Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interview in the Gwinnett Daily Post!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

12/11/2008 12:01:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
Tim Rhodes
Snellville resident competing in saving contest
23-year-old hopes to pay off student loans

By Heather Darenberg
Staff Writer

SNELLVILLE - Tim Rhodes is learning to pay himself first.

The 23-year-old Snellville resident is one of five finalists in a savings contest sponsored by FNBO Direct, a division of First National Bank of Omaha. The six-month Pay Yourself First Challenge ends in April.

Rhodes discovered the competition while searching online for a savings account. The Toccoa Falls College graduate submitted a 1-minute humorous video explaining his desire to pay off his student loans.

"I hate being in debt," said Rhodes, a production assistant at FamilyNet, a television and Sirius satellite radio station. "When I was growing up, one of the wisest things my mom told me was never spend money that you don't have."

When he learned he was a finalist, Rhodes set a goal to save $6,000 in six months.

To begin, Rhodes and his wife, Beth, created a budget. Sticking to the plan has been challenging, but Rhodes said he already feels like a winner. FNBO Direct is matching what all finalists save up to $5,000.

The couple has been clipping coupons and searching for deals before buying items. They also decided to minimize what they owned and sold boxes of old records, VHS tapes, books - even Beth's wedding dress.

To further cut household expenses, Tim and Beth Rhodes invited Tim's co-worker and his wife to live with them when the latter couple needed a place to stay. The arrangement allowed the Rhodes to reduce the amount they were spending on bills.

Rhodes is blogging about his progress at www.pyf

The grand-prize winner will receive an all-expense paid vacation worth $7,500. The winner will be chosen on the following criteria:

n Saving the most money during the challenge, based on the percentage of the goal.

n Ranking by financial experts based on the challenger's saving skill level.

n Voting by American public via a poll on

n Adhering to contest requirements.

In the mid-1980s, Americans' savings rate exceeded 10 percent. Since 2004, the rate has averaged less than 1 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Research.

"In December (2007), we asked consumers to change the way they think about saving by automatically depositing their paychecks into online savings accounts, instead of traditional checking accounts," Rajive Johri, president of First National Bank of Omaha, said in a statement posted on the Challenge's Web site. "We're taking that challenge to the next level by launching an official contest so America can track the success of five individuals on a savings journey and learn valuable money saving tips along the way."

Rhodes' advice for those seeking to save?

"Set a budget. Stick with it. Be aware of what you spend," he said. "A lot of people can save more than they think they can."