month, UCanGo2 outreach specialist Sheniqia Haynes talks about finding $20 adventures.

During my years of traveling as an army brat, I developed a love for adventure. I’ve experienced activities from indoor rock climbing and indoor skydiving to bungee jumping at a local theme park. Always on the search for a fun-filled day, I’ve discovered that adventures can enrich your life, but they can also break the bank. When I started my graduate program I had to figure out how to continue my adventures without going over my budget. I can easily save $20 for miscellaneous activities, so I challenged myself to find affordable adventures that cost $20 or less. Since then, I’ve found more adventures than I can embark on.

I seek out adventure through social media, local magazines and websites, like my town’s tourism website, which lists all the city’s upcoming events for the month. When I can’t find anything through these avenues, I drive around town to see what I haven’t explored yet.

My adventures aren’t always wild and crazy, like hang gliding, parasailing or snorkeling. An adventure can be any activity that enriches your life. I’ve even turned a trip to the fabric store into a $20 adventure. It’s simply about enjoying the world that you live in. Try visiting a place you’ve never been before or doing something that’s out of your element. Exploring a new interest can be one of the greatest adventures of all.

Enjoying an affordable adventure is possible; all it takes is a little research and creativity. Here are some $20 adventure ideas worth considering:

:: Borrow Smart From the Start ::

Borrowing money for school involves more than completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and signing your Master Promissory Note (MPN). To minimize debt after graduation, make smart borrowing choices throughout your college career. The Oklahoma College Assistance Program (OCAP) offers the Borrow Smart from the Start brochure to help you make wise choices and successfully manage your student loan. This online resource is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the entire student loan life cycle.

Topics include:

Whether you’re preparing for college, in your student loan grace period or currently repaying your loan, Borrow Smart from the Start provides the information every student loan borrower needs to know. Check out all of our resources at


:: Summer Home & Car Care ::

During the intense heat of an Oklahoma summer is no time to become stranded on the side of the road or for the air conditioning unit in your home to go out. Seasonal maintenance checks will help you avoid expensive service charges and mechanic fees.