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Bluffton man writes 'The Missing Semester' to help college grads, others navigate personal finance

Matt Kabala wants to warn young people to be careful with their money before it's too late.

The Bluffton resident recently co-authored a book with his longtime friend Gene Natali. Kabala is a senior firefighter and manager of the firefighters' supplemental retirement fund with the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire & Rescue Division. Natali is senior vice president at C.S. McKee, L.P., a Pittsburgh-based investment firm.

Kabala said "The Missing Semester" is geared toward recent college graduates but can be helpful to anyone.

The financial guide has been well-received. They have sold about 5,000 copies since it was printed last year.

Kabala said the book was named 2013 Book of the Year for "Excellence in Financial Literacy Education" by the Institute for Financial Literacy.

"We wrote the book in a way so that it wasn't overly technical because I don't blame people when they hear finances and personal finance and mortgages," he said. "They start to fall asleep."

The book covers everything from student loans and credit cards to car loans, mortgages and career decisions.

Kabala said he wants people to realize there are consequences to the financial decisions they make.

"There was a time in this country when people didn't rely on credit for anything at all because one, they couldn't get it, and two, it wasn't available," he said. "In the past five years since the Great Recession that we're still going through, I think we've learned a lot about Americans and their personal finance habits and that maybe we weren't making the best decisions."

But, he said, the problem can be stopped tomorrow if people choose to live within their means.

"There are consequences to the decisions you're making," he said. "If you're aware of them, we think you'll probably make a different decision ahead of time and save yourself a lot of headaches in the future."

Follow Amy Coyne Bredeson at twitter.com/IPBG_Amy.

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